Eugene and Co.
397 Tompkins Avenue, Bed-Stuy
It’s an unfortunate but enduring fact: There are considerably fewer females than males at the executive chef level in the restaurant industry. And even fewer are regularly talked about, making spotlighting a new (or under the radar) talent an occasionally awkward proposition, as if you’re pointing out some form of rare, exotic bird. And yet, Savannah Jordan is a name worth knowing and thus, worth pointing out, as her food is well worth trying, at Bed-Stuy’s delightful 40-seat eatery Eugene and Co.
With a resume that includes a year at Le Bernardin and four more at Mary’s Fish Camp, it would be easy to assume Jordan’s menu would be heavily skewed towards seafood, and yet, she’s gone for an appealing brand of refined global soul. It’s proved a winning concept for the neighborhood, with an inclusive crew of locals frequently lining up for tables—a rarity at even the most successful local establishments.
They come for cozy creations like Jordan’s fried green tomato tower, comprising stacks of toothsome, astringent fruit enveloped in a wafer-thin crust, whose crunch remains uncompromised by a lava flow of tangy buttermilk ranch. And for the fatty accordions of prosciutto, which arrive slumped over firm crescents of salted, honey ricotta-dotted plum, with just enough tendrils of arugula peeking through to qualify as a salad course. And while it’s still listed on the menu as either a weekend brunch special or late night bar snack, popular demand has led to regular availability of textbook biscuits, drowned in a peppery, agreeably gamey wild boar and bacon gravy. We would have happily sipped whiskey until midnight, waiting for our shot at a plate.
Larger dishes are more of a mixed bag: The “Buddah Bowl” is a bland approximation of what vegetarians ate in the 70s, including wild rice, cashews, chickpeas, cucumbers and avocado. And an opaque square of seasonal wreckfish—which, at $24, skirts the boundaries of acceptable pricing—is sadly under-seasoned, with a flap of flabby skin. Quelle surprise, coming from a Le Bernardin alum. But they’re rare missteps, and besides, it would serve you right for not ordering the deeply smoky harissa-braised short ribs in the first place, cut with swaths of Greek yogurt and fanned with a rainbow of greenmarket carrots. Other fine options include a refreshingly straightforward roasted free range chicken, perched on a jus-moistened bed of turnip mash shot through with turnip tops, and a heartening beef, pork and veal meatloaf sandwich, adorned with pickles, barbecue sauce and creamy slaw.
The comforting, low-key appeal of Jordan’s menu is underscored by owner Tara Oxley’s interiors; inspired by her grandfather, the BR Guest design director outfitted the space with plush banquettes, rehabbed school chairs, whitewashed walls, and a melted candle chandelier. She actually named the restaurant after her grandfather as well, although it’s perfectly clear that the credit for Eugene and Co. belongs squarely with its two talented women.