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« Bird on a Bun Top Chef, Season 5: It's Baaaaack »

Restaurant Wed Nov 12 2008

Let Adam Have Eve

Disclaimer: When an over-critical, hypersensitive chef (like myself) eats at a restaurant, it's hard to put that on the back burner (pardon the pun). While you can take the chef out of the kitchen it's harder to take the kitchen out of the chef. Imperceptible missteps which mean little or nothing to the uninitiated civilian can be elevated to deal breakers por moi.

One pea under the mattress ruins my sleep and makes me a tough customer. Not in a cruel or contemptuous way towards wait staff (very tacky), but most often as an aside to my dining companions.

For instance, I know how much the diver scallops cost by the each and the price of the starch, vegetables and sauce that may accompany them. I know when caramelized onion actually is caramelized or, all too often, simply sautéed trying to pass. Or the difference between wild mushrooms (foraged) and exotic mushrooms (cultivated) -- my particular nemesis and cross to bear.

A menu typo means negligence. A menu description that reads one way and a plate that delivers another is either an insult to the consumer's intelligence, proof of the chef's ignorance or a diabolical plot to cheat the patron.

In a home, I'm quite different, but not, alas, in a restaurant. In a word, I'm one picky bastard when I eat out. My friends, critics all, humor or ignore me. But this perspective can be useful here in this arena, that of food critic.

When asked if I'd be interested in reviewing Eve, I jumped at the opportunity. While I'd heard some good things about Chef Troy Graves, Meritage and Tallulah, I had no firsthand knowledge. That was about to change.

The room is very nicely appointed. Elegant even. Dark wood floors, blue and gray walls, sculpted mirror accents, interesting lighting features and chic white leather banquettes. Clean and sophisticated managing to be contemporary and classic at the same time. I'm ready to enjoy myself.

The menu was intriguing, with some unusual flavor pairings and unique items. A Passion Fruit Yogurt sauce accompanying a seen much better days Hamachi Tartare reminded me of Mango Lassi. That not quite fresh feeling was apparent in the taste of the fish, though, and the herbs were brown, not green. I prefer my mint green. Lets put it this way, I'd be shocked to find that quality of fish at my local sushi bar. They just wouldn't do it. If you're serving it raw, it needs to be pristine. That's the whole idea.

Mussels steamed in Ice Wine and Honey with Concord Grapes and Radish suffers from an excessively sweet taste profile overpowering the briny mussels, three of which were not open, yet served. A sign of undercooking or dead product. Either way, not right. It said concord grapes on the menu and the flavor was evident, but the grapes were not, which leads me to suspect grape juice. Welch's anyone?

Grilled Lobster Sausage with Chanterelles and Bacon should have been a smash hit. I mean, it's got three of my favorite things on the plate and I'm a sucker for shellfish on a grill. The Maple Béchamel that accompanied it was my favorite sauce of the day. The bacon lardons were fine... how could they not be? But the sausage was mealy and very strong in flavor, not in a good way. The chanterelles were, for my taste, overcooked almost to a crisp, similar to the bacon. There was no earthy wild mushroom flavor discernible.

Umami-less.

Wild Boar Ribs with Plum BBQ sauce were more like Wildly Boring Ribs. Memories of my mother's crispy meat jello growing up came to mind. One reason I began to cook. Three small double ribs with no smoke ring for $18? Now that's wild! The Macaroni and Cheese that accompanied was uninspired at best.

But it was the last two entrees that sealed my ever sickening dread of style over substance. A Crawfish Po'Boy with Fried Green Tomatoes, Tasso, Goat Cheese and Remoulade came on -- no other way to put it -- stale bread. It's supposed to be crusty and airy. Not hard throughout. Having eaten Po'Boys at Franks or Masperos in the French Quarter, I assure you, this did not resemble those in any way.

Tagleiatelle with Truffle Oil, Tuscan Greens and Woodland Mushrooms came to the table warm at best. Nowhere near hot. It was returned to the kitchen and brought back in under a minute exactly the same.

We'd already been told early on how lucky we were that Chef Graves himself was cooking. Not a line cook. This meal, then, is a complete reflection on his abilities. One that at $115 for lunch (for two) I'm not interested in repeating.

While I know and respect the effort in starting up a restaurant (I've opened two in the last six months) and realize it's not even close to 100 percent in the opening weeks, you still only have one chance to make a first impression.

A pity to waste an opportunity like that.

Eve
840 N. Wabash
312-266-3383

~*~

Alan has been a professional chef for 25 years and has won numerous awards, professional competitions and distinctions. He's mainly consulting now, setting up projects like kitchen design, menu development, hiring and training staff, research, etc. He has also been a professional musician most of his life, coining the term "jazzfood" to describe "solid technique based upon tasteful improvisational skills." Just like the music. Check it out at alanlake.com.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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