- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Eventide brings to mind that perfect time of the day when the warm afternoon slips into the cool night. Eventide is also a new restaurant in an attractive old building at Wilson Boulevard and Hudson Street in the Clarendon area of Arlington. The first floor houses the bar lounge, with small tables and booths for enjoying a limited bar menu.

As befits the name, the dining room is beautiful in the shades of the deepening night: blue velvet curtains cut the height, a patterned blue carpet cuts the noise. (Conversation is easy.)

Executive chef Miles Vaden, most recently from Sonoma Restaurant in the District, directs the kitchen. He clearly is a talented young man, although what he sends to the dining room can be uneven.

A recent dinner began with a gift from the chef, a lovely, light gazpacho with a nice peppery, garlicky kick. Biscuits are served in lieu of bread. Not great, but not bad.

The menu is short: seven starters, eight main courses and a half-dozen desserts. A small slice of foie gras, served with rhubarb mustard and a tiny dice of sweet-and-sour rhubarb, is delicious but in a very meager portion.

Salads are pretty and fresh: four grilled asparagus are accompanied by a room-temperature poached egg that has been rolled in crumbs, which, unfortunately, were no longer crisp. A bit of frisee, dressed with a citrus vinaigrette, adds a paler green to the dish. A salad of mixed greens is topped with a few slices of carrots and green beans.

Chilled purple potato soup is lovely to see in its white dish. The soup is sprinkled with bits of pancetta, and creme fraiche is swirled on the top. It’s a thick, satisfying soup, yet the flavor is subtle.

The outstanding main course on a recent evening was a plump piece of grilled Tasmanian salmon, still tasting of the sea. Cooked perfectly to retain texture and moisture, the fish was a symphony in summer colors, the pink fish surrounded by a pale-green ragout of mixed peas and a few cornmeal gnocchi. The gnocchi were so light they melted on the tongue. The crispy skin on the fish was topped with a spoonful of salmon caviar. Mr. Vaden has taken the ubiquitous salmon to new heights with a simple, perfect preparation.

A roasted chicken breast was excellent as well, cooked — like the salmon — to retain moisture and flavor. The menu description of accompanying carrot puree and a stuffing of radicchio, currants and pine nuts was deceptive. What appeared on the plate was a mushy mound of bread cubes and unidentifiable root vegetables. No carrot, currants, radicchio or pine nuts.

Lobster tagliatelle were disappointingly bland. The tiny pieces of lobster tail were virtually invisible, and the lobster “meatballs” were dry. The pasta, although cooked al dente, was uninteresting.

A grilled pork chop, nicely sliced, was flavorful but tough. It was served with mustard greens. As with some of the other dishes, the menu description is misleading, for the “yucca root” and the “escabeche of peppers and green olives” were not more than suggestions on the plate.

We couldn’t resist the strawberry-rhubarb tart. The creme fraiche promised on the menu was AWOL again. The tart, however, was a nice combination of the two fruits in good pastry.

The wine list is an eclectic one of many unknown wines and vineyards, with a half-dozen or more each of good reds and whites by the glass. Service is excellent, although with a lengthy wait between courses.

The menu in the lounge downstairs offers such dishes as fried oysters, shredded chicken salad, grilled skirt steak and a ham-and-asparagus quiche.

Eventide has been open for a few months and already is popular with the young and trendy. It’s open only in the evenings, with no plans for lunchtime service.

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