Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Open Kitchen

*Sponsored post
A culinary space to "eat, cook and entertain", Open Kitchen is a hidden gem nestled in Falls Church, VA. Owner Hue-Chan Karels and Executive Chef Kenneth Hughes draw their inspiration from local producers while bringing the essence of the city to the cozy suburbs. With a "kitchen incubator" concept and a seasonally influenced bistro menu, Open Kitchen provides reasonably priced fare as well as cooking classes and a great space for private events.  Closest Metro is West Falls Church.

Chef Kenneth Hughes
Last night I was invited to an intimate food blogger's tasting event and had a lovely evening of wine and dinner.  We were greeted by Hue-Chen and Chef Ken, who each gave a little background to Open Kitchen's philosophy.  They explained their inspiration to create a culinary gathering space that celebrates the kitchen and the table as centers of pleasure and community.  With a literal open kitchen that has a long bar area overlooking it, diners can engage firsthand with the chefs and the ingredients.  This interactive approach is a unique element that stands Open Kitchen apart from other wine bistros. 

All the talk about food really made me hungry and I was eager to begin tasting.  We started out with a rose prosecco that was served with Chicken and Chorizo Skewers with a basil purée.  The chicken was seasoned with lots of herbs and the chorizo sausage was nice and crumbly.  We continued with an Heirloom Tomato and Mozzarella salad with a tart citrus dressing and balsamic reduction.  The combination of the arugula and the citrus dressing created a slight bitter taste and was a bit overpowering to the delicately fresh and vibrant tomatoes.  The prosecco added zing to the tartness with all its bubbles.

Next, we were treated to the star of the evening and a special favorite from the regular menu, the Lobster Bread Pudding.  Studded with chunks of lobster meat, the delicate pudding was lovely and the sweetness of the corn puree sung in my mouth.  Even though this item is under the "Share" section, I would order it all to myself.  Continuing on, we were poured a glass of the French Louis Latour Chardonnay.  This wine was a bit too buttery for my liking, but not as oaky as other chardonnays can be, and was paired with a Seared Spice-Crusted Jumbo Scallop.  The scallop was cooked perfectly and perched atop a Yukon mash with creamed leaks and a red pepper cream sauce.  The red pepper sauce had nice flavors on its own, but got lost among the other ingredients.
For the main entrée we could choose between a Crispy Duck Leg Confit served with lentils or a Summer Vegetable Risotto.  I chose the risotto but was able to snap a picture of the duck dish as well.  My risotto was a touch on the bland side and the rice was undercooked, but the vegetables in it were plentiful and filling.  Both dishes were paired with Firesteed Pinot Noir that had warm spicy notes, which I really enjoyed.

Finally for dessert, Chef Ken came out earlier to show us a large pan of the White Chocolate Sundried Cherry Bread Pudding fresh from the oven.  The layers of sliced baguette on top looked amazing and the smell of warm chocolate permeated the room.  However, when my piece was presented, I noticed there were no cherries inside, rather fresh blueberries and raspberries on the side.  I did not mind as the berries provided a lightness to the otherwise heavy and sweet pudding.  Paired with a sweet Sandeman Port, the dessert was a nice end to our meal.

Open Kitchen's team readily shares insights into cooking techniques, recipes, and sourcing of ingredients.  I appreciated their willingness to invite the diner "behind-the-scenes" and allow one to really experience the workings of a professional kitchen.  Overall, the service and food was enjoyable and the open ambience was inviting and less intimidating than originally expected.  I would definitely come back to Open Kitchen for other cooking classes or wine tasting events.  I look forward to seeing their seasonal menus evolve and feature more local options.  Catering is also available as well as gluten-free and vegan options.

Total Rating: 3.95
Food: 4, Price: 4, Service: 4, Ambience: 4, Accessibility: 3

What I ate:

Chicken Chorizo Skewers with Basil Purée
Paired with Prosecco

Heirloom Tomato, Mozzarella, Balsamic Reduction
Paired with Prosecco

Lobster Bread Pudding
with sweet corn puree & snow pea tendrils
Paired with Louis Latour Chardonnay

Seared Spice-Crusted Jumbo Scallop
with Red Pepper Cream, Yukon Mash, Creamed Leeks, Seasonal Greens
Paired with Louis Latour Chardonnay

Open Kitchen’s Summer Vegetable Risotto
with Vegetables du Jour, Mascarpone
Paired with Firesteed Pinot Noir

White Chocolate Sundried Cherry Bread Pudding
Paired with Sandeman Port

Open Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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