Google E+O Kitchen and you’ll get 99 posts, but a bad review ain’t one. Seriously. Upon opening its doors in November, everyone and their mother has been saying run, don’t walk, to E+O Kitchen in Hyde Park.
I had initially been swept up in the hysteria, and I made a point to try it with some friends back in December. However, I walked out dissatisfied. In fact, we all walked out underwhelmed. We didn’t get it. Nothing we had for dinner that night felt exceptionally worthwhile. We felt like our bill was too high and our bellies weren’t full enough. It was a bummer. While the rest of the Earth was celebrating E+O’s Asian-Latin fusion, I was like Matt Damon, stranded on Mars, and I had to fight my way back to understand.
To give E+O a fair shake, three of my friends and I went back, but this time we went for brunch. E+O’s brunch is a new weekend offering, and I went in open-minded, hoping for a better experience.
Despite the fact that I was there for an entirely different meal with entirely different offerings — it may appear that I would be comparing dinner apples to brunch oranges — that was not entirely the case. My party and I ordered half brunch options, but the rest of what we ordered also appears on the lunch and dinner menu. And the spread was pretty good. Pretty, pretty, pretty good.
Our ordering was quick, with seemingly no discernible rhyme or reason. Our preferences were schizophrenic at best, with egg sandwiches and waffles, kale salad and sushi. There was also miso soup and nachos, ahi tuna and bellinis. It was all over the board, but upon completion, awesome.
The first to arrive was the kale salad ($11.95) and ahi tuna poke ($12.95). The salad was the clear winner of the day, the Best in Show by far. With fried kale, chilies, carrots and shrimp, it was a rockstar. The fried kale had a perfect crunch, with that satisfying, intentionally burnt taste. The shrimp was diced super small and then added to the salad — not whole prawns, but when scooped up in a bite, present and perfect. There was a craveable salty sea accent with Asian flair.
The ahi tuna poke was also dang good. Cold and tender raw tuna mixed with crispy seaweed, carrots and mushy avocado always hits the spot. This is the dish I like to order when I want to feel satisfied without feeling full. E+O’s poke delivered that feeling of satisfying lightness, right until our next course of sushi and nachos arrived.
The dragon’s breath roll ($13.95), with tempura shrimp, avocado, crab, spicy tuna, crispy onions and spicy sesame seemed like a left-field order given everything else we were getting. But it was delicious, so I didn’t mind the deviation. The rolls were huge and there was plenty to share. Again, while I wasn’t initially interested, I used my chopsticks to fight for the last bite. It was salty, crunchy, sweet, spicy and a perfect post-ahi-tuna-poke, pre-egg-nachos nibbler.
I know: egg nachos ($14)? With scrambled eggs, gravy, beef and cheese, I can say that these were definitely indulgent; great for those who partied hard the night before.
Then we had two different egg sandwiches. One, the Slutty Eggs ($3.95), was hot and simple with eggs, cheese and Sriracha. It had a kick but nothing overwhelming. The Eggwich ($4.95), however, takes the proverbial cake. With eggs, cheese, turkey sausage and syrup, this one was laughable. Of course it was good. How could it not be? It hit every distinguishable taste bud on my palate, and I’m looking forward to returning to reorder it.
The only real bummer of the day was the You’re Going to Want This ($8.95), which was three little cinnamon waffles with whipped cream and pistachio crumble. Those of us at the table with a sweet tooth thought to save it for the end, but that may have been our mistake. The waffles were not as fluffy as I had hoped, nor was the dish as sugary and devious as I would have liked. When waffles are dressed as sundaes, I want them to feel like dessert. These, unfortunately, fell flat.
At the end of the day, I now totally get the hype. E+O Kitchen is definitely a place I would suggest to show off the Cincinnati food scene to out-of-town guests and a restaurant that treats dining out like an experience. My first trip was a fluke; the second time around, however, brunch was the real deal. Add this reviewer to the rest of those who support E+O.
GO: 3520 Edwards Road, Hyde Park;
HOURS: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday; brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.