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[whitespace] Eulipia
Christopher Gardner

Appetizing: New chef Kirk Bruderer brandishes one of the starters on Eulipia's updated menu.

A new chef and new menu at San Jose's Eulipia stress New American flavors with lots of punch and plenty of confidence

By Christina Waters

REDISCOVERING an old favorite in the growing constellation of San Jose dining stars is its own reward--especially if it underscores great memories of meals past. Last week a dinner to try out the new menu at Eulipia made a fan of me all over again. Chef Kirk Bruderer's dinner menu includes enough of the restaurant's greatest hits--like the chicken breast with brie, the asparagus and mushrooms with pasta, and the crispy crab cake--to convince my dinner partner and me that he was wisely paying heed to the landmark's devoted clientele. But we found much to like in the way of new items, such as a hearty smoked ham shank and melted Gruyere appetizer "sandwich" and a sweet mussel and clam risotto starter. A thumb pasta dish with braised escarole and another dish of forest mushrooms wrapped in savoy cabbage offered meatless sophistication, but it was a special of Chilean seabass ($21) and a pan-seared chicken breast with potato hash ($15) that got our attention.

Eulipia's kitchen isn't afraid to use some butter, starting with the creamy scoop that joined our excellent bread. I for one am happy to see an alternative to those interminable pours of olive oil, knowing full well, of course, just how healthful they are. Glasses of outstanding Ravenswood Estate Zinfandel 1996 ($5.75) kept us company--but only after we'd tried one of those sexy Eulipia cocktails: the Blood Orange ($5), a tangy blend of Campari, orange vodka, and cranberry and orange juices glamorously served in a martini goblet.

Starters were splendid, showing off the chef's emphasis on clear, robust flavors and beautiful presentation. A sunny turban of creamy polenta custard ($6) was topped with intensely flavored forest mushrooms and spiked with garlic. Served on a bed of fresh baby spinach and meltingly tender, it was a destination appetizer. The beautiful bowl of risotto ($10)--a special thanks from all of us who adore risotto but don't want to wade through a huge entree portion--was laced with sweet red peppers, mussels and clams. Hints of shallot and citrus perfumed what was another triumphant appetizer creation.

Our red wine was showing off its velvety depth when our main courses arrived, again dramatically presented on large white plates. A luxurious pillow of alabaster seabass lay on a cushion of smoky-sweet pureed celery root--a daring choice. The sumptuous seafood was wrapped in a thin "crust" of potato, the natural companion for fine fish, and the whole design was flecked with bits of fresh chive. Yet the creation lacked visual appeal. All the pale tones of fish, potato and celery root would have taken nicely to a deep-green spinach accent, or a more substantial garnish, say, of red pepper.

Across the table, my companion was delighted with what I agreed was a superior rendition of a delicious standard. The chicken breast skin was a crisp transparent gold; the flesh beneath was incredibly juicy. It was served in a way that might have enhanced the seabass, on a bed of fresh spinach laced with pancetta, onions and diced potatoes. It wasn't exactly a hash--more like a full-bodied confetti--but the accompanying flavors were perfect with the poultry.

Our service throughout was great--our waiter was polite, attentive, unafraid to share a sense of humor yet completely nonhovering. Eulipia has always specialized in fine service, though, so we weren't surprised.

There's no way that we could have left this restaurant without a slice of the house signature fresh-squeezed lemon and lime pie ($6), so we ordered that as well as the tres leches ($6)--a gloriously custardy affair of cream-soaked pound cake topped with yet more whipped cream. The elegant citrus pie, so well balanced between creamy and tart, was a nice contrast with the rustic, sweet, very moist cake, served in a generous square as if home-cooked. My companion's coffee was not quite strong enough, but my decaf espresso was excellent.

Graced with plenty of updated American culinary classics--long on meats and seafoods sided with root vegetables and seasonal greens--Eulipia's menu mirrors the growing trend toward nontricky, honest flavors.


Eulipia
Address: 374 S. First St., San Jose
Phone: 408/280-6161
Cuisine: New American
Hours: Dinner Tue.-Sun.; lunch weekdays; closed Monday
Chef: Kirk Bruderer

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From the April 8-14, 1999 issue of Metro.

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