Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Eola - 11/12/2011

2020 P Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 466-4441

Traveling to DC frequently for work, I've been to most of the city's well known fine dining restaurants so this time around I had to dig a bit deeper to fill my dining plans. Normally I would have passed right on by Eola but one thing caught my eye: the offal menu. I mean how could I pass on a meal composed entirely of the parts of pig people normally throw away. A relative newcomer to the DC culinary scene, Eola was opened in 2009 by Daniel Singhofen who studied at the CIA in New York and worked at The Ritz and K Restaurant, both in Florida before moving to DC to open his own restaurant.

Sazerac - old overhold rye, cognac, bitters
Eola's GM, Jean Paul, runs the restaurant's cocktail program and has put together a short list of beautifully crafted classic cocktails. This wonderfully balanced Sazerac might be the best that I've ever had; the woody bite of the rye is tinged with a resonant tinge of candied citrus.

The Chef’s Welcome - a selection of small plates
The welcome consisted of five small treats. First up was a classically supple Kumamoto balanced with orange and creme fraiche. Next up was a delicate confit pigs heart paired with parsnip and brandied cherries giving a sweet and bitter contrast to the tender porcine heart. Next was my favorite, an unabashedly salty cured lamb loin dressed with a zesty pesto. The fourth canape was a gentrified pimento cheese sandwich. The final treat was a celeriac consomme, the medicinal essence serving as an effective palate cleanser.

01: Crispy Torchon of Pig's Ear & Tail - fried egg, savory oats & roasted garlic puree
First up was a mixture of gluey bits of ear and tail covered in a bit of batter to give the torchon some crunch while the egg adding a much needed slickness to help separate the offal-y bits. Surprisingly the torchon has almost no flavor, but the oats make up for that in a big way. On their own the oats are painfully salty, and though they balanced well with the ear & tail, the flavor did feel uneven at times.

02: Chicken Fried Tongue - braised le puy lentils, pickled shallots & a spiced apple puree
This was easily the best of the three savory courses. The tender meaty consistency of the tongue enrobed by a thick layer of batter while the flavor was reminiscent of a fatty corned beef. I particularly enjoyed the tongue with the piquant crunch of the shallots and though the lentils were necessary I found their starchy heft a bit blunt.

03: Confit of Pork Jowl - sea island red peas, kale, chanterelles
The fattier the better, that's the way I used to think, but perhaps my palate has become tempered with age. The fried jowl was similar to pork belly but even heavier and the richness of the semi-liquid fat is made even more severe by an overwhelming salinity. The vegetables and chanterelles provide some relief but nowhere near enough to fully counter the jowl's intensity.

04: Ricotta-Date Tart - cinnamon, honey, salted caramel ice cream
With the ingredients all working harmoniously, the dessert was probably the best composed dish of the night. The ever so subtle savor of the ricotta is balanced by the sticky decadence of the honey and date. The salted caramel ice cream fits well with the rest of the dish, straddling the line between salty and sweet and serving as a creamy counterpoint to the buttery crust of the tart.

Fall Manhattan - Eagle rare 10yr bourbon, antica formula vermouth, grapefruit bitters, lemon peel
I don't normally end the meal with a cocktail, but given how much I enjoyed the Sazerac, I asked Jean Paul to make me his favorite. The Manhattan had a pleasing woodiness with underlying currents of vermuth and bitters finished with a citrus tang on the rim.

The generous plate of mignardises consisted of cookies, brownies, biscotti, and two absolutely delicious salted maple meringues. Though I enjoyed the heavier desserts, I thought the airy salty-sweetness of the meringue was the perfect way to close out the evening.

I haven't been this conflicted about a restaurant in some time. The classic cocktails are hands down the best I've had in DC and I appreciated the chef's audacity to compose a menu of all offal. At the same time, the jowl and oats were painfully salty, conveying none of the finesse shown during the Chef's Welcome. Though I enjoyed the food I don't know that I'd have been so forgiving with the same flaws in a more conventional menu.


NicoleM said...

Can I like be your mouth... just for a week or so?

Epicuryan said...

Lol sure but you also gotta be my wallet then :P.

NicoleM said...


Rodzilla said...

I do like the concept, with a bit of refinement it sounds like it will be a hit given the trendiness of offal these days.