While many people in Orlando were watching the dedication of the new Lake Eola Fountain, I was attending a different Eola, one some 850 miles away in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D. C. That’s where Dan Singhofen, a Central Florida native and skilled chef, opened his restaurant and named it Eola.
Singhofen’s restaurant, about a block off the busy circle, has a casual elegance in the design, at least in the main-level dining room where the kitchen, seen through an open window, adds a low hum to the room. Bare wood tables, simple candles, a wood floor of some vintage and a wall of exposed brick make it a warm and friendly place.
The menu makes it a restaurant worthy of praise (which, it should be mention, it has been getting from the Washingtonian dining crowd and critics). Singhofen, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America, was previously the sous chef for Kevin Fonzo at K restaurant in College Park. Singhofen will admit that some of his style has been informed by his stint at K, and also the Ritz-Carlton at Naples. But the 32-year-old chef is not a mere mimic and has developed his own style, inventive and refined, and thoroughly enjoyable.
Eola’s menu changes nightly and offers three prix fixe options: the main menu, a vegetarian option and one of offal offerings. With a little goading, I was allowed to taste a little of this and that.
We started with a “chef’s welcome” amuse bouche of three tidbits: salmon tartare on toast, a kumamoto oyster with salty brine in a shot glass, and carpaccio of squash. The first two were delights, but the squash didn’t offer much.
For my first course I chose the house made pork sausage with coddled egg, sauce soubise and wilted chard. The gooey egg coated the well seasoned sausage, and the sauce soubise added its wonderful onion notes to the mix.
I also sampled from the offal menu the slowly braised neck of lamb, served with wild rice, fava beans and pickled onions along with rich jus from the braising. Meatier than you might expect from a neck.
Shoat loin featured slices of the young hog fanned over young potatoes, with fava beans, patty pan squash and wilted chard scattered about. The red currant gastrique was presented as a crimson smear across the white plate.
Making the evening even more enjoyable was Eola’s floor captain, whose knowledge about the menu and the wines was unchallengeable. All the staffers I had contact with were polite and professional.
After the meal, I asked Singhofen what took him away from Central Florida and, more to the point, to Washington. The love of a woman, he replied. His wife’s job required his relocation. Perhaps someday she’ll be relocated to Florida and Orlando will regain the talents of this creative chef.
Eola is at 2020 P St. NW, Washington, D.C. It’s open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday and features a monthly brunch. This link will take you to the Eola restaurant’s website. The phone number is 202-466-4441.