When Matt Fisher and Troy Graves set out to launch Eve, they probably didn’t count on a full-scale recession. But when they opened two months ago, as the economic doom was evident, they must have been banking on the hope that the Gold Coast residents surrounding the restaurant are recession-proof. And so, just steps from a Lamborghini showroom, they loaded up a menu with sweetbreads, foie gras, consommé, tenderloin and escargot and threw open the doors. Well-heeled locals have settled comfortably into the snowy-white leather seats, excited by the possibilities of something new in a sea of sameness—this is, after all, the neighborhood built by Gibsons, Hugo’s and Tavern on Rush, where the menus are as old as the socialites sipping Kir royales.
But aside from the area elders checking out the new kid in town, the rest of the crowd is a mix much like you’d find at the duo’s Lincoln Square debut, Tallulah—double-dating couples in their 30s and 40s, a group of ladies laughing a bit too loudly, somebody celebrating something special. And Eve is a fine room to do it in (even if the monochromatic color scheme and abundance of mirrors might suggest a Scarface -style nightclub), with a bar that goes the extra mile on cocktails, infusing liquors, muddling herbs and coming up with clever concoctions. (In fact, the fig-infused vodka–based Fig Leaf made our 100 Best list.)
Even a cursory glance at chef Graves’s menu would hint that the place isn’t all flash and no substance—intriguing menu descriptions range from “grilled lobster sausage with chanterelles, apple-wood-smoked bacon, pearl onion and maple béchamel” to “crispy veal sweetbreads with red curried cauliflower, sugar snap peas and lentil puree.” The trouble is, similar to my meals at Tallulah, dishes are uniformly hit or miss. And not just miss, but in some cases, bewilderingly bad. How is it the same kitchen that can turn lobster into juice-oozing sausage, that knows enough to just-barely sauté chanterelles and that can give béchamel a fall twist without making it sweet is also the same kitchen that would send out unseasoned and crunchy cauliflower, plate an ice-cold scoop of hummus-like lentil puree on a dish of warm components and undercook sweetbreads (not an item you want to even see, let alone eat, rare).
The confusion continued with dishes whose flaws were the same across the board: jarringly disjointed temperatures within the same dish, overly sweet elements and a tendency to overload the plate with rich, rich, rich flavors, with no acidity or bitterness for balance. Pumpkin panna cotta with pomegranate-glazed prawns could have doubled as dessert, the passion-fruit yogurt alongside the hamachi tartar obliterated the delicate fish’s flavor, and huckleberry compote with pistachio-crusted tuna was like spreading jam on fish—as unappetizing as it sounds. But the ricotta dumplings with braised Swiss chard weren’t only delicious, they were a great partner for expertly medium-rare lamb chops. Ditto for the horseradish-cheddar croquettes alongside grilled tenderloin, an admittedly rich duo, but one that was brilliantly countered with housemade sauerkraut. More dishes like these would achieve what Eve seems to be trying to do, all without drowning a diner’s palate. In these times, opulence could stand to be curbed.
|Venue name:||Eve (CLOSED)||Contact:|
840 N Wabash Ave
|Cross street:||at Chestnut St|
|Opening hours:||Brunch (Fri–Sun), dinner (Mon–Sun)|
|Transport:||: Red to Chicago. Bus: 36, 66.|
|Price:||Average main course: $27|
|Do you own this business?|