Friday, August 22, 2008


What is it about Summer Restaurant Week that makes it so different from its winter counterpart? Is it the fact that the city is mostly empty as summer ebbs? Fresher ingredients? People in less of a hurry to warm up? I pondered these and other questions as I made my way up King Street (on the first truly hot day after a stint of glorious weather) to have dinner at Vermilion. I'd heard good things about it, and I go to Buzz, part of the same restaurant group, at least once a week.

As a space, Vermilion takes advantage of its location, a few blocks up from the King Street metro station. The converted house (all red hues, by decor and design) has a beautiful bar that looks like an updated saloon, and the upstairs has a wine wall that has probably tempted more than one patron. Window seating is sparse but readily available. If this bar were smoke-free, I'd make it a staple for Happy Hour.

The Restaurant Week menu also included wine specials. Though I often crave white wine during the summer, I find red to be a better choice for a heavy meal. We ordered a bottle red Côtes du Rhône, probably a Syrah/Granache mix (I have noticed that the French are now labeling by grape and not by terroir, but this was one of the old time bottles). The wine was lovely - bright, but with a bite.

As a first course, I had the chilled roasted pepper soup, which came in a very dramatic bowl that made the best use of the fiery orange on white contrast. The soup was garnished with pine nuts and a dollop of cream, and the texture was grainy - a way to preserve the consistency of the peppers. T. had the Eastern shore scallops - a dish I love but that I've had to stop ordering, as I always wound up eating the same thing. They looked perfectly cooked and considering the speed at which they were eaten, were probably quite good. I had read great things about the kitchen's handmade pasta, but we both chose the bistro fillet. Potatoes would have put this steak on another seasonal menu, so the garnish was blue cheese (maytag, as a crisp) and enough cherry tomatoes (red and yellow) to be a salad on its own, cut into halves and sprinkled with salt.

After an ill-advised staring contest, we took on dessert. The pasty chef had a chance to show off, showcasing the ingredients in two and three ways. The Peppermint Pattie featured two types of chocolate (as a cake and as a liquid) and three types of mint (sprig, cream, and the best mint ice cream I've ever had). The goat's milk cheesecake, a fluffy concoction hovering over strawberries mixed with wine, was a refreshing bite.

I look forward to trying their bar menu, smoke and all.

Vermilion Restaurant
1120 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
703 684 9669
Vermilion on Urbanspoon

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