Isn't thinking up names for things fun? When Nick and I named our first flock of chickens it was a hoot. And naming the dog was by far one of the most enjoyable activities of my life (her name is Lindy...named after the Triple Lindy dive in the Rodney Dangerfield classic Back To School...genius, I know). So I can only imagine how awesome it would be to name my own restaurant. Truth be told, I already have a few imaginary restaurants in my mind that I've named...a girl can dream can't she?
Although it's probably the easiest part of opening a restaurant, and sure to be fun, naming it must also be a bit scary. I mean, I've been known to put off visiting a new eatery for no reason other than the fact that I wasn't too fond of their name. Silly I know, but true.
A restaurant name can set expectations about the type of food, atmosphere, price. It's literally the first impression.
Let's take the new Germantown eatery Eiderdown for example. The name sounds German. When you Google it you find out that it's actually the down from an eider duck that you would probably use to stuff pillows or quilts(also, it's in a Gordon Lightfoot song for all you old hippies out there). And when you look it up on Urbanspoon or Yelp, because Eiderdown's website isn't currently up and running and an online menu is hard to find, you see it described as "German", "American", "European" and "Gastropub".
At this point there's only one option...visit and find out what it's all about for yourself...so we did.
I made a reservation for Eiderdown last Friday afternoon, for that evening. Once again, I'm glad I took the time to make a quick call and stake our claim on a table because this place was absolutely, positively hopping.
Eiderdown's ambiance can easily be described as warm, rustic and inviting. There was a long, lovely bar on one side of the room, perfect for enjoying one of their many beers on tap or interesting wines. Our table was made of worn wood and the walls were a mix of exposed brick and old, white tile. I immediately gave them an A+ for ambiance.
For drinks we decided on a few beers that they had on tap(and they had quite a nice draught selection), although the wine list offered some interesting wine options we would have loved to try as well.
I chose the Ayinger Celebrator, a delicious dark German beer that I would order again in a heartbeat. It was mild yet flavorful and offered that mix of coffee, malty, nutty goodness that I love in dark brews. Seriously...I highly recommend it.
Nick ordered the Duchesse De Bourgogne. It was a Flemmish Red that I didn't particularly care for but he seemed to enjoy. I found it to be a bit tart and acidic for my liking, but it's certainly worth a try as it was definitely an interesting brew.
Now onto the food!
Eiderdown's menu seemed perfect for drinking and munching. It was filled with inexpensive yet inventive bites, sandwiches with the flavor volume turned up a bit and it also offered some more fine dining options.
Though we were immediately drawn to the duck fat popcorn we decided on the chicken livers as our starter.
5 little(actually, pretty sizable) balls of batter dipped and fried chicken liver mousse with a side of mincemeat jam arrived at our table and we dug right in.
The chicken liver was, as we had hoped, full of rich livery goodness. Chicken livers have such wonderful flavor and I was happy to see them embrace it in this dish. The texture of the mousse was very good in my opinion (I read a review where someone said it wasn't silky enough, but in order to deep fry something there needs to be a certain level of firmness and I think they pulled it off), and the batter was light and crisp(although if it was a bit more beer-batter-y it would have been mind blowing), but the winner...the star of this plate...was that mincemeat jam. Holy moly was that stuff good. The sweet and savory mix of chicken liver and mincemeat jam was a home run. Both Nick and I took turns dipping our forks in the remainder of the jam long after the liver balls were gone. Yummy.
Nick and I always try to order one nightly special and one plate that, to us, seems to represent a restaurant's "signature" dish. This evening Nick chose the "signature" dish...Homer's Daydream. It was pork ribs braised in sauerkraut with apples and potatoes. It was really delicious.
We typically eat pork ribs slathered in bbq sauce right? Not anymore. Braising them in sauerkraut and mixing in some sweet apples and hearty potatoes created a flavor combination that might change the way you eat pork ribs forever. Honestly...I think this dish was amazing and I'm jealous that I didn't think of it first.
I chose one of the specials...duck confit...in honor of the namesake duck down(and because I love duck confit). It was served over a pool of veal stock with a cauliflower biscuit and brussel sprouts.
My dish was good. The duck was moist and flavorful. The veal stock was the perfect accompaniment to the duck, and the cauliflower biscuit soaked up that stock to almost make a chicken and dumpling type marriage. But then I ran into a bit of a problem.
Although I hate to say it I had one major issue with the duck... the skin. The skin wasn't crispy...at all.
The duck meat itself really was cooked well, and I was willing to push the droopy, frankly unappetizing skin to the side of the plate and truthfully enjoy the rest of my meal, but when you get right down to it, no one ever wants limp or un-rendered skin on any piece of protein, be it fish, chicken, etc. They really did create an amazing symphony of flavors...but that skin was a mistake that I feel shouldn't have been overlooked and sent to the table. That's just my two cents.
Aside from that one slip-up, Nick and I had a lovely evening at Eiderdown. The service was helpful, friendly and even apologetic when our server thought that our appetizer took a smidgen too long to come out(although I didn't think it took too long at all). The menu(which can be found in very small writing at urbanspoon.com or here: EiderdownMenu) was filled with enough diverse, flavorful options to bring me back for seconds, and the beer and wine list might even bring me back for thirds.
When all is said and done I'm still not sure how to label the food at Eiderdown. It wasn't all American...nor was it all that German. It wasn't very southern...nor was it all that European.
I suppose when it comes down to it good flavors make good food, and restaurants don't necessarily need to follow a set of rules in order to successfully get that food to their customers. They don't have to be "New American" or "Fusion". They can even offer higher end food on the same menu as sandwiches and popcorn(I don't want to say gastropub because I'm trying to avoid a label but perhaps they took a page from that book).
They really did try to make delicious food for any palate with a unique and inventive twist. That should certainly be applauded. Also, they've succeeded(almost...I still can't let them forget about my unctuous duck skin) in offering fine-dining-type food to their customers at a very reasonable price. I think both of our entrees were priced at $16 and the starter was around $6. The beers were around $5 a pop and you could get individual glasses of wine for around that price as well.
So call Eiderdown's style of cuisine whatever you like...just be sure to also call ahead...because it seems that Louisville diners are calling it a hot new restaurant.