611 North Maple Ave., Ho-Ho-Kus
At one point during a mostly excellent Sunday evening meal at St. Eve's in Ho-Ho-Kus, a manager asked for our table's verdict on the best dish of the night. Debate ensued, and just about every offering earned a vote.
St. Eve's is the sort of place that boasts a lot of best dishes.
The rustic eatery opened on North Maple Avenue in April 2011, the brainchild of Steve and Judi Christianson. He designed the space and crafted the menu after closing his previous restaurant, the highly regarded Citrus Grille in Airmont, N.Y.; she came up with the name, a play on her husband's name.
The restaurant's two rooms seat about 80, and restored barn doors slide open or closed to accommodate events in the secondary dining room. The décor, which leans heavily on dark wood, subdued lighting and more dark wood, looks like a Restoration Hardware exploded in a country club to very pleasing effect.
And the menu reads like a five-step guide to achieving wood-grilled, farm-raised gastronomic bliss.
Appetizers offer a tough-to-pick-from whirl of heirloom tomatoes, grilled vegetables, artisan cheeses and various meats. After much soul-searching, we settled on four selections, including a dish of wood-grilled red and white endives, grated Roquefort cheese, honey-roasted pecans and sliced green apples. The endive seemed unusually bitter, but its accompanying ingredients created a pleasing whole. An appetizer portion of the menu's baked bucatini pasta with pear tomatoes, grana padano crust and zucchini pesto sauce tasted great. And sopping up the sauce provided the perfect excuse (not that you'll need one) to eat more of St. Eve's warm herb rolls, supplied by the nearby bakery Panificio Bolea.
The salmon ceviche special, rolled in thinly sliced cucumber with a pile of greens and slices of orange, proved enjoyably delicate with a hint of spicy aftertaste. On the other end of the spectrum, the hearty filet mignon ravioli special featured three plump, oversized pieces of pasta filled with tender filet and accompanied by pieces of short rib in a brown sauce.
Among the night's entrées, the surf and turf special offered the heartiest portion – two slabs of sirloin, slow-roasted then grilled, a thick lobster tail, a stack of asparagus and a small brick of sweet potato pie – and the closest thing to simply average taste. The housemade pappardelle with Maine lobster, shrimp and diver scallops in a lobster broth was gratifyingly generous with the seafood and boasted the tastier lobster. And the melt-in-your-mouth pecan-crusted chicken special stood out among the crowd, and for good reason – it used to be the Citrus Grille's signature dish.
Arguably the best entrée, though, was the grilled hanger steak, a wonderfully tender cut of meat bathed in a bacon-mushroom ragout and paired with sweet potato pie and watercress salad. That dish alone warrants a return visit.
The dessert menu didn't disappoint. The ricotta cheesecake special with raspberry sorbet and fresh berries was delicious. The dark chocolate soufflé cake with pistachio ice cream was delicious. The sample special with flourless chocolate cake, apple strudel and vanilla gelato was...well, you know.
Our meal featured attentive, friendly service throughout. St. Eve's is BYO and offers an intriguing assortment of homemade sodas. The restaurant's location in the Mayer Building offers ample parking.
And every course offers too many compelling tastes to miss a trip to Ho-Ho-Kus.