(Click here to reserve a table through OpenTable.com.) Eden describes itself as Rehoboth Beach's purveyor of "bold American food." Indeed, from the unique combinations of ingredients to the attractive presentations, from the comfortable atmosphere and the award-winning wine list...to the prices, "bold" does, in fact, describe it pretty well. Unabashedly "fine dining," Eden has to constantly raise the bar--even on itself--to maintain the reputation and recognition it has earned over the years.
On our most recent visit, our two dining cohorts ordered the prix fixe special consisting of Tuna Tartare (with blood orange marmelade and black garlic pesto) and Eden's "signature" Grilled Caesar Salad. The salad requires a bit of explanation: It actually consists of a large stalk of Romaine lettuce, cut lengthwise in half, and, yes, actually grilled on the cut side until it is a golden roasted brown, but still crunchy. It is accompanied by a tapenade of sun-dried tomatoes and olives, shaved parmesan cheese and a garlicky caesar dressing. It's quite an event, impressive to look at and impressive to eat. For their main course they chose the Beef Chateaubriand (for 2), served with grilled asparagus, potatoes braised in a reduction of red wine and bacon. The almost fork-tender beef tenderloin was presented sliced, along with two sauces for slathering: a Bearnaise sauce (typically a reduction of clarified butter, egg yolk, terragon, chervil, peppercorns and red wine vinegar) and a dark Sauce Diane (traditionally prepared from the garlic/pepper-infused pan drippings of the cooked beef combined with butter, shallots, cream, beef stock and Worcestershire sauce). As much as I badgered the two of them for negative comments--anything!--I was met with stony silence...and smiles. I guess they liked it.
My dining companion for the evening started with the Maine Lobster/Local Crab Tower, a stratified, cylindrical structure (also known as a "timbale") consisting of mango salsa, lobster, crab, and (supposedly) topped with avocado puree (the puree was missing!). I'll always remember an on-air comment from Emeril Lagasse saying that the higher you stack the food on the plate, the more you can charge for it. In Eden's defense, I will say that the large quantity of pricey crabmeat and lobster on the plate (despite the mysteriously absent avocado) justified the $16 tariff. I'm still nursing the fork wound I sustained while trying to sneak a third bite. Oh well, no pain, no gain.
On our side of the table, the entrees consisted of Eden's perennial Mac & Cheese with Garganelli pasta, coated in flavorful chevre (goat cheese) and parmesan, and mingled with grilled chicken, spinach and roasted peppers. Y'know, it's hard to tell sometimes whether you want more of something because they didn't serve you enough, or because it was so tasty. Either way, a little more would have been nice. Heck...it wasn't even tall!
My entree was another Eden "signature" dish, the Wood Oven Roasted Organic Chicken Breast. nestled in a little forest of parsnips, leeks and carrots, and drizzled in a light lemon thyme sauce. My friend Cathy from around-the-corner loves this dish and gets it every time. I can see (and taste) why. The skin was dark and almost crispy, and the meat was carved in nice, symmetrical little chunks. It was juicy and perfectly done. Chef Cy Keefer has stayed true to a basically simple dish that has, over the years, helped make Eden what it is today.
The creative talents of long-time pastry chef Danielle Panarello were evident in the Key Lime pie (complete with a darkly carameled molten sugar filigree standing tall--it was fun cracking it into pieces). The pie filling was almost white (like true Key Lime pie) and the sunflower seeds mixed with the Graham Cracker crust made for a happy mouth-feel. Glassy-eyed and dazed from the Chateaubriand (or could it have been the two bottles of Luca Malbec?), our friends dug into the prix fixe dessert of Dark Chocolate Fondue complete with various and sundry dipping goodies.
As is the case with many of the restaurants here at the beach, Eden's menu tends to change with the seasons and the avialability of local ingredients. So use the comments above as a guide. Who knows what you might encounter when you peruse their latest menu. Chef Andrew Feeley now rules the kitchen at Eden and is already making his mark with a singular fall menu for 2011.
I've heard differing opinions about Eden (including those of a Guest Foodie reviewer whose comments preceeded my own and which now appear below). You should prepare yourself for an experience when you go there. The dining room is muted and dim, with little sparkles everywhere. The service is attentive and friendly. The booths are semi-private and it's fun to watch the activity in the semi-open kitchen. In other words, this is not a place you dash into if you're in a hurry to get to the movies.
Eden is at 23 Baltimore Avenue, on the north side of ocean block, directly across from Mixx and next door to owners Jeff McCracken and Mark Hunker's latest installation, JAM Bistro. They do take reservations (302) 227-3330. Click here to see Eden's sample menu. (L. (in season), D., Bar). Price range: Expensive +.