Saturday, August 29, 2009

Restaurant Week Aug'09...Part 1

I learned about restaurant week a few years ago and will admit that I am quite hooked. Perhaps its my desire to be a chef some day, or the idea of going to high brow venues, but i tend to make several reservations each season. This year was the first time I planned one for lunch though. Boy do I not regret it. I was slightly tentative because some restaurant's portions at dinner even are small and petite, so I can only imagine what it would be at lunch. I decided in order to really pull off a mid-day lunch that is 2 hours long, I should invite those whom I work with, that way they can't yell at me for taking too long. The trouble was that a trip into DC would take up WAY too much time, especially using the metro. Some of my coworkers don't ride the metro, so then they would have to buy metro cards, blah blah. DC nixed. Where then? Arlington has several restaurants, but I tend to believe the purpose of restaurant week is to try new places you wouldn't normally try or need a reason to patron. So, I'm left with NOT DC and NOT Arlington. Doesn't give me many options. Falls Church it is.

Cue 2941.

Where to begin? The restaurant is located off of Fairview Drive which is between Falls Church and Vienna. It's off the beaten path, close to the beltway, off of what seems to be an office park. The turn is hidden and to be honest, you would have zero chance of stumbling upon this restaurant, although you would be pleasantly pleased if you did. You drive up what seems to be a private drive and are greeted with complimentary valet parking. Always a nice touch. You walk up to a restaurant who's walls are made of enormous panes of glass. It takes up the corner of what seems to be an office building, with a small walkway above an enormous Koi pond. I don't know how much you know about Koi, but they are not cheap. These were the largest Koi I have ever seen. The pond was full of them, dozens. To the left you see how it trickles into a large waterfall into another small pond. Off in the distance is a man-made pond that is quite large, leaving what I would imagine an incredible view at night with the lights.

The interior was just as visibly pleasing. The restaurant was open, not too crowded, but you could see it wasn't enormous either. Tables were spaced far enough apart so that you could have private conversations. Immediately upon entering, you are wow'ed by a large glass/plastic 'jellyfish' looking display behind the hostess. The ceilings must be 20 feet tall, adding to the spacious feel. To the right is a small bar area that is intimate for perhaps a cocktail or two prior to your meal. I was astonished by the sheer size of these expansive mirrors 15 feet off the ground that lined the interior walls. Above one entryway, there was a classic painting of nude women. If you see artwork that includes nudity, you know you're at a high-class establishment.

Enough about the ambiance. Why did I really want to go here? The food. The restaurant is ranked No. 14 in Washingtonian's top 100 and No. 2 for restaurants in VA. Knowing this going in, my expectations were high and I will be the first to admit, I was not disappointed. The menu, although limited, still supplied a great range of dishes.

The Appetizer


The restaurant decided to give a typical 3 options:

Local Beet Tartare
: pickled cherries, Sicilian pistachios, petit salad

Hawaiian Red Snapper Carpaccio: citrus gelee, cilantro, heart of palm

Chilled Pea Soup: poached shrimp, summer truffle, orange oil

Out of those, I went with the Red Snapper Carpaccio that I'm sure most people would. 3 out of the 4 of us ordered this, with one ordering the pea soup. I'll discuss more about soups in the upcoming Charlie Palmer's post, but soup is underrated.

The appetizer was probably one of the most amazingly delicious appetizers I have ever had the treat of consuming. The taste was light, the heart of palm was tasty and balanced the flavors of the fish while adding a little texture and crunch. The red snapper was prepared to perfection with subtle flavors that seemed to balance so well with gelee. I can probably write about this appetizer at length, merely reiterating the same ideas of light and balanced, but I won't. I've eaten a lot of things in my day and I stand that this was incredible. If it was possible, I would have just eaten this as my meal.

The Entree

Veal Cheeks Ravioli: tomato confit, butter poached lobster, parmesan

Grilled Pacific Monchong
: lightly grilled and stained with turmeric, basmati rice, lychee, curry leaf

Grimaud Farms Guinea Hen Duo: crostini rillette, roasted breast, Jerusalem artichoke, natural jus

Based on the number of links that are included above, some of these dishes are not your spaghetti & meatball type of dish. I am always confused why particular restaurants make their dishes sound so overly complex, but if you read up on each of these topics, it makes sense. I think it just sounds complex to a lot of us because we don't come across it often or prepare food in this way.

First choice with the Ravioli is what I ended up going for, but I had trouble not choosing the monchong. I've been in a seafood kick recently and I had never even seen this type of fish offered before. The ravioli was delicious, as it sounds. The dish came back and the ravioli were not your run of the mill, typical ravioli shape. These were almost rectangular box. Each ravioli was filled with ground veal that was perfectly cooked (not under or over cooked). I was surprised by the number of ravioli (6 to 8) given the amount of food jammed into each pasta casing. It seemed that half of the plate was covered with balsamic vinegar and the other half filled with the tomato confit. It wasn't your thin, runny pasta sauce, but more of a finely chunky tomato sauce you would encounter at Ballston's Tirolo. The butter poached lobster wasn't mixed into the ravioli as I had expected, but rather strewn throughout the dish in little chunks to add into bites at your leisure. The entree was presented cleanly, of a good portion, and satisfied all.

Dessert

I'm not the biggest dessert person. I've definitely gained a sweeter tooth for chocolate cake (although I dislike chocolate in general), which has opened up my ability to order desserts at restaurants since they are often chocolate focused. Again, the table had an option of 3:

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich: Westmoreland County sweet cherries, sable breton

Pennsylvania Raspberry Parfait: fromage blanc panna cotta, lemon balm, warm madeleines

Semolina Pudding Cake: tulip poplar honey mousse, blueberries, sweet corn ice cream

Each one of these sounded delicious. It was not an easy decision, because if the Ice cream sandwich was not mint chocolate chip, and just regular chocolate chip, I think I would have pulled the trigger for that, however, with my sudden obsession with raspberries, I went with the Parfait.

I'm not exactly sure why, but I did not think the desserts would be overly classy, maybe just a little flair on the dish with some powdered sugar or chocolate syrup, but in reality, they were aesthetically beautiful. My parfait, which I assumed I was going to get in a sundae glass with the madeleines on top, was actually a bar, with layers of ingredients with the madeleines and raspberries placed on the plate with class (a touch of raspberry sauce strewn about). It was a good portion (not too large so you still had room for coffee) and was delectable. The lemon was not overpowering and the panna cotta had a great consistency.

I should have mentioned this earlier, but the restaurant also specializes in bread. The head chef bakes his own personal bread blends everyday that includes a multitude of different ingredients. I believe the blend we had was some sort of olive. Even his fresh baked wheat bread was tasty and I am not a fan of wheat bread at all.

The service was impeccable. Continuously ensured our glasses were full of water, any finished plate was immediately removed and even dusted the table for crumbs between courses (a personal pet peeve of mine that I love). There were so many people working it seemed like each table had their own personal server.

Immediately afterwards, I knew that this restaurant would be the winner of this restaurant week season, even though I had reservations at a couple of other great restaurants... In hindsight, my gut instinct was right.

Next up...Cafe Atlantico

1 comments:

readmeansgo said...

When you say "queue 2941" do you mean "line up 2941" or "cue 2941"? I wasn't sure if maybe it was a British restaurant.

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