2227 N 56th, 633-3538 5-9:30 p.m. Tues.-Sun. AE, MC, V / beer and wine STRANGE CHANGE has descended on Seattle, no doubt about it:


Real change

Something in Wallingford to get excited about—finally.


2227 N 56th, 633-3538 5-9:30 p.m. Tues.-Sun. AE, MC, V / beer and wine STRANGE CHANGE has descended on Seattle, no doubt about it: Violence erupts, the earth moves, Boeing decamps, dot-coms crash and burn, the rain stops falling, the Honey Bear Bakery closes. Even those who took the first five philosophically may be having real difficulty with the sixth, an event that took place the same day the Pioneer Square pergola dropped and seems to carry for many the same dread portent of gloom. Chin up, campers—all is not lost in Jet City. The neighborhood coffeehouse that kept Wallingfordians coffee-klatching and journaling in fine, crunchy style may be gone forever—ostensibly victim to the Starbucks 'n' Tully's domination of the market—but the independent entrepreneurial spirit that created such a treasure is alive and well, and just down the street. Say hello to Eva, the new occupant of the old Brie & Bordeaux space at 56th and Meridian. Last November James Hondros and Amy McCray bought B&B— itself a civic treasure that had purveyed the best of wines and cheeses for over a decade—and recast it as a bistro with a world-roaming palate. Lest I have suggested that Eva in any way resembles the Honey Bear, however, I have erred. McCray hails from the kitchens of Dahlia Lounge, Ventana, and, most recently, Chez Shea. And while her room certainly lands on the homespun side of sophisticated—with cozy warm woods and wall stencils and a pot of fresh herbs on every white tablecloth—her menu's reach is altogether out of the Bear's league. Take the "Firsts" menu, for instance. (The other sections are "In Betweens," denoting shareable appetizers or light meals, and "Seconds," denoting entr饳.) A plate of Cabrales flan with pear relish ($6) arrived at once pungent and cloud-light, winningly complemented by its sweet topping. With it came lightly dressed greens and a walnut cracker, buttery as shortbread and lovely as a foil for the blue cheese flavor. Full-throated pan-fried oysters were innovatively crusted in crushed pappadums ($8), a pairing so right, with the natural salty crunch of the Indian cracker, I wonder why I've never seen it before. A pot of emerald cilantro pesto and a dish of refreshing cucumber raita accompanied them, the latter of which could retire tartar sauce as far as I'm concerned. Even the appetizer salad ($6) revealed intelligence. McCray combined organic greens with sherry vinaigrette and almonds cloaked in Spanish smoked paprika, then topped the heap with curls of manchego cheese and added a fan of sweet Bosc pear—wonderful. McCray's culinary gift appears to be the unexpected element—spiced almonds in the salad, pappadums on the oysters—that makes all the difference. Such surprises lend a sense of levity to dinner at Eva that befits its easy ambiance. A plate of chevre lasagna ($12) off the "In Betweens" list was cool, featuring slices of Japanese eggplant between the pasta sheets and plenty of the lightening tang of chevre, along with—surprise!--a fistful of fresh peas strewn across the plate, lending winsome sweetness to a dish of real substance. BEST OFF THIS list was a heaping platter of firm, meaty Prince Edward mussels ($14), steamed with a heady concoction of garam masala, coconut milk, and basil. Aside from looking beautiful—the silky sauce gleaming golden in its cerulean bowl—this dish featured spicy conspiracies of flavor that commenced all manner of swooning. Two spears of grilled chile toast were handy swabbers, because we weren't about to let a drop of this sauce go. As is commonly the case, Eva's entr饳 are more straightforward than its starters, showcasing McCray's formidable classical skills. Alaskan King salmon ($17) in a lemon-caper vinaigrette was light, delicious, and flawlessly executed, served with halved red potatoes and young spring vegetables. House-made tagliatelle pasta with prosciutto, peas, and lemon cream ($14) was a clean rendition of this Italian springtime classic. Our favorite was two golden joints of braised rabbit ($16) served in a rich sherry reduction with chorizo bread pudding and a tangle of greens that got good and soppy as the meal unfolded. The rabbit was tender and meaty, without a whisper of that tough and ropy texture ol' Peter often acquires in cooking, and intriguing in concert with the hot sausage. We finished with a plate of three desserts, the Eva Trio ($8), which looked formal and foofy but tasted, as the best desserts do, like a good romp in a vat of caramel and whipped cream. Apparently credit is due pastry chef JoAnna Cruz for the frozen kahlua and chocolate souffle, the almond mascarpone cream cake, and the luscious caramel banana tartlet. And credit is certainly due McCray and Hondros for their bright new addition, already more than worthy of Seattle's rich neighborhood dining scene. Service was fine but for the too-casual demeanor of our host, who needs to learn enough about the food to be able to comment intelligently on it. (Call me Miss Manners, but he might also consider tucking in his shirt.) That done, Eva should provide much enjoyment to many, along with a lesson for those who mourn their favorite old haunts: Without change we would have no happy surprises. krobinson@seattleweekly.com

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