EsterEv is a small dining room inside the DanDan Restaurant that serves a tasting menu only. Named for the great-grandmothers, Evelyn and Ester, of the owners Dan Jacobs and Dan Van Rite, whose passion for cooking inspired a place for celebrating around a table with friends. In 2015 the 2 Dan’s opened the Chinese food with midwestern sensibility, DanDan and not long thereafter their fine dining option EsterEv. The menu changes regularly and wine pairings are available as are cocktails in the small room off the kitchen that looks to seat about 20 persons at individual tables. Music from the surrounding restaurant bleeds in and the lights are lowered. Many of the serving dishes are made by Dan Jacob’s wife, a ceramic artist. The pacing is great and the portions are on the small side.
As part of the pairings the snacks are served with a cocktail of peach martini. It did have lots of peach flavor but it was not as potent as most martinis.
The snacks included an Osetra caviar tater tot. The perfectly crisped and round cake of potato was topped with delicious caviar. It was a fun set of contrasting textures too. Cauliflower soup was perfectly creamy and wonderful. It was silky smooth and well flavored. Scallion pita was with hummus and ancho. The ancho lent a little spicy bit to the hummus and the soft pita was perfect to eat with it. It was all really tasty.
Cottage Cheese was mixed with brussels sprouts, grapes and tongue seeds. The house made cottage cheese was actually good and the accompaniments added textures and mild flavors. It was nice but a mild combination.
Red crab was mixed with mushroom, sunchoke and Granny Smith apples and topped with a couple crisp sunchoke chips. The buttery crab was well matched with the sunchoke purée and the apple added a crisp thin tartness to each bite. Fermented mushrooms were mixed into the topping for this winning dish.
Steelhead Trout was plated with parsnip, caviar, pear and clams. The trout was cooked in olive oil and the parsnips were puréed. The sauce was a combination of pears, clams and caviar. The sweet parsnip was a perfect pairing with the salty fish. Really nice combination of strong flavors.
Potato gnocchi were topped with truffles and scallions in a whey broth. The gnocchi were perfect round cylinders that needed more texture to break up the cardboard truffles. I kept looking at them thinking they were little towels that were going to expand any minute. The broth here was excellent but the dish as a whole was only okay.
Duck was dry aged for 18 days and served with celery root, mustards in a sour cherry sauce. On the side was a duck liver mousse with pickled vegetables. In a separate bowl was the confit leg meat with celery root espuma and greens. It was definitely my favorite part. Lovely flavors here. The breast meat was cooked nicely but its side of celery root looked like it should be a potato but it didn’t cook as nicely as potato would have. Whether the sauce was cherry or red wine sauce, it was very good. The light liver mousse on a really crispy toast was a second favorite on the good plate.
The first dessert was a play on Peach melba with fermented raspberries, koji(cooked rice and soya beans inoculated with a fermentation culture) and rice. The koji served as a faux ice cream only this one had texture and it was filled with peach jam and topped with raspberry granita. Lots of science here but it yielded a wonderful result with well matched tastes and textures. Wonderful.
The second dessert was dark chocolate with olive oil, olives and cocoa nibs. It was a warm dark chocolate mousse topped with olives and cocoa nibs and underneath was olive oil ice cream. The idea is to scoop all the way through and enjoy the temperature variation. Wonderful strong flavors and textures mixed with temperature differences and a great aftertaste. Another winner.
Final treats were a chocolate brownie filled with caramel and a Wisconsin cream puff. The chocolate was dense but not liquid filled, rather the caramel infused into the chocolate for a really tasty end result. The cream puff was just that except it was filled with custard not cream for a really tasty bite.
A parting gift was an oatmeal, cranberry bar covered with chocolate. It was a nice treat for breakfast a few days later.