The Temptations of Eden
By Christopher Malone
Downtown Syracuse eatery focuses on farm-to-table food, wood-fired cooking
No resisting at this farm-to-table restaurant.
Nestled in the Hanover Square nook of Syracuse is a restaurant a that can be easily overlooked.
While dwelling in my favorite and one of the underutilized “squares” of downtown — actually, these are commercial districts — there’s no extravagant sign aside from the name on its door.
Before coming, I’ve heard many great things about the upscale-casual restaurant that opened up prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For one, the cooking method is entirely wood-fired. Their farm-to-table emphasis is also a winning aspect. Especially during this strange time, and adding in inflation, supporting local business is important.
And if you’re going to pay more no matter where you dine out, sticking locally is the way to sway.
The former location of Downtown Manhattan has new life. Aside from a small venue, there’s lots of seating from when you walk through the entrance’s stone threshold, down the steps and into the rustic chic bar area. There’s also outdoor seating for those perfect nights, too.
Even with the fire constantly blazing in the kitchen area, the temperature of the restaurant is comfortable.
Talking to one of the staff members, I brought up my reservation (just in case) for the empty bar area. Other customers were staggered throughout the inside and, case in point, the outdoor tables were filled. He said to take a seat anywhere. When my hand went to pull out one of the chairs, he immediately interjected — “But not that one.” Cue the uprorious laughter from everyone.
This night was off to a great start.
As with many farm-to-table restaurants, the menu is concise to maintain the promise of quality food, rotating and changing menu items, and with little waste at the end of the day among other reasons.
While pondering the menu, I enjoyed a Wax Off cocktail ($14), which was made with beeswax-infused gin, bee pollen, green tea honey, champagne acid, and ibisco bitters. It also came with a large chunk of honey toffee. Bartender (and my personal food guide) Keenan’s balancing act as the toffee sat on the rim of the class was well-done. Even if I wasn’t a gin guy, I’d order this little sweet cocktail with a dry finish.
Of course, it paired well with the toffee. As they say — eat dessert first.
But as a palate cleanser, Keenan brought over a crostini with orange, scallions, and one of my “favorites” — a Kalamata olive. This is the first instance in a while I’ve enjoyed something with an olive. The saltiness and the other ingredients were more prominent than the olive, which sat back.
The grilled asparagus, source credited to Grindstone Farms in Pulaski ($16), came out first. The easily shareable small plate was topped with bread crumbs and goat cheese. Beneath the greens sat some delicious pork belly. Aside from the hard-to-miss cooking area, it’s easy to tell these components were not cooked over gas heat. The asparagus was crispy, the pork belly was warm and fatty, and cutting into egg literally topped it all off.
This isn’t your grandmother’s beet salad — I was told. And, no, it wasn’t. The warm beet salad ($14), giving credit to Common Thread Farms in Madison, is anything but typical. Aside from beets, this small plate included orange and goat cheese. For an added crunch, cue the almond brittle. It’s a pretty presentation that could be personally enjoyed day after day.
The goat cheese, which was disclosed, came fresh that day from 2 Kids Goat Farm in Cuyler, Cortland County. It’s been one of my favorite places to get goat cheese. The fresh, soft goat cheese with the salad is a perfect combination.
For intermission: I was presented with a bibb salad with very light orange vinaigrette dressing. It was unexpected and refreshing. The lettuce itself is already flavorful but with the pinch of orange, this palate cleanser was vibrant.
Keenan asked me, as if I was crazy — I’m used to it at this point — if I was prepared to commit to two large plate orders. I said yes, and planned to have leftovers regardless.
The goat cheese tortellini ($28), insert more credit to 2 Kids Goat Farm, boasted a gorgeous presentation, plus a flower to top it off. Although cauliflower was absent from the plate, I appreciated more of the crispy, smoky asparagus enjoyed moments before. The homemade ravioli pocketed just enough goat cheese — maybe the cauliflower was in there? — since there were more dollops placed around the dish.
The pan-seared blue fin tuna ($42) came from Casco Bay in Portland, Maine. According to Keenan, the chefs heat up a cast iron to an incredible temperature, throw the tuna in, and quickly sear it on all sides. Those who don’t like their tuna rare may not enjoy this. However, it was incredibly delicious. I don’t think it should have been cooked any more.
The tuna was served over a bed of escarole and cassoulet with a white butter (beurre blanc) sauce. There’s a lot of flavor but it’s not overwhelming. Of course, the richness of the beurre blanc goes very well with the fish. This is one of the more unique tuna entrees I’ve enjoyed.
Finally, dessert. And it’s a dessert that should be a typical one. Three chocolate truffles ($10) from Nostalgia Chocolate in Syracuse were presented with assorted fruit and mint leaves. The chocolate origins were India, Costa Rica and Madagascar. The India truffle boasted a spicy (not hot-spicy) kick, the Costa Rican was more dense and the Madagascar was light and smooth. Each, of course, paired well with the fruit and mint.
Before tip, the bill came to more than $130. Sure, readers may be turned off by the cost — a couple have let me know these concerns — but sometimes spending a little more on a satisfying meal is worth it. This is especially true if dining out isn’t a frequent thing. Compared to some places where I’ve spent as much, Eden feels and eats different. As a patron, I felt valued by the staff. Not one part of the meal was bland or overcooked. I can’t wait to go back.
118 E. Genesee St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202
315-991-8408 | edencny.com
Sun. – Tues.: Closed
Wed. – Sat..: 5 – 9 p.m.