Starting this blog has been an interesting experience for me thus far, for a few reasons. First, I find that it has become a driving factor in the dining decisions that I am making. Instead of thinking “wow, I’d really like to eat dinner at X restaurant right now” I’m asking myself “Would eating at X restaurant make for a good post?”. Secondly, I now struggle with the “journalistic responsibility” of the impact that my opinions could possibly have on the establishments I review. I put that in quotes because I suffer no delusions of the “impact” my words can have. Considering that I am 1: not a journalist, 2: have no credentials other than a love of food, and 3: have a readership of about 10 people, I doubt that I’m really going to be responsible for driving customers to or from any given restaurant. But, that said, I still have to be mindful of the fact that many of these reviews are based off of a single experience, and I try to give the chefs and staff as much of the benefit of the doubt as I can.
I feel the need to begin this post on Eno Restaurant and Wine Bar with the preceding disclosure because I struggled with remaining objective the entire time I was there. I am a fan of Top Chef, and this is actually how Eno wound up on my radar. Because I have been watching him all season long, I had basically already made up my mind that dining at Eli Kirshtein’s midtown restaurant was going to be an experience that I should look forward to, and I was excited to finally get to try out his food. Especially after the amazing meal that I had at Chef Kevin Gillespie’s Woodfire Grill earlier this year, the bar for the Atlanta Top Chef crew had been set pretty high. Perhaps it was these elevated expectations that left me slightly disappointed.
Having read Eli’s tweets about the Shigoku oysters that he had just procured, and watched RowdyFood’s video on the subject, I knew before I arrived that I had to try these out. And after sucking down a six of these bad boys on the half shell, I realized what all of the hype was about. The Shigoku Oyster is actually a new variation of the Willapa Bay pacific oyster (and cousin to the Kumamoto) being produced by Taylor Shellfish. The difference comes in how the oysters are grown…they are tied to stationary lines that move with the tides, resulting in the oysters being tumbled twice a day. This causes the oysters to grow up inside the shell, instead of out, and produces a smaller, more dense, and more flavorful version of the Willapa Bay.
The flavor is clean, light, mildly briny, and delicious. Being an oyster enthusiast, I had to try them, and I was not disappointed. These were served with a light topping of pimento pepper. Though I didn’t really pick up much flavor from the pimento pepper condiment, I preferred it that way, because it allowed the oyster to remain the star of the dish.
The other two apps that we ordered were the Rougie Foie Gras Terrine w/ corn sorbet, corn madelines, and blueberry, and the Prosciutto and melon sorbet. I enjoyed both of these dishes immensely.
The foie gras was well executed, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the corn sorbet as an accompaniment. I found myself trying to sop up as much blueberry as I could, because the flavor wasn’t all that concentrated, but that was a minor issue. I do love all things foie and this dish actually inspired me to try my hand at cooking some fatty duck liver myself this weekend, but that is a post for another day. Though I have always had a preference for foie gras that has been seared, this was cooked sous vide, which really allowed the rich, luxurious flavor of the foie gras to come through in all of its fatty glory.
The Prosciutto and melon sorbet was excellent, though I can’t say that I was terribly surprised by this, as it is one of the most time-tested flavor combinations around. So, it wouldn’t be fair for me to criticize this dish for being a “safe” choice, because that is exactly why we ordered it. As long as high quality prosciutto is used, you are almost always guaranteed to enjoy it. I thought that the use of melon sorbet instead of actual pieces of fruit was a nice twist.
So, on to the portion of the meal that I wasn’t exactly ecstatic about – my main course. I definitely brought my appetite with me that evening, and considering that they were sold out of the short rib ravioli, I opted for the Painted Hills Ribeye served with pan fried chicken of the woods mushrooms, turnips, beets, blue cheese foam, and (according to my notes) “awesome sauce”. I obviously didn’t write down what was in the sauce, but it was basically a jus reduction of some sort and was tasty as hell.
The problems that I had with this dish were not due to the flavors, which I was extremely pleased with, but the execution. The steak tasted great, had a good crust/char on the outside, the mushrooms were good, and the sauce was “awesome”. But the ribeye was served Delmonico style, which can mean many different things nowadays. It was two heart cuts of ribeye tied together with butchers twine, and looked more like a very thick filet mignon. I always prefer a straight up, or preferably, bone-in ribeye. The steak was still moist and packed with the fatty goodness you come to expect from a ribeye, but the choice of preparation obviously made cooking it more of a challenge. I’m not squeamish about the temp for my steaks, and ALWAYS order them medium rare. But this steak was so thick that only about 75% of it was medium rare and the center was just straight up rare. Granted, I still ate all of it, but I have to point out that it wasn’t as cooked as it should have been.
Also, there were no beets on the plate. None. Now, this didn’t really take away from the dish all that much, but it annoyed me on principal. I mean, beets are kind of easy to identify. After sifting through every turnip and mushroom on the plate, I couldn’t spot a single beet anywhere. Not a huge deal, but come on….
At the end of the day, I still had a good meal there, and will probably return again. The menu had a lot of interesting dishes that we didn’t get to try (supposedly the octopus and watermelon is revolutionary, according to the table next to us). Realistically, had I not been watching Eli on Top Chef for the last few months I might not be as forgiving for some of the slip-ups, but I am still confident that the man knows what he is doing in the kitchen. He seems to have taken Eno in a good direction and having been at the helm for less than a year, I’m looking forward to where he goes next.
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