Young Eva is a star awaiting discovery
Seattle Times restaurant critic
I should wait till June to tell you all about Eva. In June, barring further delay, this corner bistro will unveil a new wine bar, doubling seating capacity and giving Green Lake boomers a quiet alternative to Luau, the happy Gen-X pupu-palace-cum-tiki-lounge across the street.
By June, the new "Eva" sign will be hanging out front, the original Brie & Bordeaux name - now obscured by a white banner - laid to rest for good.
By then, a fresh coat of interior paint will impart a darker, broodier mien, deposing the pretty Provençcal palette in a dining room that echoed the former owners' sunny French aesthetic. "We're not that happy," deadpans Amy McCray, who works from the broad, open kitchen. She and her husband, James Hondros, bought the cafe and adjoining wine-and-cheese shop last fall.
The recent name change coincided with the shop's closure and ensuing transformation.
A short, artfully rendered collection of "firsts" and "seconds" bookend a trio of "in betweens" - dishes that work well as either shared appetizer or light entrée. If McCray is moving pasta as an "in-between," have it. I won't soon forget her chevre lasagna with eggplant and fresh peas ($12), or the sinful semolina gnocchi with its magnificent mushroom ragout ($14).
Making the food even more compelling is the wine list. This globetrotter's finest attribute is not the numerous $35-and-under choices, but two dozen half-bottles that make matching food with wine a cinch.
Taking charge of the wine list - and ultimately, the wine bar - is Hondros, a former chef who retired his whites before spending two years as wine manager at the Spanish Table. As the "pop" half of this mom `n' pop operation, he greets guests, waits tables and makes wine suggestions, doing a stellar job at the latter, but needing schmoozing lessons for the former. His shy and somewhat awkward demeanor is certain to come across as endearing to the bring-us-our-food-and-leave-us-be set.
Two of Brie & Bordeaux's capable servers have stayed on to lend a hand.
Lending a hand in the kitchen is pastry chef JoAnna Cruz, whose nightly dessert sampler illustrates her considerable talent. Cruz came from Chez Shea - the Market charmer where 32-year-old McCray spent two years as lead chef after a lengthy stint at the Dahlia Lounge and a brief tenure at Fremont's sadly short-lived Ventana. Time spent at each of these venues has brought focus to McCray's mission, clearly fueling her creative fire.
In her hands, the sweetest of baby leeks frolic with mustardy vinaigrette and a shower of crushed hazelnuts ($7). Thai chicken soup afloat with cinnamon basil, fried shallots and slender-stemmed shimiji mushrooms ($6), is an enthralling interplay of Asian flavors.
If the half-dozen entrée offerings weren't equally intriguing, I'd make a tapas-style meal out of the many fine "firsts," including Cabrales flan ($6) with its gentle Spanish blue-cheese accent. Crushed pappadam-encrusted oysters - four voluptuous subcontinental slurpers pan-fried to a beautiful bronze ($8) - were worthy of their royal East Indian-influenced side sauces. I'd happily drown in a vat of McCray's cilantro pesto.
Stewed with white beans, apples, bacon and cider, homemade lamb sausages were the main attraction in a glorious cold-weather casserole ordered from a March menu ($14). On that visit, swordfish, expertly grilled and paired with scarlet beet-soaked couscous ($17), arrived looking like a seafood starlet but smelling like an aging one - the only off note from this careful kitchen.
Rabbit, all too often desiccated and dull, is given tender treatment here, braised to a near crisp and paired with spunky chorizo bread pudding ($16). Roasted poussin, a plump baby chicken resting in serious pan-gravy over mashed potatoes ($16), is reminiscent of a comfy Sunday-night stew.
As for the Argentine rib-eye ($20), grilled to medium-rare perfection, it was eaten with gusto by (who knew?) my red-meat-eschewing dinner date. This happy boomer - lucky fellow - lives right up the block. Boy, is he glad I didn't wait till June!
Nancy Leson can be reached at 206-464-8838 or email@example.com.