Has any downtown club opening in recent memory prompted more buzz than Eden? Owners Rod and Marie Beers have spared little expense in transforming the former Village Inn into a wonderland. Eden's two bars reek of high-concept gloss, with VIP bottle service, a lengthy specialty drinks menu and no shortage of eye-candy staff.
Ambience notwithstanding, Eden's biggest surprise comes in the form of its food menu. Unlike other nightclubs in town, whose menus vacillate between tacky themed fare and fried foods, Eden has found a pearl in chef Jeremy Engle. The 23-year-old wnderkind exhibits sparkling creativity and has shaped an elegant Asian- and Mediterranean-influenced menu that relies on clean, bright flavors.
The menu is composed primarily of tapas, although a few salads and desserts round it out. Eden's tapas aren't bite-sized affairs, although their prices -- from $5 to $11 -- don't necessarily reflect this. Each is liberally portioned and flawlessly presented, with attractive gravity-defying spires and those adorable squeeze-bottle flourishes on the plate.
The spicy tuna tartar ($11) is a generous ring-molded cylinder of raw yellowtail combined with cucumber and green onion, sitting atop a pickled seaweed salad. The fine-diced tuna has terrific texture and plenty of piquancy, contrasting well with the tartness of the seaweed.
The lobster summer rolls ($8) employ a similar set of flavors and are gorgeously presented atop fried rice sticks. Here, big chunks of grilled lobster and greens, encased in a nicely springy skin, receive added character from a vivid Vietnamese-style chile pure and a warm peanut sauce.
Less exciting are the Oysters Rockefeller ($10). While this dish is a much-beloved classic among the lockjawed Yalie set, the mini-mountains of spinach, bacon and Hollandaise are muddled and far too heavy, eclipsing the natural brininess of the oysters. I usually won't argue with the culinary advantages of a mouthful of fat, but here, the dish seems a less-than-happy departure from the rest of the menu.
Things get back on track with the steak lettuce wraps ($7). Layers of Bibb lettuce, fried rice noodles and a mild fish sauce make for a nice and generous take on a dish that's been spoiled or rendered banal at other restaurants. Although the meat has a coat of somewhat bitter (and unidentifiable) seasoning, it's diffused by the fish sauce. The wraps take on a lovely consistency, thanks to the crispness of the noodles.
The best dish, by far, is the lamb tamale ($6), which is, I was informed, unfortunately being removed from the menu. A banana leaf wrapping and slightly sweet grape and pomegranate salsa beautifully complement(ed) the highly seasoned, tender lamb and maasa filling.
The kitchen generally is open until midnight, depending on business. Friday and Saturday nights are notoriously busy, with a lengthy queue stretching back from the velvet ropes, so I suggest those interested in sampling the menu -- and not, say, ogling twentysomething hotties -- do so on the less-hectic Wednesday or Sunday evenings.
Eden's best characteristic is its eye for detail, which extends from the ambience and decorative embellishment (those bathrooms!) to the menu. With another room and an enclosed patio opening in November, Eden stands to increase both business and prestige in the downtown scene. Let's hope that its rigorous standards keep pace with its growth.
-- Aaron Retka
Eden Night Club and Syn Lounge
217 E. Pikes Peak Ave.
888/763-4100 or edennightlife.com
Kitchen hours: Wednesday-Friday, 6 p.m. to midnight; Saturday and Sunday, 8 p.m. to midnight.