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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "food critic"

Alice’s Latest Obsession: Banh Cuon Thang Long

Westlake Legal Group alices-latest-obsession-banh-cuon-thang-long Alice’s Latest Obsession: Banh Cuon Thang Long Vietnamese food Reviews restaurant reviews food reviews food critic falls church eden center banh cuon thang long banh cuon alice's latest obsession
Westlake Legal Group banhuot Alice’s Latest Obsession: Banh Cuon Thang Long Vietnamese food Reviews restaurant reviews food reviews food critic falls church eden center banh cuon thang long banh cuon alice's latest obsession
Banh uot thit nuong, $9.95 (Photo by Alice Levitt)

Eden Center. What can I say? After my first visit, a month after arriving in Northern Virginia, it is my new happy place. It’s where I can find everything from gorgeously decorated pandan cake to Korean barbecue. Those two alone are more or less everything I need to survive, but there’s so much more to discover. 

One example: It didn’t even occur to me that I’d be able to get banh cuon or banh uot in NoVA. But really, I shouldn’t have been too surprised. It’s almost impossible to stump the restaurant gods here.

And so it was that I wandered into one of the alley-like back reaches of one of the indoor portions of Eden Center and came across Banh Cuon Thang Long. It was time to sink my teeth into some rice rolls.

My favorite protein for the slippery entrée is thit nuong, or barbecue pork. If you’ve ever had a Vietnamese vermicelli bowl filled with pork, you know the assets of the lightly sweet, charred meat. At Thanh Long, it’s only available with banh uot, not banh cuon, (which aren’t so different to begin with—my research could only turn up differences in fillings) so my decision was made.

Not long after my table was graced with one of my favorite drinks, soda da chan muoi—a funky, salty limeade full of chunks of preserved lime—the banh uot arrived too. The tender, slick little blankets of rice roll arrived in empty twists, waiting to be filled with whatever I chose from among the toppings. This included not just pork and bean sprouts (the basics), but also pickled carrot and daikon slaw, slices of fresh cucumber and a haystack of greens, everything from rau ram (Vietnamese mint) to skinny shaved scallions. 

The server brought along chile sauce, which I mixed liberally in my nuoc mam, the sweetened fish sauce that gives rice rolls much of their bright, sweet flavor. These burned brightly, but benefited most from the garden-fresh ingredients. The dish was what Vietnamese food should be: of-the-moment ingredients, prepared simply. Actually, that’s what all food should be.

The first of many meals at my new happy place was a success. // 6757 Wilson Blvd., Suite 22, Falls Church

For more restaurant reviews, subscribe to our weekly Food newsletter.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Through its sustainable practices, Blend 111 offers a balanced experience

Westlake Legal Group scallops-on-corn Through its sustainable practices, Blend 111 offers a balanced experience Wine sustainability Reviews review restaurants restaurant reviews restaurant owner foods food reviews food critic Food Drinks drinking dining diners dine Cuisine coffee chef blend 111
Blend 111’s menu includes sustainable scallops with sauteed corn and chimichurri. (Photo by Rey Lopez)

COVID-19 Closure: Please note, this review was written pre-coronavirus closures. As of press time, Blend 111’s dining room remained closed per state government orders. The restaurant is offering touch-free takeout and delivery options Tuesday to Sunday. Please check the restaurant’s website for more information and the latest updates.

Former tech CEO Michael Biddick admits he was overly ambitious when he opened Blend 111 in Vienna last May. He was so gung-ho about running a sustainable and eco-friendly restaurant that he even initially hired a sustainability coordinator to manage it all—despite the fact that industry folks warned him his plan was too expensive and wouldn’t work in a restaurant setting.

“Maybe,” he remembers thinking, “but let me see if it can work.”

It took eight months of experimentation, but Biddick and his team eventually found a sweet spot. The measures they take in the name of sustainability cost them nothing at this point, and Biddick—who documented the journey—plans to share the lessons he learned with fellow restaurateurs.

“It’s a good thing to do for the planet—not necessarily for the bottom line, but you have to balance the two,” he says. “Our goal is to have one bag of trash per day. Everything else is either composted, recycled or reused.”

Westlake Legal Group blend-111-man-at-table Through its sustainable practices, Blend 111 offers a balanced experience Wine sustainability Reviews review restaurants restaurant reviews restaurant owner foods food reviews food critic Food Drinks drinking dining diners dine Cuisine coffee chef blend 111
Owner Michael Biddick (Photo by Rey Lopez)

Balance is essential to Biddick’s other passions, as well, namely, wine, coffee and food. Diners will find a thoughtful wine list solely featuring organic and biodynamic options from lesser-known producers in France and Spain, with many of the 50 or so bottles offered by the glass to encourage experimentation and conversation.

Coffee is roasted on premises each week in a sparkling roaster seen from the dining room. When you order an espresso, the barista measures 18 grams of espresso beans, grinds them and serves the brew instantly. Biddick sources the unroasted beans from Manassas distributor Cafe Kreyol, which trades directly with Haitian, Honduran and Brazilian farmers, among others, so that consumer dollars are reinvested in those communities.

“Sustainability and direct trade is really important for us, not just with the coffee but with the wine and the food products,” he says. “Coffee is a big part of European culture. We wanted to do it really well.”

The meticulous attention to detail and sense of balance also plays out on the plate—mostly.

Westlake Legal Group muscles-in-purple-bowl Through its sustainable practices, Blend 111 offers a balanced experience Wine sustainability Reviews review restaurants restaurant reviews restaurant owner foods food reviews food critic Food Drinks drinking dining diners dine Cuisine coffee chef blend 111
PEI mussels marinière with garlic butter and white wine (Photo by Rey Lopez)

One evening, a clear table favorite was a bowl of mussels mariniére, the bivalves plump and soft, and the broth loaded with herbs, garlic and a lovely rosemary aroma. It came with a slice of whole grain bread that Biddick says will likely be replaced with something that soaks up more sauce. Other winners included an appetizer special of zesty Impossible meatballs made with the trendy meat substitute, tomato sauce and cheese; scallops on a bed of corn freshly shorn from the cob and punched up with a vinegary chimichurri; and a bouillabaisse swimming with bay scallops, shrimp, crawfish, mussels and fish, depending on the day.

Dishes we found to be less of a home run were the underseasoned filet mignon saved by its sidekicks of excellent roasted potatoes, asparagus and mushroom sauce; the mac and cheese, which was fine but a bit dry; and the shrimp, which was skimpy on the main ingredient (three shrimp feels like an appetizer, not a $28 entree) and came with over-salted squid-ink rice. The dramatically black rice that covers the plate did, however, feature a pleasant chewiness that would have been completely addictive if the seasoning had been on point.

A salad of whole bibb lettuce leaves with avocado, apple, manchego and cherry tomatoes drizzled with a honey-lemon dressing was good but nothing special—unlike the salad at brunch that came with the beet arepas and Impossible burger. That “petite salad” was actually pretty substantial, and the fresh, colorful jumble featured carrot, radish, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, varied greens and a tangy, creamy dressing that had us picking at it long after we were full.

Westlake Legal Group fruit-acai-bowl Through its sustainable practices, Blend 111 offers a balanced experience Wine sustainability Reviews review restaurants restaurant reviews restaurant owner foods food reviews food critic Food Drinks drinking dining diners dine Cuisine coffee chef blend 111
Photo by Rey Lopez

Brunch is a great time to visit Blend 111, and not just for the artisanal coffee. We were all wowed by the Côte d’Azur bowl, named for its mesmerizingly blue spirulina base and topped with bananas, strawberry slices, blueberries and a sprinkle of coconut. The spirulina itself doesn’t add much in the way of flavor, and its health benefits are still being researched, but it adds plenty in the way of novelty and fun.

The Impossible burger loaded with tomato, spinach, avocado, queso and aioli, served with plantains and salad also sparked a conversation about how it tastes so much like beef. In fact, Biddick says diners regularly think they’ve been accidentally served real meat—even after the kitchen ordered mini flags to adorn the brioche buns to avoid confusion.

No matter which meal you’re there for, order the seasonal arepas. In late winter, they were bright red from beet puree and stuffed with guasacaca (avocado salsa), queso and greens, with the option to add beef or shrimp. Each protein adds its own personality, with the beef skewing toward comfort food and the shrimp evoking a tropical beach. In spring and early summer, the arepas switch from beet to spinach, but the fillings remain the same.

Desserts, unfortunately, mostly failed to satisfy. A lemon tart turned out to be a cloud of citrusy, sticky and strangely salty marshmallow atop a tasteless cookie. (This isn’t on the current menu, but we implore the pastry chef to rethink it before next winter.) Chocolate mousse lacked the lightness in texture that makes the dessert so iconic.

The favorite by far was the marquesa, a Venezuelan-inspired pie of rich, smooth chocolate with a couple of thin cookie layers throughout, plus a bright raspberry sauce that brings it all together.

In other words, we appreciated its lovely balance.

Westlake Legal Group bao-bun-with-meat Through its sustainable practices, Blend 111 offers a balanced experience Wine sustainability Reviews review restaurants restaurant reviews restaurant owner foods food reviews food critic Food Drinks drinking dining diners dine Cuisine coffee chef blend 111
Beet-hued arepas stuffed with beef (Photo by Rey Lopez)
Scene

Colorful oil paintings and rich wood accents—including wall panels made with wine crates—warm up a space that also features trendy gray-and-white-patterned tiles, a chic lounge area near the coffee bar and exposed brick walls

Don’t Miss

Mussels marinière, scallops with sauteed corn and chimichurri, seasonal arepas stuffed with shrimp or beef and Impossible meatballs at dinner; the blue spirulina bowl, Impossible burger, coffee and juices at brunch // 111 Church St. NW, Suite 101, Vienna; open lunch Wednesday–Friday; for dinner Tuesday–Sunday; and for brunch Sunday; Starters: $9-$25; Entrees: $16-$34

This post originally appeared in our June/July 2020 print issue. For more restaurant reviews, subscribe to our weekly Food newsletter.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Meaty Monday: Charred

Westlake Legal Group meaty-monday-charred Meaty Monday: Charred Reviews restaurant reviews meaty monday herndon food reviews food critic Food charred burgers beef
Westlake Legal Group charredburger Meaty Monday: Charred Reviews restaurant reviews meaty monday herndon food reviews food critic Food charred burgers beef
The Truffle Hunter Burger, $10.50 (Photo by Alice Levitt)

To be honest, for me the name Charred Foods, conjures a barbecue at the home of that friend who overcooks everything in their grasp. I know you have one too: the guy or gal who reduces animal protein (and probably vegetables too) to a blackened memory of what could have been.

But when I saw the menu at Charred, I started to trust that the chefs had something else in mind, despite the moniker they use on Facebook. In reality, it refers to the marks left by the grill on food that’s prepared over a fire of cherry and hickory. And they have no problem at all with giving you a burger that’s rare or medium-rare, but still kissed by flame. 

I got delivery last week from the Herndon restaurant and while it’s still very early in my time in NoVA, I have a new go-to burger to dream about when I’m craving a beefy meal. It wasn’t easy choosing the Truffle Hunter Burger. The eight burgers on the menu are all compelling. Would it be the Three Little Pigs Burger, which combines slab bacon, pulled pork and bacon dressing with smoked Gouda? Maybe the Forager Burger, topped with pickled ramps, roasted portobello, brie and tomato jam.

But I just couldn’t resist the Truffle Hunter. Really, I would have been perfectly happy with a plain patty—the 6 ounces of well-seasoned, dry-aged beef was perfectly pink throughout with a wood-fired sear on the outside, atop a sturdy but soft bun.

But what burger isn’t better with some thin slices of tender, wood-grilled steak on top? Yeah, take that in for a second. Truffle mayo and shaved Parmesan conspire for a mouthful that explodes with umami. Fried onions add crunch, while a nest of arugula and a wash of balsamic reduction contribute tangy relief from the richness. If the components were deconstructed and presented as a fine dining dish, they would still be a success. It’s just that well-conceived.

The question is, will future meaty cravings be firmly aimed at the Truffle Hunter or will I be willing to taste my way through the appealing menu of patties, one by one?

For more food reviews, subscribe to our weekly Food newsletter.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Bun’d Up offers handmade bao buns, Asian snacks and more in Arlington

Westlake Legal Group bund-up-offers-handmade-bao-buns-asian-snacks-and-more-in-arlington Bun’d Up offers handmade bao buns, Asian snacks and more in Arlington spicy spice Reviews restaurants restaurant reviews restaurant korean food food reviews Food Features food critic Food eats eating dining dine Bun'd Up bao buns asian flavors arlington restaurants
Westlake Legal Group pork-bun-in-a-hand Bun’d Up offers handmade bao buns, Asian snacks and more in Arlington spicy spice Reviews restaurants restaurant reviews restaurant korean food food reviews Food Features food critic Food eats eating dining dine Bun'd Up bao buns asian flavors arlington restaurants
Photo by Heather Fuentes

Since Bun’d Up started out by selling its handmade bao buns stuffed with Korean-inspired flavors at farmers markets in 2016, it makes total sense that the growing local business touts its relationship with Maryland’s Springfield Farm on its website. After all, why go through all the trouble of making your own bao if you’re not going to fill them with local produce and sustainably raised meats?

Westlake Legal Group fried-chicken Bun’d Up offers handmade bao buns, Asian snacks and more in Arlington spicy spice Reviews restaurants restaurant reviews restaurant korean food food reviews Food Features food critic Food eats eating dining dine Bun'd Up bao buns asian flavors arlington restaurants
In addition to buns, Korean fried chicken bowls are also an offer. (Photo by Heather Fuentes)

And with the addition of his own kitchen at the new Pentagon Row brick-and-mortar location, chef and owner Scott Chung can now offer more than the popular buns. Consider the Korean fried chicken bowl, a bed of rice topped with more than a meal’s worth of chicken flanked by kimchi and purple cabbage slaw. Order it glazed with either a sweet soy or spicy sauce, which isn’t terribly spicy but still provides a flavorful tingle.

Equally flavorful and satisfying (and, dare we say it, perfect for a hangover) is the bulgogi cheesesteak, sliced rib-eye marinated in Korean barbecue flavors and loaded up with caramelized red onion, fried shallots, Swiss and cheddar cheeses and gochujang aioli. It comes with a side of perfectly golden tots, and the whole is worth every last calorie.

Westlake Legal Group six-buns Bun’d Up offers handmade bao buns, Asian snacks and more in Arlington spicy spice Reviews restaurants restaurant reviews restaurant korean food food reviews Food Features food critic Food eats eating dining dine Bun'd Up bao buns asian flavors arlington restaurants
Handmade bao buns, stuffed with all manner of tasty ingredients, are the star of the show. (Photo by Heather Fuentes)

But, you’re here for the buns, right? Thankfully, they’re everything you want them to be—soft and pillowy, like a wheat-based taco ready and able to soak up all the juices flowing out of whichever fillings you’re feeling that day. We particularly fell for the pork belly bao accented by pineapple kimchi and cilantrolime aioli and the fried shrimp bao sprinkled with fried garlic, shallot and a sweet chili mayo. Although on our next trip, we’re more likely to order the fried shrimp as a bowl and double down on the pork bao.

The one disappointment was the very dry bao bread pudding, which couldn’t be saved by the bananas and coconut milk. But when the person who worked there saw that we left it virtually untouched, he asked if it was OK and seemed grateful for the feedback. He even asked the kids to pick out a couple of freebie sweets from the makeshift market in the corner.

And for the grown-ups, at least, kindness proved more valuable than any stellar dessert.


Westlake Legal Group three-buns Bun’d Up offers handmade bao buns, Asian snacks and more in Arlington spicy spice Reviews restaurants restaurant reviews restaurant korean food food reviews Food Features food critic Food eats eating dining dine Bun'd Up bao buns asian flavors arlington restaurants
Photo by Heather Fuentes
SCENE

The space is large, sparse and industrial, but colorful walls, a large mural and a corner dedicated to Asian snacks and treats for sale lend just enough whimsy. Service is super friendly—the guy behind the counter even offered a couple of small freebie treats from the market for the kids, and didn’t bat an eye when we asked if our pickiest eater could bring in a crêpe from next door.

DON’T MISS

Korean fried chicken bowl; pork belly bao; bulgogi cheesesteak with tots // 1201 S. Joyce St., Arlington; Open for lunch Tuesday–Wednesday and lunch and dinner Thursday–Sunday; Entrees: $7.50-$13

This post originally appeared in our April 2020 issue. For more stories on local restaurants, subscribe to our weekly Food newsletters. 

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Vienna’s Zenola experiments with creative, Lebanese dishes

Westlake Legal Group grilled-octopus Vienna’s Zenola experiments with creative, Lebanese dishes zenola vienna Reviews restaurant review food reviews food critic Food Fairfax County dinner dining
The tender, Spanish-inspired grilled octopus shows off the chef’s ability to cook his way around the Mediterranean. (Photo by Rey Lopez)

The word “authenticity” travels with a lot of baggage these days. As American food writers struggle to respectfully describe dishes and cuisines that hail from other cultures and locales, they increasingly ask themselves (and readers) what authenticity means—and who gets to decide what is or isn’t authentic.

For chef Samer Zeitoun of the newly opened Zenola in Vienna, authenticity looks less like an exact replica of the food he grew up with in Lebanon and more like a blend of Mediterranean flavors heavily inspired not only by Lebanon, but also Morocco, France and Italy. After all, he can’t ignore the 27 years he spent as head of the kitchen at Cafe Paradiso, an Italian restaurant in Woodley Park that was a joint venture between Zeitoun and his five brothers.

Like Cafe Paradiso, Zenola is also a family affair. Zeitoun’s wife, Ragheda, spends time in the kitchen daily, making dishes like stuffed grape leaves, spinach pies and loubieh, green beans simmered with tomatoes, onions and garlic. The restaurant’s name hails from the first two letters of each of their daughters’ names—Zeina, Noha and Lara. Two live with their parents in Vienna and work in the restaurant, while the third helps out from New York. The family’s last name, by the way, means “olive” in Arabic.

Westlake Legal Group spread Vienna’s Zenola experiments with creative, Lebanese dishes zenola vienna Reviews restaurant review food reviews food critic Food Fairfax County dinner dining
Pita with tasty spreads include a labneh with za’atar and olive paste. (Photo by Rey Lopez)

Regarding the liberties he takes with the food of his homeland, he rightly points out that you’d be hard-pressed to find a chef who can resist putting their own spin on the food they make.

“It’s hard to get it 100% how we cook it in Lebanon,” he says. “And even if I cook Lebanese food, I put my own touch on it. It’s the same with chefs in Lebanon.”

This blending of cultures is the very reason my Lebanese-American dining partner declares, “My mother would love this place. My father would hate it.” If her father is looking for “authentic Lebanese cuisine,” he won’t find a whole lot of it here. But my friend picks up on nearby diners speaking Arabic, so there are clearly people like her mother who are open to Zeitoun’s modern interpretations of traditional flavors.

That table orders kibbeh, and so do we. What lands on the table are miniature versions of the football-shaped appetizer we’re used to. Can Zeitoun really have created tiny replicas of what some consider Lebanon’s national dish, complete with the traditional stuffing of meat, pine nuts and spices? And if so, why?

“We thought they were very cute,” says daughter Noha Zeitoun, who helps manage the restaurant. “They’re harder to make bite-sized, but they start a conversation.”

They do, indeed. We are all happy with the flavors and the clever way there is still a discernible stuffing despite their diminutive size, but we are split over the lack of crispiness, which might be a result of the pomegranate molasses on the plate. Ultimately, we like it, but we like other appetizers more. Roasted cauliflower and a quail egg atop celeriac puree has one tablemate exclaiming that it’s the best version of the veg she’s ever had. Tender wood-grilled octopus shows off the chef’s experience with the persnickety protein, and we use it to swipe up the accompanying chickpeas and harissa.

Dips served with warm pita can be ordered individually or as a trio. Three stand out from the pack: the silky labneh, a traditional strained yogurt spread boosted here by za’atar and olive paste; roasted eggplant dotted with chopped dates, marcona almonds, feta and pomegranate seeds; and the muhammara, made bright and sweet with roasted red pepper.

Stuffed grape leaves are made by Ragheda in the traditional way—small, tightly rolled and tangy with lemon. Her spinach pies during one lunch service had the taste and texture of being reheated unsuccessfully, with cold spots and chewy dough. It’s a problem that can be fixed with some tinkering and care. If you’re looking for something fresh and green, the chicory salad is an outstanding toss of cured manchego, pear, endive, Jamón ibérico and a sherry vinaigrette.

The bone-in American lamb shoulder infused with Moroccan and Middle Eastern spices is tender, rich and comforting, the kind of dish that makes you glad you decided to venture out on a blustery winter day. That luscious tenderness comes from spending more than two hours in the oven. (The beans it’s served with, however, could have spent a bit more time on the stove.)

While lamb is an obvious choice at a Lebanese-ish restaurant, consider the Amish chicken cooked in a 900-degree oven to seal in the juices. A bit of duck fat to crisp up the skin and a rosemary cream sauce don’t hurt, either. Deboned quail bathing in a Moroccan-inspired sauce of fresh ginger and truffle butter is another hit with the table.

If you’re looking for a lighter entree, opt for the scallops over the fine yet fairly boring Dover sole or the stuffed baby eggplant that fails to showcase the main ingredient. The nicely cooked scallops are served with a grapefruit salad that serves as a great counterpoint to the subtle, creamy bivalve.

Westlake Legal Group dessert Vienna’s Zenola experiments with creative, Lebanese dishes zenola vienna Reviews restaurant review food reviews food critic Food Fairfax County dinner dining
End the meal with pistachio cheesecake. (Photo by Rey Lopez)

The diner who always leaves room for dessert will be richly rewarded at Zenola. Among the four enders, also made by Ragheda, the ismailiyah is an alluring layering of crunchy, shredded phyllo, thickened cream, crushed pistachios and rosewater-scented simple syrup, garnished with candied rose petals. Pistachio cheesecake is no less habit-forming, ingeniously employing dates to stand in for the crust—which not only makes it gluten-free but also extra delicious.

Zeitoun confirms that the perfect chocolate hazelnut cream cake is more authentically Italian than Lebanese. But in the Zeitouns’ capable hands, it can be both.

Scene

★ ★ ☆ ☆

This strip mall mom and pop shop serves modern Mediterranean flavors in a gorgeous dining room filled with cobalt-hued chairs, comfy golden banquettes and marble tabletops.

Don’t Miss

Roasted cauliflower over celeriac puree; a trio of spreads including labneh, muhammara and roasted eggplant; chicken with rosemary cream sauce; ismailiyah // 132 Branch Road SE, Vienna; Open daily for lunch and dinner; Starters: $9-$18; Entrees: $26-$38

This post originally appeared in our March 2020 print issue. For more restaurant reviews, subscribe to our weekly Food newsletter.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Parc de Ville brings French favorites to Mosaic District

Westlake Legal Group parc-de-ville-food-spread Parc de Ville brings French favorites to Mosaic District Wine Reviews restaurants restaurant reviews Parc de Ville mosaic district merrifield french food reviews food critic Food fairfax dining review dining Chez Billy Sud Angelika Film Center at Mosaic
Come hungry to Parc de Ville. The jambonneau (foreground), a hearty, braised ham dish that falls off your fork is just one winter-worthy dish. (Photo by Heather Victoria)

The third time is a charm for the corner space in the Mosaic District, first home to R.J. Cooper’s Southern-ish Gypsy Soul, followed by Mike Isabella’s Mediterranean-ish Requin. Now it’s Parc de Ville, a true-to-form, no-ish-about-it Parisian brasserie from the Hilton brothers. The siblings made a name for themselves in DC with a slew of bars and eateries, including El Rey Taqueria, French bistro Chez Billy Sud and cocktail bar The Gibson. Now the duo is looking to replicate that success on this side of the Potomac with several projects, which also include French-focused Café Colline and another El Rey, both coming soon to Ballston.

Thankfully, the brothers gave the 5,100-square-foot Merrifield property a face-lift, while retaining some of its foundational elements. Now there’s a sultry swagger that was missing in previous incarnations. Setting the mood are glammy, gold accents, softer white lights and lounge-y music featuring the occasional French accent rising above the slinky beats. Dark woods, tiled floors and a glass-fronted wine fridge holding exclusively French varietals complete the scene.

Almost every one of the 100-plus seats are primo. (A 3,150-square-foot rooftop with seating for another 100 guests is set to open later this year.) See-and-be-seen banquette-backed tables run along the widescreen windows that stand in for half the walls, cozy two-person booths split the center of the room and there is seating at the bar that fronts the partially open kitchen. Inside the gleaming culinary core is where chef Brendan L’Etoile presides over a classic brasserie menu that hews to tradition. It’s more mainstream than the French fare he puts out at sister spot Chez Billy Sud in Georgetown, but just as delicious and well presented by the smart and attentive service team.

Westlake Legal Group parc-de-ville-chef Parc de Ville brings French favorites to Mosaic District Wine Reviews restaurants restaurant reviews Parc de Ville mosaic district merrifield french food reviews food critic Food fairfax dining review dining Chez Billy Sud Angelika Film Center at Mosaic
Photo by Heather Victoria

The menu is divided simply—hors d’oeuvres and entrees—both populated with well-loved favorites. For starters, the chicken liver parfait topped with a layer of madeira gelée is a standout. Schmear it on the warm raisin and walnut bread for a bite that’s earthy umami enhanced with sultry sweetness. Another well-executed choice is poached duck egg, blushing with red wine sauce (ouef en meurette). Sizeable bacon lardons, mushrooms, vinegary pearl onions and a hidden round of crunchy toast add texture and complexity. Salads are straightforward. The best is the frisée with more of those lardons and big crunchy croutons.

An unfortunate misfire is the French onion soup, which looks the part with a bubbly cheesy top. But plunge a spoon below the gooey morass and find a broth that skews sweet; too sweet for my taste. Worse yet, mine was tongue-scorchingly hot. A day later, my taste buds are still recovering.

Mains offer something for everyone. The croque-madame is spot-on. A sunny-side up egg sits atop the sizeable sandwich cloaked in melted Gruyere. Inside, there’s gentle folds of ham lavished with mornay sauce and just enough nutmeg. On the side is a pile of fab fries, their skins still on, frizzled to golden perfection. They make another welcome appearance with the double-decker burger. Packed into a sesame seed bun, the stacked patties come topped with American cheese and thick-cut pickles. Definitely a winner. So is the no frills trout amandine, its silvered skin covered with a scattering of slivered almonds and green beans. The brown butter sauce finds balance with the incorporation of lemon juice. It’s a nice complement to the tender, slightly sweet fish.

If you’re in beast mode, go for the jambonneau, a hefty ham shank slow braised until the meat peels away from the bone with just a light touch of your fork. Crunchy cabbage underneath and chewy spaetzle on top offer textural contrast, though not as much contrasting flavor as would be welcome.

Another accenting issue occurs with the omelet packed with a barrage of tarragon, overtaking all the other herbs in the mix. There’s a technical problem with the Parisian gnocchi: The dusky pasta plugs are a mushy mess inside. Too bad, because with elements of sage and squash, it would be fantastic if executed properly.

When it comes time for dessert, the oversized built-for-Instagram Paris-Brest is a must. The puffy pastry ring is split in half and packed full of rich praline cream. Thankfully, it’s served with a steak knife to facilitate slicing. For a lighter option, there’s pear sorbet served with a buttery, warm madeleine. Skip the gloopy rice pudding hiding under a lid of brûléed sugar in a tall sundae glass. Sadly, it conceals its best feature at the bottom: a pool of lovely salted caramel.

Westlake Legal Group parc-de-ville-cream-puff Parc de Ville brings French favorites to Mosaic District Wine Reviews restaurants restaurant reviews Parc de Ville mosaic district merrifield french food reviews food critic Food fairfax dining review dining Chez Billy Sud Angelika Film Center at Mosaic
Save room for dessert! The Paris-Brest, a puff pastry filled with rich praline cream, is a must. (Photo by Heather Victoria)

Minor quibbles aside, it’s a safe bet Parc de Ville will be a hit with the Mosaic crowd. A bougie brasserie fits in nicely alongside populist concepts like Ted’s Bulletin and Alta Strada. Gypsy Soul and Requin were both overwrought, overthought affairs driven by what their respective chefs wanted to do. The Hilton brothers are smart to give their guests what they want instead. Let the Belle Époque begin.


★ ★ ☆ ☆

SCENE 
The Hilton Brothers’ most ambitious project is a stunner—and its kitchen puts out pretty, pleasing plates too.

DON’T MISS
Chicken liver parfait, croque-madame, double cheeseburger, Paris-Brest. // 8296 Glass Alley, Fairfax

This post originally appeared in our February 2020 issue. For more food stories, subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Anju brings Korean flavors to life in the District

Westlake Legal Group koran-cuisine Anju brings Korean flavors to life in the District Reviews restaurants restaurant reviews korean restaurants korean food korean cuisine food reviews food critic Food eating district dining dinner dining DC restaurants DC dining
Order all of the panchan, little plates of assorted pickled, funky vegetables. (Photo by Rey Lopez)

City dwellers have long been treated to the marvelous cooking of Scott Drewno, who helmed the kitchen at Wolfgang Puck’s The Source for a decade, and Danny Lee, who built a mini Korean restaurant empire cooking alongside his mom, Yesoon Lee,—affectionately known around town as Mama Lee—at their popular Mandu Restaurants.

Drewno and Lee struck out on their own two summers ago, partnering with Matchbox and Ted’s Bulletin co-founder Drew Kim to form Fried Rice Collective and open Chiko, an innovative way of marrying the ease of fast-casual with the technique of fine dining. Masterfully comforting dishes like chopped brisket with a soy-brined egg over rice enhanced with furikake butter became an instant classic, and Chiko locations are regularly slammed with those who appreciate bold, high-end dishes served quickly at a reasonable price.

But before the first Chiko opened its doors, the original Mandu in eastern Dupont Circle caught fire and closed. FRC kept the building, revived the name of a late-night pop-up Lee and Drewno used to host at Mandu several years ago, tapped Drewno’s former kitchen colleague Angel Barreto to serve as executive chef (he lived in Korea as a child and has chased those flavors ever since) and reopened as a chic Korean gastropub. The resulting Anju debuted late this summer, two years after the fire.

This post originally appeared in our December 2019 issue. For more Food content, subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

So, why drive all the way into DC for Korean food when Annandale might be right around the corner? Because, like FRC’s other endeavors, Anju is no ordinary Korean restaurant. Take the gyeran jjim, for instance—usually a steamed, puffy egg dish. Here, it resembles more of a silky, custardy Japanese chawanmushi. Whether that’s good or bad is personal preference. Some might say, “Why mess with a classic?” Others might think, “If I wanted an authentic gyeran jjim, I’d head to the closest strip mall.”

Westlake Legal Group something-on-skewer-with-anju-apron-ion-back Anju brings Korean flavors to life in the District Reviews restaurants restaurant reviews korean restaurants korean food korean cuisine food reviews food critic Food eating district dining dinner dining DC restaurants DC dining
Twister: The fried potato rockets to glory in this stunning tornado-on-a-stick. (Photo by Rey Lopez)

If the latter sounds more like you, head to Anju and follow the rich aromas discernable from the sidewalk. There you’ll find an array of tasty panchan, such as gingery cucumbers, pleasantly sticky soy-marinated lotus root, pickled radishes evoking whispers of honey and flowers, and a seasonal kimchi made with Brussels sprouts and apples.

The bartender reveals the tornado potato starter is wildly popular—and while the spiralized, fried potato on a stick sounds like something inspired by the Minnesota State Fair, it’s actually a popular Korean street snack. Served here with dollops of citrus aioli, a sprinkle of furikake and a cap of chopped green onion, it’s the perfect start if you plan to indulge in a few cocktails (or the house-infused makgeolli, aka makkoli, a cloudy Korean rice wine) as is the delightfully messy kimchi-slaw dog found on the bar menu.

Another star comes in the plate of lightly fried, super-moist branzino, its broth redolent of fish sauce, garlic, soy, ginger and a nutty Korean sesame seed called perilla. It’s all garnished with fresh chiles, mint and fennel. There are so many exciting flavors happening that you’ll likely be very disappointed the next time you order branzino in the simple Mediterranean style it’s normally prepared. And if someone in your party is really jonesing for traditional Korean dishes, direct them toward Mama Lee’s classics, a short roster of bibimbap, dak jjim and kimchi jjigae.

The adorable ganache-filled, fish-shaped waffle served with a peanut butter mousse is a must-try dessert for chocoholics. But no matter what you order, it’ll be worth the drive.

Notes

Don’t-Miss
The tornado potato; branzino with braised Korean radish; panchan—especially pickled cucumbers, sweet lotus root and seasonal kimchi

Scene
Downstairs has the feel of a buzzy and inviting bar with its communal high tops, backless stools, open kitchen and window nooks with seats. Upstairs, mustard-hued banquettes mingle with exposed brick and warm woods for a more serene experience. // Anju Restaurant: 1805 18th St. NW, Washington, DC


City Buzz

Capitol Hill
Chef Kevin Tien, who garnered national recognition as the chef-owner of Himitsu (recently rebranded as Pom Pom), now helms new American spot Emilie’s. // 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Washington, DC

Noma
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