For a restaurant that opened without fanfare in late April, St. Eve’s appears to be doing just fine, the phone ringing off the wall in late morning with people seeking dinner reservations.
Steve and Judi Christianson, who lost their lease at the Citrus Grille in Airmont, N.Y., waited 14 months to get into their space on Maple Avenue in a new building near the Ho-Ho-Kus-Ridgewood border. The building is owned by a couple who used to dine at Citrus Grille and invited the Christiansons to “come on down” when they found out they had to move.
“We were originally looking for a place with a liquor license,” Judi Christianson recalled, “But then the recession hit and that didn’t seem to be such a good idea anymore. Not one person has said, ‘darn, you don’t have a liquor license.’”
With a liquor store next door, that won’t be a problem for customers who forget to bring their own. There is a bar in the main dining room where, on a crowded night, diners can, while waiting for a table, sit and sip their own wine or home-brewed root beer from the bar.
Judi, an art major at William Paterson, wanted a place with a “cool vibe” and she has achieved it. The main room is the more casual space, with wooden beams over a high black ceiling, stucco-style walls and a high-backed bench along one wall. The other room has a white, coffered ceiling. Both rooms feature sculpted angels as decorations, appropriate for a restaurant with saint in its name, and crystal chandeliers.
The tables themselves are works of art, with custom wood tops done by Richard Ferraro of Prospect Park.
Judi wanted to call the new restaurant Steve’s. He is the master chef after all. But Judi said he refused to name the restaurant after himself. So Judi put a period after the St, son Travis designed a clever logo and Steve’s became St. Eve’s. Steve, a graduate of the Culinary Institute who apprenticed at The Four Seasons, agreed to the compromise.
The week before our interview, my partner and I had dinner at St. Eve’s, electing to dine in the more formal space which can be closed off for private parties by giant sliding doors rescued from an old barn in Hawthorne. Judy painted them black and installed fancy, silver plated handles as an accent, which draws attention to the doors themselves.
My partner started with an appetizer of soft shell crab topped with greens, a dish he pronounced outstanding. I had the “daily assortment” of salad greens with buttermilk dressing. It came with generous chunks of goat cheese plus grapefruit and orange wedges (shades of the Citrus Grille).
This could become one of my favorite salads.
For main courses, we elected to go with two of the day’s specials. My partner chose the pork chop, which came with peas and sweet potato strips. The chop was rich and juicy, just to his liking.
I ordered the swordfish special. I like my fish what I call “cooked through,” which must have been hard to do since this piece was nearly two inches thick and shaped more like a filet mignon. But it came perfectly done with peas and carrots on a bed of Jerusalem artichokes. While the other vegetables were perfect, the artichokes could, I thought, have used another 15 minutes of cooking.
For dessert, my partner chose the chocolate mousse cake while I went with an apple tart. Both were very good, but mine was served with a spoon and I had to ask for a fork.
The only thing my partner complained about was the bread (and he often complains about the bread in higher end restaurants.) There were two rolls served on a board with a nice dish of butter. The rolls were dry and not very interesting.
But overall, this was a very satisfying dinner and we’ve already decided on a return trip and bringing relatives.
People planning to try a St. Eve’s dinner should be aware that the restaurant entrance is at the back of the building because the parking at the front is limited to 15 minutes. Judi Christianson said that the front door is there to allow access to the eight outdoor patio tables they plan to put in the shelter of a brick wall at the side of the front parking lot.
Though high chairs aren’t available and there is no special children’s menu, there were several families with young children there the night we had dinner. The attitude is “come one, come all,” Christianson said. And there is a hamburger on the menu.
When diners come in the back entrance, they are greeted by a picture of Steve’s grandmother sitting on a breadbox. Judi said he developed his love of cooking helping his mother make his grandmother’s banana bread.
The entrance to the main dining room features a piece by Danish artist Gert Mathiesen, a friend of Steve’s. There are three more Mathiesen paintings in the formal dining room, all of them worth a lingering look. This is not pedestrian art.
Right now, St. Eve’s serves dinner every day except Monday, but there are plans to eventually open for lunch. For anybody interested in food, it is well worth a visit.
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Atmosphere: Upscale Friendly
Entrée price range: $18-$35
Address: 611 North Maple Ave, Ho-Ho-Kus
Reservations: (201) 857-4717