Saturday, March 19, 2016

Inn at Little Washington

For my birthday this year, Keith whisked me away to Virginia wine country.  For dinner, he made reservations at the illustrious Inn at Little Washington.  The Inn’s dining rooms are pure fantasy – "a wondrous cocoon of luxury. Rose-colored, silk lampshades float above each table creating a private, romantic world below. Chef Patrick O'Connell's creations arrive at one of the 30 intimate tables as if served by invisible hands, course after course more dazzling than the last."

Upon arrival we were seated in the main living room area and offered a cocktail and fancy bar snacks while waiting for our table to free up.  I was surprised by how much larger the space was than I expected, and how packed it was.  We did not wait but 5 minutes it seemed, until we were escorted to our table.  We were presented personalized menus that announced my birthday, and featured three four course menus to select from: Enduring Classics, Menu of the Moment, and The Good Earth (vegetarian options).  Our server explained that we did not have to pick the same menu, and we were free to mix and match as we liked - a nice offering for such a fancy restaurant.  After making our selections, we nibbled on the fresh bread and opted to pass on the $125 wine pairing, and chose a bottle of 2011 RdV Vineyards Friends and Family, a Red Bordeaux Blend, from Fauquier County, Virginia instead. The wine was rich and full bodied with lots of jammy notes that paired well with our meal.



An Assortment of Amuse-Bouches were presented to begin with: a pimento cheese-stuffed cannoli with bacon and chive; cucumber cream cheese with salmon roe; and a Parmeson arancini.  The three bites each had bold flavors to really awaken the palate.  We were also presented with a small shot glass of hot red pepper soup with a cheese puff.  The soup was delicious, and overall we were off to a great start.


For the first course, Keith chose a beautifully plated Mousse of Foie Gras in a Golden Egg Shell with Sauternes Gelée and Blood Orange Preserve.  The mousse was decadent, and the orange cut through the richness.


I chose a whimsical presentation called A Tin of Sin with American Osetra Caviar layered over Peekytoe Crab and Cucumber Rillette.  This delicate dish made me feel so fancy, and I happily smeared a spoonful over the brioche toast, and washed each bite down with a sip of red wine.  


Next, Keith enjoyed the Carpaccio of Herb-Crusted Elysian Fields Baby Lamb Loin with Caesar Salad Ice Cream.  Another fun play on a classic dish, the ice cream was powerful and the lamb paper-thin, but full of spiced flavor.


I chose the Beet Trinity: Beet Tartare, Golden Beet Carpaccio and Beet Sorbet with Ribbons of Crispy Kale and a Black Truffle Crostini.  This vegetarian option was light, but playful with the different textures and temperatures to excite my mouth.  The vegetables were perfectly salted as well, to offset the natural sweetness of the beets.


For our third course, we each had a fish dish.  Keith enjoyed a grilled fish that I ended up having as my main dish, so will highlight below.  But I must point out the most impeccable fish dish I have ever had - the Pan Seared Sea Bass with Roasted Romaine and Sauce Choron.  The solid white meat was stunning - tender on the inside with a lovely crispy top that provided the perfect bite when swirled in the rich butter sauce.  The grilled romaine was such a simple twist on a common lettuce.  I enjoyed it so much, that Keith has grilled romaine at home as a side dish for a few meals since.


As the main course, Keith relished the Veal Shenandoah: Prosciutto Wrapped Loin of Veal with Country Ham and Fontina Cheese Ravioli.  The  meat was cooked well, and the ham and cheese combination provided a very hearty and comforting meal.


I had a generous portion of Grilled Black Kingfish with Shallot Confiture and Red Wine Reduction.  The texture was more like a tuna and was very peppery in seasoning.  The shallots were tender and provided that little sweet and acidic bite to round out the dish.


To segue into the dessert course, we were treated to a Creamsicle - passion fruit-orange sherbet with vanilla bean custard.  This was a delightful treat to transition us into the sweet dishes.



We still had red wine left, so we both thought a chocolate dessert of some kind would pair best.  Keith chose the Chocolate-Caramel Hazelnut Torte served with vanilla ice cream.  It was topped with edible gold to end his royal meal.


I ordered the Chocolate and Mint - light mint sherbet topped with dark chocolate ribbons and served with a pouring of warm chocolate sauce.  It was a delightful ending to my birthday meal.

We had a memorable dinner that was perfect for a celebratory occasion such as a birthday.  It was apparent that most other tables were celebrating a similar occasion.  Chef O'Connell's approach to cooking, while paying homage to classical French cuisine, reflects a belief in more modern techniques with a slant towards healthy, eclectic, imaginative, and global trends. The ingredients in each dish highlighted the restaurant's alliance with local farmers and artisanal producers. Everything was perfectly timed; service was top notch, warm, and inviting; and the food was exquisite.  It may be a good thing that the restaurant is located about an hour and forty minutes outside of the city, or we would cause more damage by visiting more frequently.  We were sent away with a cute paper box that was a replica of the Inn itself.  Inside was nested a couple chocolates, cookies, and candy confections that we devoured the next day.

UPDATE: This restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars in October 2016.

Total Rating: 4.55
Food: 5, Price: 3.5, Service: 5, Ambience: 5, Accessibility: 2
What Micky Eats...

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