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[whitespace] Eric Tosh
Reupholstering a SoFa Standby: New Eulipia chef Eric Tosh shows his range with dishes as down-home as 'The Ultimate Pot Roast' and as delicate as a nouvelle-style scallop appetizer.

Who's Still on First

For more than 20 years, Eulipia has pumped excitement into downtown San Jose's SoFA dining scene--and it still does

By Christina Waters

EULIPIA FELT FLUSH with new energy last week. As always, downtowners on their way to some movie or club lined the vintage brick wall of booths, and a new crop of intriguing artworks climbed all the way up to the mezzanine seating overlooking the main dining room. Armed with one of Eulipia's sensational specialty cocktails--a Patron gimlet that was smooth and refreshing ($6.95)--and a generous pour of excellent Summers Napa Valley Zinfandel 1997 ($8), Lauren and I set to work.

Any menu sporting "The Ultimate Pot Roast" makes a serious claim for gusto. But a sensitive asparagus and wild mushroom fettuccine indicates the versatility of this kitchen, under the new leadership of executive chef Eric Tosh. As in Europe, citrus seems to be the accent of the moment. We liked the sound of an appetizer of scallops with blood oranges and fennel ($13) and a creation of roasted baby beets in citrus vinaigrette ($9).

The salad, a crimson earthwork of pink and red beets dotted with infant niçoise olives, was delicious. Only halfway through, however, did we unearth the treasure of chevre that had been hidden deep inside. Pungent goat cheese, sweet citrus-bathed beets--what a sexy combination. My appetizer of two fat sea scallops--cooked only enough to enhance the flavors and crusty with sea salt--made aesthetic reference to nouvelle cuisine. A fluff of frisée, sliced fennel and wedges of blood orange sat to one side, while a long spear of citrusy braised endive pointed to some unseen nirvana. It was a knockout dish that left us longing for one more scallop.

The fear of every kitchen is that somehow something will happen and a patron's order will get lost. It happens, even in the best of kitchens. Unfortunately, it was our entree order that was misplaced that night. And so we waited. Our waiter finally arrived to state the obvious and offered to comp us more wine or dessert. A gracious touch, but too bad the rhythm of the meal was ruined.

All was forgiven, however, at the arrival of my fresh salmon, lightly encrusted with cashews ($18). There is no finer salmon anywhere than our fresh local catch, and it was showcased superbly by al dente preparation, fingerling potatoes tossed in rosemary, and a supple bed of shiitakes, chard, crunchy bits of fresh corn and a few more of the succulent beets. A lemony beurre blanc made every forkful sing. Kudos to the chef for knowing the exact point at which to stop cooking this tender, rich seafood--and rush it to the table.

Less successful in terms of harmony of ingredients was another very pretty entree of raviolis filled with an intensely salty mix of kalamata olives, mascarpone cheese (not nearly enough) and basil ($15). The dish was studded with warm orange and red cherry tomatoes, and the light sauce laced with pine nuts and hints of sage. Less kalamata, more mascarpone and perhaps the omission of basil might have balanced the filling of the perfectly cooked pasta.

The house signature lemon and lime pie ($5), with expert crust and whipped cream flourish, has never been better. Decaf espressos (curiously served in cappuccino cups) were delicious with the creamy yellow pie. Lauren's order of rhubarb and strawberry turnover ($8) made an even more tangy statement. An envelope of crisp pastry crust had been filled with rhubarb, with the strawberries showing up only in a surrounding pool of fresh berry puree. While she loved it, I would have preferred a few strawberries among the slices of rhubarb. To kill for was the turnover's topknot of crème fraîche ice cream, which tasted as good as it sounds. Sweet and tart--that could be a metaphor for the entire meal. Save for the timing glitch between appetizers and entrees--which more focused floor management could prevent--our meal underscored the delicious durability of Eulipia's reputation.

Address: 374 S. First St., San Jose
Phone: 408.280.6161
Chef: Eric Tosh
Cuisine: New American
Hours: Tue.-Sat. 5:30-10pm; Sun. 4:30-9pm. Closed Monday.
Website: www.eulipia.com

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From the June 8-14, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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