Wednesday, July 19, 2006

TALLULA, even more terrific this time (Arlington, VA)

Last night I returned to TALLULA in Arlington after over a year since my first visit and I was totally taken by the TALLULA team from start to finish! (2761 Washington Blvd, Arlington tel 703-778-5051

Keep in mind that Tallula is less than one mile from Key Bridge or the Roosevelt (I-66 & US50) bridge, making it only minutes from Northwest DC, in the quiet Pershing neighborhood just near Fort Myers (behind Arlington Cemetary). This makes it a true neighborhood spot (they really SHOULD be nominated for a RAMMY in that category!); add this to the fact that their wine and beverage list would impress anyone with 50 wines by the glass served in Riedel stemless or Schott crystal and that the food is amazing and you have a HOT SPOT!

The four of us started with POULLY FUME 2004 La Vigne de Berge "Les Loges" which was a wonderful fume filled with honeydew melon and apples, but perfectly crisp for this hot weather. It paired lusciously with the VIRGINIA GOAT CHEESE RAVIOLI, Wild Mushrooms, Summer Beans and LAMB SAUSAGE, and ingenious combination of many things, but truly a masterpiece in the mouth. There was some crunchy bacon or speck that added just the right crunch as well.

With such a wonderful and huge wine selection, it was difficult to choose next, and sadly the Austrian Riesling we chose was sold out, so we opted for an A TO Z OREGON Pinot Gris that was another excellent choice (so many of the wines are under $30 as well making it a veritable trove of fun wines for the budget conscious as well). This went with our "Amuse Yourself" dishes which is really a requirement at TALLULA. There are many choices of small two to three bite "tapas" like dishes which run about $2-4 each. The only disappointment was the LOBSTER ROLL with Tarragon AIOLI on Brioche, and not due to the fine lobster, but just the fact that the roll was too big and overwhelmed the excellent shellfish. I had to try the MAHI-MAHI CEVICHE as last year's was excellent, this time with CITRUS GREEN ONION Vinaigrette which was a potent and tasty dish, perfect for a hot summer night. If you like cool foods, uncooked as well, don't skip the STEAK TARTARE, served in a yummy parmesan tuille; I would order it as a full-size appetizer or even an entree if they had it! LIPTAUR CROSTINI was a new item for me, but our German guest indicated it is a common Austrian dish made of QUARK & GOAT CHEESE SPREAD which is a strong cheesy mixture, tasty and also potent. The RISOTTO FRITTER will always please, and the PULLED PORK BARBECUE got raves as did the BABY BURGER with Black Truffle Butter and Onion Marmalade!

Next came a selection of appetizers, some of which easily quality as almost-entree size, such as my truly Jumbo JUMBO LUMP CRAB CAKE with SWEET ONION MARMALADE, Crispy Yucca and Avocado Cream. This yummy delight easily makes the top 10 crabcake list and is so different from the rest as creme fraiche is used instead of mayonnaise, but the marmelade is the best touch! (I was so glad they dropped the mint that was in the crabcake last year.) Another truly signature dish is the WILD MUSHROOM STRUDEL with Yukon Gold Puree, Porcini Mushroom Butter and Truffled Butter Lettuce Salad. Don't overlook the CHILLED CUCUMBER
SOUP with Grissini and Melon Salsa if you are starting to fill up and the FRIED GREEN TOMATOES with DUCK CRACKLINGS, Frisee and Bacon Vinaigrette are also very different from your average Low Country preparation as they again lack all the creamy remoulade or aioli; crisp, crunchy and tasty, especially with the duck!

Chef NATHAN ANDA has introduced both venison and foie gras to his menu and a magnificent BACON WRAPPED VENISON LOIN with SEARED FOIE GRAS, Caramelized Strawberry on Potato Puree with Aged Balsamic is a crowning achievement that really should be on the menu! This paired with an amazingly aromatic EREDI LODALI 2003 BARBERA d'ASTI.

Pastry Chef Amy Foster can be impressive too, but it was just impossible for me to finish my MILK CHOCOLATE CAPPUCCINO MOUSSE with HAZELNUT CRUNCH and TRUFFLE POP. I did pop the yummy pop fast, but the creamy mousse was so rich, I could only get through half of it (leave room next time!). The KEY LIME Pie with Sweet Cream and Raspberry Coulis and VANILLA BEAN CHEESECAKE with Passion Fruit & Blueberries are also excellent, but still quite rich as well. You don't want to miss these tasty treats, so do plan ahead. We finished off a 1/2 bottle of superb SILVANER EISWEIN 2003 from ERICH BENDER in Pfaltz, Germany. A very viscous wine would have just been too much here in combination with the rich desserts, so we were grateful that while the wine was sweet, it had a strong mineral content so indicative of German Eiswein that worked perfectly to balance the sweet desserts. While I never did get to the DUO of NIMAN RANCH PORK I so wanted to try, I now know I will be back to TALLULA within a much shorter period this time; over a year is too long a wait for this excellent food!

And before I forget, I must mention the excellent service we received every second of the evening from TAMMY and the entire staff at Tallula who were simply superb!