Restaurant Eve | Washington
Irish chef Cathal Armstrong’s cuisine and philosophy
reflect ideas planted in the atypical Dublin household of his childhood,
where garlic was used fearlessly and fruits and vegetables were
grown in the garden. The family’s travel business launched
Armstrong into a myriad of different countries, cultures and cuisines
where he began to develop an appreciation for gastronomy in the
differing landscapes of Europe. As the family traveled, Armstrong
was educated in the languages he now speaks fluently: English, French,
Spanish, German and Irish. For those not versed in the Dubliner’s
native language, the “t” in Cathal is silent.
At the age of seven, Armstrong began his annual
student exchange in France with the Boudain family. His food curriculum
involved visiting truffle-farms and vineyards, eating peasant-style
food and picking fruits and vegetables on the farm. These early
culinary experiences inspired Armstrong’s philosophy. He is
committed to sourcing locally, valuing animals and respecting the
land, so much so that Armstrong cites innovative farmer David Lankford
of Davon Crest Farms in Maryland as one of his biggest inspirations.
Armstrong is now an active member of The American Farmland Trust,
a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting
the nation’s agricultural resources.
At the age of 20, Armstrong opened a fine dining
restaurant in the Dublin suburbs with two partners. After a two-year
tenure at The Baytree, Armstrong decided to move to Washington
DC where for the next 11 years he moved his way through various
top kitchens learning the fundamentals from mentors including Greg
Mitchell of New Heights and Jeffrey Buben of Bistro
Bis. It was during his time spent at Gabriel under
Gregory Hill that Armstrong met his future wife and business partner
Meshelle Armstrong. Together, they dreamed of a place where they
could balance a commitment to farmers with their vision of fine
The Armstrongs found it in Alexandria, where in
April 2004, 13 years after first arriving in DC, they opened Restaurant
Eve. The Modern American restaurant with French, Spanish and
Irish influences showcases Armstrong’s playful personal style
and deep-rooted commitment to purveyors. In the summer of 2006,
Armstrong opened Eamonn’s A Dublin Chipper and PX,
or The PX, a cocktail-driven speakeasy lounge five blocks
from Restaurant Eve. Both venues are named for Armstrong’s
children, Eve and Eamonn. Armstrong has since been inducted into
the Share Our Strength Leadership Council, a group of culinary notables
from around the country who advise this non-profit dedicated to
eradicating childhood hunger in the U.S. Armstrong’s self-described
“pork fetish” and the Irish roots at the base of his
culinary experience are showcased in decadent but playful dishes
like “Bacon, Egg, and Cheese.” The dish makes full use
of the versatility of pork fat with a cured and braised pork belly,
seared to order, a tender crepe with ham and leeks, and a rich golden
WB: Who are your mentors? What
are some of the most important things you’ve learned from
CA: Chef Greggory Hill of David*Gregory,
formerly of New Heights, introduced me to the fundamentals
and Jeffrey Buben of Bistro Bis and Vidalia taught
me how to run a restaurant.
WB: What is
your philosophy on food and dining?
CA: Getting the food from the
vine to the plate as quickly as possible, focusing and concentrating
WB: Are there
any secret ingredients that you especially like? Why?
CA: I like working with pork
fat. It is very versatile, palatable when hot or cold, and it adds
moisture and flavor.
WB: What is
your most indispensable kitchen tool? Why?
CA: I love my meat grinder.
We do a lot of charcuterie in the restaurant and it ís one
of the most fun branches of cooking. Of course I couldn’t
live without my chef’s knife.
WB: What is
your favorite question to ask during an interview for a potential
new line cook?
CA: I look at how they present
themselves. I want to know that a person is serious about work and
dedicated to staying in the kitchen.
WB: What are
your favorite cookbooks?
to a Young Chef by Daniel Boulud and The
French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller. I make all
my staff read Chef Boulud’s book. I am grateful to Chef Keller
for writing down so many of the rules we use in the kitchen every
WB: What cities
do you like for culinary travel?
CA: I’ve been to California
twice which I liked, and I was in Paris, Rome and Barcelona when
I was first married.
WB: Where do you see yourself
in 5 years? In 10 years?
CA: Hopefully at the stove
at Restaurant Eve. I’d like to open an artisanal
butcher shop and bakery as well.
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