Friday, May 19, 2006

Tallulah in Arlington

Let me just begin by saying that I have wonderful friends! I flew into DC on Thursday night and was looking forward to dinner with my friend Jennifer. When I arrived, she had everything all set up. Straight from the airport, we spent a fantastic evening with Chef Nathan Anda and his incredibly competent crew at Tallulah in Arlington. It was one of the best meals I've had in a while.

Deep in the heart of Arlington, Tallulah sits just on the edge of a quiet residential neighborhood. After we squeezed the car into the lot, I was excited to check out the restaurant and multiple bar spaces which were all very well designed, open, modern, and looked inviting from the street. The service was perfect -- casual and competent (and we were there so long we got to know our server who graduates from law school this weekend!) We decided to go for the long and leisurely dinner. We weren't disappointed.

We settled in first with cocktails. We sampled several but the winner by far was the Wimbledon served in a glass rimmed with red pop rocks. We liked it for that alone. I didn't try the Sweet Heat but anything with tequila and serrano-infused honey sounds great to me. We followed up with several choices from the chef's selection of amuse bouche including a risotto fritter, foie gras profiterole, duck spring roll, and a miniature meatloaf sandwich (complete with onion rings on top) worthy of Steven Oakley. We followed with an appetizer course of seared foie gras with a mini rhubarb pie (very tasty and a great combination of salty and sour) and the tuna tartare with lots of avocado. Tallulah has a deep wine menu with 70 wines by the glass (and a nitrous system to support this endeavor.) But in a brilliant move, they also offer wine by the half-glass, perfect for pairing multiple courses. We matched our first courses with half glasses of a sauternes and a viognier respectively.

Next up for us were the entrees -- the stars of the night: a beautiful set of diver scallops on a bed of carrot rissotto with a green curry oil garnish (fantastic, very subtle but really came together by the end of the dish) and a tuna steak topped with mache and sitting on a potato tarte tartin with a caramel black truffle sauce. The effect? The salty wonderful savory flavor of the tuna was a perfect match with the sweet potato pancake. It was finished perfectly by the sweet/savory sauce and with the greens made every bite a perfect combination of sweet and salty, crunchy and soft. This dish was just perfect from first bite to last.

We opted for two desserts (much wine had been consumed and we just weren't thinking clearly) and after our perfect peanut butter pie and white chocolate mousse arrived, we decided we really needed vanilla ice cream. The kitchen produced a perfect scoop in short order with no questions asked (until later when we talked to the chef who said "Oh, *you're* the ice cream people." ) The peanut butter pie was thick and rich with chocolate and a flaky crust while the white chocolate mousse had a thicker texture and was able to stand up to the chocolate "cake" cookie it perched on. It all looked like a perfect sno-ball -- only lacking pink coconut. As it was the whole roasted hazlenuts perched in a chocolate sauce were just as good.

A wonderful meal -- and a great room, chef, staff, and menu. Well done all. Kudos to Chef Anda. He could hold his own anywhere and I expect we'll see more of him.

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