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Fearless Critic restaurant review
DC
Food
Feel
Price
8.8
9.6
$150
Modern
Upmarket restaurant

Hours
Mon–Fri 11:30am–2:30pm
Mon–Fri 5:30pm–9:30pm
Sat 5:30pm–10:00pm

Features Date-friendly, good wines
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Essential

www.restauranteve.com

Alexandria Old Town
110 S. Pitt St.
Alexandria, VA
(703) 706-0450
Restaurant Eve (Tasting Room)
They execute ideally on the date-night ambitions—and usually on the high-flying food, too

“I’d say about 80 percent,” said the waiter with an almost imperceptible smirk in response to one customer’s query as to how many of Restaurant Eve’s patrons are celebrating a special occasion on any given night. These sorts of special-purpose restaurants can be hard to write about, because what people seek from their experience—an elaborate arc of a meal, servers that seem in effortless cahoots with their intention to impress their dates, the subtle presentation of a candle with a dessert course, and a ribbon-tied bag of goodies with the check—are so different from the sorts of things a food critic looks for.

The most expensive restaurant in Old Town—the mandatory prix fixe starts above $100—does some of each. There are local ingredients, a good range of interesting wines, and recipes that are refreshingly reined in despite their ambition (there’s foie gras and caviar, but they won’t try to put them on the same plate). Tables are well spaced, lighting is warm, waitstaff is knowledgable. 

When the combinations of seasonal ingredients work, they can be dazzling. Often what is simplest is best, like a rich duck consommé—an amuse at one visit—with a little round flan in its center that played like a cream of broccoli soup in a more solid form; an asparagus “panna cotta,” flanked by local morel mushrooms, less gelatinous than expected, but wonderfully light and earthy, like the taste of springtime; or braised pork belly and creamy sweetbreads set atop bright green fava beans, a study of three different forms of crisped softness. What’s called a boudin blanc feels more like a crispy pudding, studded with bacon and chanterelles, and it’s delicious. Homemade pastas are expertly assembled and cooked to a careful resilience; tortelloni might come with house-made ricotta—one of the ingredients of the moment in US urban food circles—along with aromatic Parmigiano-Reggiano and unnecessary, but very fresh, leaves of swiss chard.

The chard is representative of a recurring, if hardly fatal, problem here: high-concept mismatches that can diminish slightly from the impeccable freshness and provenance of the kitchen’s ingredients. To wit, we’ve had tempura-battered soft-shell crab that clashed with its so-called “liquid gold” broth, whose chicken stock and pearl onions cried out for a less delicate protein, and a dense, bready syrup cake that distracted attention from the sharp, simple strengths of the Wisconsin cheddar in a cheese course. Desserts have been consistently disappointing; worst has been a very dry black forest roulade whose black pepper ice cream lacked any pepper character. Sweet things are big with the special occasion set, so that problem is less excusable here than it might be elsewhere.

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