Our reservation’s for half past seven, and I have fun taking the first-timers down the stairs to this oddly hidden high-end restaurant. Sparkly lights everywhere (including little ones in blue glass on the tables) set an elegant mood. We get water right away, and our glasses never run dry. The bread is freshly baked, the butter rich, the salads crisp. We nibble at but don’t finish the barely breaded calamari, which pale in comparison to the crusty rings across the street at Grizzly Peak. The sommelier apologizes appropriately once he realizes he has forgotten us on this busy Saturday night.
Right when I’m getting nervous that my friends may not be having a good time, a trio of musicians take their stools, and soft jazz begins wafting over the crowd in the large stone-walled room. We settle in and enjoy fine filets of well-sauced beef and salmon—the latter cut in house from a whole fish, our friendly server Julie tells us. Her adept attention does the heavy lifting that pulls our special-occasion night back on track. An exquisite dessert tops off the fall feast: rich Tuscan apple cake swimming in confidently anise cream.
We head out sated with classic continental fare. And it’s only later, saying goodbye and promising to send each other the spicy hummus and roasted beet recipes we’d discussed, that a disconnect between our afternoon and evening strikes me. Dinner was good, but it is the food talk in the afternoon that resonates most. And I suddenly recall comments from a chef friend about the Earle, from earlier this year. “I look at the menu and feel kind of bored—so many exciting things currently happening with food aren’t happening there.”