Eva restaurant review

Evening dinner review

A few years back, if you wanted to enjoy “small plates” dining, you were pretty much limited to the hit and miss Panache, the exceptionally short lived Zola, or perhaps Martine. These days, it seems like Salt Lake City has become awash with the concept.

The excellent Meditrina on West Temple started a mini-renaissance back in late 2008. The equally great Tin Angel Cafe also now features a small plates menu. This year downtown SLC welcomes two new small plate restaurants in the form of a a place opening in Exchange Place in mid April, and the focus of this review, Eva, located at 317 South Main Street. I won’t bore you with my ramblings on small plate dining. We love the idea, heck I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t.

Situated next to the Cheers To You on Main Street, when we first approached Eva, we thought we might be out of luck for a seat. A crowd of people milled ominously outside. As we got closer, it turned out they were just the exiled smokers from the adjacent bar. Making our way inside Eva, we were greeted by a cool, contemporary, space occupying what was formerly the Lazy Dog Pizzeria. The long thin restaurant features super high ceilings, which were tamed by the massive pieces of artwork lining the walls. Everything was shrouded in a dim “adult” lighting.

As we surveyed the space, we were greeted by our congenial host and waiter for the evening Rob. He took us to our table. The restaurant is lined on one side with banquette seating and wit small tables on the other. We were almost ready to order a glass or two of wine, but spotted a bottle Navarro Correas Malbec on the menu at just $20, so we decided on sharing that for the evening. The liquor menu also features a few interesting beers and cocktails to boot.

The menu was broken into three distinct sections. “Bakers Pies” are essentially 8″ wood-fired pizzas. Priced at $7.95 each they feature creative combinations, for example the French Pie (Brie, Pears, Toasted Walnuts, Arugula). Pasta dishes are available at $9.95 and finally, there is the selection of small plates. We eschewed the first two options and set out to try a host of small plates.

We placed our orders for a several items, and sat back to relax with a glass of wine. First to arrive was an order of the Fries ($5.00):

eva french fries

These were a perfect start to our meal. Top notch french fries in the true thin-sliced pomme frites style, the fries were crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The gentle hints of garlic, rosemary and parmesan added welcome flavor dimensions. These were incredibly addictive, I made sure every last bite was vanquished. For fear of starting a riot I won’t declare these the best in town, but they were damned good. (Wendi here declaring them the best in town, let the rioting begin!)

Next up was Wendi’s choice of the Wood-Fired Flatbread ($4.00):

eva flatbread

The flatbread is served with a white bean puree and truffle oil. Wendi had heard our waiter mention to the next table that the bean puree was “very heavy” on truffle oil. This sold her on the dish. The flatbread itself was a generous portion of balanced crispy and chewy goodness The white bean puree did indeed contain plenty of aforementioned truffle oil. For a meager four bucks, this delicious starter was a steal. Indeed, it was at this point I started to realize the absolute bargains which continued to tempt us on the menu. Which leads us on nicely to the next dish, Mussels ($5.00):

eva mussels

One of the evening’s specials, the plump and juicy mussels were cooked in a flavorful broth . Wendi did urge me to note the ingredients, but I was too giddy tucking into the bowl to take careful note. I do recall Chorizo lending an enjoyable zing and heat to the broth. Another wonderful dish, which had me triple-checking the specials board. $5? Really? I could imagine this being easily double the price at other eateries.

Next up, the Sauteed Brussel Sprouts caught both our eyes ($5.00):

eva brussel sprouts

These came tossed with Toasted Hazelnuts and Cider Vinegar. The few bites I did manage to sample were mighty fine. The plate seemed to suspiciously gravitate towards Wendi’s side of the table. When I did attempt to try a few more bites, they had mysteriously vanished. (Wendi here, vouching they were great.)

My final choice was the Saffron Braised Lamb Shoulder ($9.00):

eva lamb

This came with chunks of artichoke atop cous cous. Raisin’s also punctuated the dish adding a hint of sweetness. This was probably my least favourite dish of the evening. That isn’t to say it was bad, far from it, I guess I expected something else. There was also a lamb special on offer at $14, and in retrospect that might have been a better choice. Nonetheless I happily finished off the plate, while once again considering the very generous portion for the very reasonable price.

Wendi’s last choice was the far superior Phyllo Wrapped Salmon ($9.00):

eva phyllo wrapped salmon

This came with a fennel-citrus salad. Wendi couldn’t unload enough superlatives quickly enough about this dish. She loved the salmon, the rich buttery phyllo and the accompanying salad too. Her stand out favourite of the night. The only downside was that the accompanying sauce made the underside of the phyllo somewhat soft and stodgy if not eaten quickly, but it was eaten quickly, so not much of a problem for us. Another excellent plate, that left the table empty.

We just about had room at the end of the meal to share the Frozen Banana Bread ($4.00):

eva frozen banana bread

Served ala mode with a smattering of strawberries. Again, for a paltry $4 we couldn’t resist choosing this. And we were both glad we did, as we finished the meal doing battle with spoons over the last bites of flavoursome cake.

After a Coffee ($1.75) to finish the meal, our bill arrived and confirmed my suspicions. The total for 7 plates of food (some not so small at all), a bottle of wine and coffee? $67! In these tougher economic times, it’s a welcome respite to see such excellent food at genuinely low prices. We enjoyed our first meal so much, we were straight back the following week. Sadly, due to a DABC snafu, Eva had its liquor license temporrily halted. As I write I believe this has now been restored (04/22/09). Oh well, not too big of a deal for us, but a couple of patrons did seem to leave without ordering on hearing this. We wanted to shout to them that they should stay and enjoy some truly excellent food at a great value.

On our second trip we tried a few new items, plus some tried and tested faves (fries, salmon). Some of the additional items we sampled were as follows:

Shrimp Special ($7.00):

eva shrimp special

This was a pleasant enough mix of olives, shrimp, avocado and mango. My only complaint was that the majority of the dish was over chilled, not too fun for us of the sensitive teeth persuasion. It was as if the plate was prepped ahead of time, and refrigerated too long.

I also went with the Glazed Pork Ribs ($6.00):

eva pork ribs

I’m by no means a rib expert, but these four tender examples were very enjoyable also. The sauce was actually quite salty, which made me wonder if the ribs (surely pre-cooked) had been resting in the sauce for maybe too long. I could certainly see another person finding the dish overly-salty, not me though!

A French Bakers Pie with Brie, Pears, Toasted Walnuts and Arugula ($7.95):

eva bakers french pie

Wendi declared the mini pizza a roaring success, tasty and again a very generous serving. Big enough that half came home with us as a delicious late night snack.

Finally, our second trip ended with Loukamates ($5.00):

eva loukamates

Donut holes, deep fried and doused in a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon and a dollop of ice cream. Really how can you go wrong with that? Answer, you really can’t. That said, a while ago I did have something similar in a Vegas restaurant that filled the middle with molten white chocolate. That’s the only way this dish could be better!

Two great meals, both being favourites of many months of dining out. Service on both nights was warm, friendly, and very informative. The staff seem to be ever present (from a lunch visit I didn’t cover in this review) and really keen to drive the success of the restaurant. From customers coming and going it looks like Eva is already building up a popular following. We were also intrigued by Eva’s “food happy hours” which run 4am-6pm and 10pm-1am.

If you are looking for a meal downtown, you would be hard pressed to beat Eva. Especially at these prices, it would be almost impossible to lose. So in summary. Eva. Small plates, small prices, big on taste and even bigger on enjoyment!

Eva
317 S. Main Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
(801) 359-8447

Website: www.evaslc.com/

Eva on Urbanspoon

About Stuart Melling

My high school English teacher once told me I was the most arrogant young man she had ever met. Food criticism seemed like a natural leap. Stuart is largely fueled by Uinta Cutthroat, alliteration and the use of too many big words he doesn't understand. Stuart is also a member of the Association of Food Journalists.

Comments

  1. Rob says

    As the above-mentioned Rob, server and manager of Eva, I can confirm that as of Wednesday, 4/22, Eva is again in the alcohol business. I would like to thank all those who supported us during our hiatus, and encourage all others to come down for a glass of wine.

  2. Daniel says

    Parmesan on the tasty fries? Sounds excellent, but you do know that’s cheese, right Stu?

  3. jose comida says

    We tried Eva’s this past weekend and were very pleasently surprised.We arrived to find a 20-30 min. wait so found seats at the bar and commenced drinking!My cohorts in epicurian adventure loved the imaginative cocktails and I was pleased to find PINKUS PILS on the bar menu.It seems as though Pinkus is a “hot” beer now with many establishments offering what was an obscure brew in the past.Tapa style grazing on french pie,short ribs(too salty for me)and gnochi and another pasta were slightly to heavy on the cream sauce but everyone hailed the scallops.Dessert was the “doughnut holes” that everyone else enjoyed but a little too heavy and chewey for my taste.Overall it was anice surprise and economical option for downtown and late night noshing.

  4. Muncher says

    We called Eva last weekend in effort to make a reservation for this week (we have break just long enough to squeeze in dinner between two Sundance movies) and they said they do not take reservations. This turned me off quicker than a light switch. I have heard so many wonderful things about Eva’s so I’m sorry to say we blew them off and called Martine instead (they were more than happy to make a reservation for us). Maybe just a bone to pick, but I can’t stand no reservation policies at restaurants. No one wants to wait an hour to be seated and if reservations aren’t really necessary, than take them anyway. They help people to plan and feel reassured. Therefore, Eva’s no reservation policy to me says stop by if you are in the neighborhood and haven’t already made other plans and don’t mind waiting if we are busy. That’s fine, but it means I will be stopping by Eva sometime in the next year or so, instead of this week.

  5. says

    I completely agree with you Muncher. I had the same problem with Red Igunana and Takashi. I’m sure there are more places I have forgotten too.

    We haven’t been back to Eva in ages either, reservations would certainly help a lot with that.

    I also can’t fathom a reason for not taking reservations, it really blows my mind. You just can’t plan a nice night out without a reservation.

  6. ambrosia says

    really….???!!! you won’t partake in a restaurant’s fabulous cuisine simply because they don’t take reservations. hmmm. double hmmm. perhaps certain individuals need a course of “comfort and ease”…paired with a nice wine from the “enjoying the present moment” valley. just a sign of the times when all westerners want everything “right now” and/or “at a certain calculated time”. well, at least that leaves great food and great memories for the rest of us.

  7. Stu says

    Ambrosia: Don’t get me wrong. I have my impulsive days like anyone else.

    Quite often though, when planning a night out, having to get a taxi, plan the evening (maybe a show to attend after dinner etc?) it is essential to have a reservation.

    There have been a few restaurants I’ve personally shown up at, they’ve been packed, we couldn’t wait for a table as we had plans, or some other reason. So we just don’t bother going to those places.

    I’ve been to Eva at least four or five times on the spur of the moment and never had an issue. That was before they got REAL popular though.

  8. David says

    We went to Eva a couple weeks ago, understanding of the no reservation policy and knowing we would have to wait. We, as a party of 4, arrived around 8, left our name and they asked for a cell number to call us when a table opened, indicating about a 50 minute wait. 50 minutes, no phone call, we go back in, no table. We wait another 40 minutes, watching tables clear. We get seated and then are told that there menu is now “the after hours menu”.

    So, will I go back to a place that can’t follow it’s own party tracking protocol, knows that we have been waiting a couple hours, can’t seat us at the open counter so we can at least have a drink while we wait, and then, after acknowledging how long we have waited, only say “sorry you missed the dinner menu…there were some great specials tonight”. Meahhh, next.

    And the food….good, not great.

  9. Muncher says

    I love a good ‘let’s pop in and get a bite’ sometimes too, but Stu hit the nail on the head. Sometimes people have plans and need to know whether they can be accommodated or not. In our case, we had some movies and knowing downtown restaurants were going to be pretty busy, we wanted to plan ahead. I don’t look at this as being too picky, actually quite the opposite. I look it as lending courtesy to the restaurant by filling them in of our plans ahead of time so they know to expect us at the time of the reservation. I try not to take offense of ambrosia negatively calling me a westerner (although by origin I am) but I might add that reservations at good restaurants are quite typical around the world. I am getting ready to head to France in two weeks (I’ve been four times) and you better bet your tush we make reservations at restaurants. If we were to show up reservation-less expecting a table, well that is when we would be shown to the door by a frustrated manager mumbling ‘stupid American’ under his/her breathe. It is simply a polite gesture to inform a restaurant of your plans so they kitchen staff can plan their evening too. Win-win. Now if a place can pull off not needing reservations and taking care of its patrons, by all means, but according to David’s review, it sounds like Eva struggles with this task.

  10. Stu says

    I think the issue is that they see themselves more as a neighborhood, drop by and grab a quick bite type of place – as opposed to a destination restaurant. That is compounded moreover with the fact it is a really small restaurant. Things get a bit better in the summer with their outdoors pation out back.

    Not a huge deal really, I guess that is their choice and they are clearly doing great businesses with obvious wait times for a table.

    Good luck to ‘em, we have had nothing but great food there.

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