110 S. Pitt St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
CUISINE Irish/Welsh, Modern American, International
PRICE $$$$ (Over $31)
HOURS Open for lunch, Monday through Friday, dinner and late-night dining, Monday through Saturday.
NVM AWARDS Best Restaurant 2012
Best Restaurant 2011
Best Restaurant 2010
Best Restaurant 2009
NEARBY METRO None
By Warren Rojas
The munificent Lickety Split combo—$13.50 for any lounge menu duo—lures in all kinds, from the local who’s lunched there daily since 2006 to the business exec who doubled up on birthday cake (“It was cute,” Eve co-founder Meshelle Armstrong says). Pounce on anything confit—chicken, duck and partridge pop up regularly—or rashers (toothsome slabs of Irish bacon).(November 2010)
By Warren Rojas
Food: 9.0 Ambiance: 9.0 Service: 9.0
“In a bit of a hurry, got a meeting in 10 minutes,” one harried professional warned her server while dining at Eve.
“Would you like that birthday cake to travel then?” the staffer inquired.
“Oh no, I’ll eat THAT here,” the suddenly in-the-moment patron instructed.
Another case of indulgence-induced inertia sparked by chef/owner Cathal Armstrong’s culinary genius.
Armstrong’s menu leapfrogs across time and space, caroming from his Hibernian youth to previously uncharted deliciousness (braised and panko-breaded cow head burger, anyone?).
This sandwich lover hit the jackpot when served a lusty handheld fashioned from fried rashers, mellow cheddar and fried egg pressed between buttery grilled toast.
Lusty chickpeas blanketed in mesmerizing sauces (soothing yogurt, minty gremolata, feisty tamarind) and flanked by fried flatbread transported me to Southeast Asia with each forkful.
Tempura crab elegantly reposes in complementary pools of tomatillo salsa (zesty) and summer corn (naturally sweet).(November 2009)
By Warren Rojas
Food: 9.1 Ambiance: 9 Service: 8.7
“Why not start with some sparkling wine? It’s the best way to kick off the evening,” a server suggested to a pair of wide-eyed newcomers to Eve.
A shimmering flute of buzz-inducing bubbly is, indeed, a fabulous way to get the ball rolling at chef/owner Cathal Armstrong’s culinary celebration.
Even if staff has, perhaps, begun to slack off a bit.
We stomached a few minor dalliances (sloppy water service that haphazardly dripped into delicate sauces). But when beverage guru Todd Thrasher and one of his wine lieutenants delivered dueling descriptions for the same pairing (she: French red; he: Oregon pinot; Thrasher was ultimately right), we thought it best to warn staff: TAKE YOUR TIME.
This food is worth waiting for.
Balsamic-soaked mushrooms and sauteed chard evoke a forest of flavors (a ribbon of shaved parmesan-reggiano contrasts brilliantly with the porous porcini).
Calves’ brains arrive lightly seared and sealed in salt and pepper (coppery exterior, snow white center), their entrancing payload buttressed by lentils stirred with butter, cumin and pearl onions.
Roasted Spanish mackerel floats contentedly amidst a sea of Nicoise olives (each glossy orb fully charged with briny potency) and simmered tomatoes.(March 2009)
By Warren Rojas
For chef/restaurateur Cathal Armstrong, going green doesn’t stop at menu planning.
The impassioned toque—who has built a career around showcasing the finest local ingredients and surrounds himself with culinary artisans (bakers, charcuterie-makers, mixologists)—has spent the past few years orchestrating numerous changes designed to raise eco-awareness across his budding hospitality empire (Restaurant Eve, Eamonn’s, The Majestic).
In spring 2007, he turned Eve’s enclosed courtyard into a makeshift garden. Last fall, he jettisoned bottled water (Armstrong estimated that he was spending roughly $3,000 on designer H2O each month) in favor of the Natura purification system, and now offers self-bottled still and sparkling water to Eve patrons free of charge (Majestic’s now online; Eamonn’s goes Natura next).
He’s done away with caustic cleaning agents and harsh detergents (organic cleansers, only), tinted the window in Eve’s Bistro to help better moderate the temperature/slash cooling costs and urges employees to power save wherever possible (switching off lights, disconnecting dormant peripherals, etc.).
Armstrong still cherishes the memories of working alongside his father in the family garden, bonding time that firmed up not just his family ties, but also his affinity for the land.
“The pleasure of the garden was the quality of the food,” he said, noting that his father never used modern buzzwords like “environmental impact” or “sustainability” because those guiding principles were simply understood.
Today, Armstrong honors that tradition by demanding the highest-quality ingredients from a handpicked network of suppliers revered for their wholesome products. His key distributors include: Tuscarora Organic Growers (produce), Davon Crest Farm (specialized field produce and greenhouse micro-greens), Polyface Farm (pork, eggs, chicken), Pipe Dreams Dairy (goats milk cheese, milk), Chapel Hill Farm (Randall Lineback rose-veal), as well as Huntsman Specialty Game & More (exotic meats).
To boot, Armstrong has nurtured relationships with his most prized providers that extend far beyond merely signing a few documents or ticking items off an order form.
When Davon Crest was forced to move in 2005, Armstrong and his employees hightailed it over to the Eastern Shore plot and helped DCF founder David Lankford physically relocate the entire enterprise to its new home. “We often have a sit-at-the-bar midnight discussion about what we’re going to grow for the next year,” he said of the friendship he’s forged with Lankford. Likewise, Armstrong used to make the nearly seven-hour, roundtrip trek to the Shenandoah Valley to personally inspect his orders—“If we ever have chicken on the menu, it’ll be from Polyface,” Armstrong stressed—from “grass farmer” Joel Salatin.
Meanwhile, Armstrong still ventures out to local farmers’ markets to see firsthand what’s available each week.
As for his own farming abilities, Armstrong said planting the Eve garden was more about helping his own chefs reconnect with food than creating steady food stock.
“As an educational tool, I think it was hugely successful,” he said. “You pick it, and you serve it. It tastes better.”
According to Armstrong, last year’s haul included: spinach and Swiss chard, “plenty” of rosemary and bay leaf (enough to sustain Eve), acorn squash, “a few” onions and some thyme (thrived early, but eventually died). This year, he’s planted garlic (“It’ll be interesting to see how that works,” he stated) and hopes to broaden their composting efforts.
Tracking down fresh seafood, however, remains a constant struggle.
“Most of the fish I buy has a significant carbon footprint because it comes from New York via FedEx,” he said regretfully, quickly adding, “[but] as chefs, we have to go with the best quality.”
Every morsel attests to that guiding principle.
Chesapeake Bay rockfish arrives pan-seared, its skin fired to a bronze crisp, the gossamer flesh beneath tasting of clean, juicy meat. A cushion of polenta (smacks of sweet corn and brown butter) escorts nuggets of sweet, plump lobster to the seafood carnival, while lightly sauteed Swiss chard (wonderfully flavorful) is more interested in playing along than stealing the show.
Polyface pork gets the gourmet barbecue treatment courtesy of snappy Pommery mustard and Kerrygold butter-slathered toast. The slow-roasted swine emerges awash in mustard and smoke, crowned by a crunchy slaw.
Hot house greens lay the foundation for a scorcher of a meal involving piquant red onions, shaved fennel, tongue-teasing champagne vinaigrette and the tastiest fish fry (chubby fingers of flaky sole rolled in panko crumbs, baked to golden brown and streaked with whole grain mustard) this side of Eamonn’s.
Overall, Armstrong believes conscientious dining is slowly evolving from trend to mainstream lifestyle choice.
“The demand has changed, and is changing rapidly, to what’s greener/fresher/more healthy,” he said of his patrons’ dining expectations. “That’s so thrilling.”(November 2008)
By Warren Rojas
Food: 9.2 Ambiance: 9.2 Service: 9.2
Restaurant Eve’s official motto is “nourish the palate.”
But the one-dimensional slogan fails to capture the truly restorative nature of a dining experience predicated upon artfully crafted food, unabashedly attentive servers and the lavish little details that make Eve a cherished epicurean paradise.
Chef/owner Cathal Armstrong has collected enough awards and neighboring properties to warrant the by-BlackBerry-only management style adopted by other celebrity chefs.
Yet there he is in the Eve kitchen, coming in early to inspect the latest haul from the local farmers’ market and staying late to make sure even night owls have a shot at sampling his next great creation.
Chicken confit salad spreads luxe bird (crackling, brown skin, glistening meat) across mixed greens and julienne tomatoes, tossed with a tomato-basil vinaigrette that’s all acid and flash (glorious). Poached fluke (clean, uncomplicated fish) provides the perfect foil for a cushion of buttery corn veloute and crunchy green beans. Au jus-soaked lamb steak reigns supreme over a landscape of tiny potatoes, caramelized onions and spicy, split sausage.(December 2007)
By Warren Rojas
Food: 9.6 Ambiance: 9.1 Service: 9.3
Success has yet to spoil local restaurant mogul in the making Cathal Armstrong—the driving force behind Eve, Eamonn's and the recently resuscitated Majestic. If anything, the mounting pressure seems to have stoked even greater ambition.
Eve remains the center of Armstrong's culinary universe, the showplace where dedicated chowhounds (Tasting Room), curious gourmands (the Bistro) and cash-strapped foodies (the lounge) can indulge in epic dining tours on their own terms.
Astute servers readily provide guidance (know the ingredients and interplay of their dishes), comfort (homemade breads are doled out with reckless abandon) and support (wine bottles are kept close for quick pouring but never crowd the table).
Every visit provides Cathal and company another chance to dazzle guests with organic surprises (Armstrong proudly supports Polyface Farms), re-tooled standards, jaw-dropping collaborations, or any combination thereof.
The innocuous sounding "bacon egg and cheese" weaves crisp romaine, a sunny egg, salty ham and shaved Parmesan into a rich tapestry anathema to basic salads. A stinging sea nettle and scallop soup embraces fingerling potato risotto (stellar). Fried veal sweetbreads emerge surrounded by crispy oysters and cubed country ham. Pepper-crusted pork belly—one dining companion warned, "I may inhale this"—virtually dissolves into a lake of onions, peas and cherry tomatoes.(August 2006)
By Warren Rojas
F 9.5 A 9.0 S 9.1
A gourmet paradise hidden down an inconspicuous alley, Restaurant Eve rewards intrepid diners with brazen cooking and illogical deals.
The converted Alexandria row house is split into a plush bar/lounge area (plenty of ottomans and sofa benches for unwinding after work), the "Bistro" (main dining room) and chef Cathal Armstrong's luxurious "Tasting Room" (prix fixe showcase). No matter where you land, expect to be coddled by servers well versed in every facet of the restaurant.
At lunch, look no further than the "lickety split" deal-a choice of any two daily Bistro items for a paltry $13.50-the equivalent of a gourmet happy meal.
The Bistro menu changes monthly, while tasting room guests indulge in five- or nine-course gastronomic tours that mutate daily.
The "Irish BLT" brings slabs of country ham on grilled toast that simulates pressed butter (fantastic). Whipped brie and hazelnuts in lavender honey could double as dessert. Oven-baked Mediterranean turbot is a flaky masterpiece. Roast quail accompanied by foie gras and fava beans dazzles. A quartet of spring lamb shank, loin, sausage and liver shares the stage with ramps and goat cheese panna cotta (mesmerizing).