After a little over a year we returned to The CURIOUS GRAPE (www.curiousgrape.com) in Shirlington and for the most part, the food was very good. However, it seems that Chef Joe Hornbeck who had just started there in the spring of 2013 has departed and was replaced about a year a go by Chef Delian DiPietro, who has many good ideas, but perhaps needs some more guts.
Wines and cheeses here are stars and we started with a delicious white Grenache 2013 Chapoutier Cotes de Luberon "Le Ciboise." The glass come in full or halves, so you can try many tastes. We moved on to a bottle of red (also available by the glass) from Bodegas LAN 2005 Gran Reserva which was decanted and oh so wonderful on the chilly cold night. We did have to ask for the wine several times after the order was placed, and this was the other big issue. Our server, Jon, was most helpful, but it seemed that the completely full restaurant was desperately understaffed with servers.
The warm focaccia and olive oil for dipping was nice as well.
Three of us started with the wonderful sounding on a cold night POTATO LEEK SOUP with Crispy Potatoes, Fried Shallots, Baby Arugula & Mustard Oil with Kymac, which Jon explained is a Turkish double cream! The crunch from the shallots was great, the soup creamy and rich, but not really hot enough, and sadly, OH SO BLAND. I asked Jon for pepper which came fast, but one of our friends who asked for salt never got it. We were asked about the dishes we liked and disliked and mentioned that it needed crispy bacon or white pepper or something.
The special starter was MEATBALLS PUTTANESCA which was a winner for sure. Indeed we all chose, smaller plates for our meal so as not to fill up before the theater.
My next course was a big winner: Seared OCTOPUS with Black Hummus, Fresh Chick Peas, Cucumber & Fried Capers. The hummus was very different from the thicker manila brand and very vinegary which worked so well as a dressing for the perfectly charred and tender octopus. The dish also was loaded with crunchy pomegranate seeds for a burst of flavor.
The other winner was the CHICKEN ROULADE which was a breast rolled with mascarpone, marcona almonds and marsala jus. Opposite were local mushrooms on a square of date paste that was just as yummy.
The loser was the PORK RAGU which had a scant amount of Virginia pork shoulder on pappardelle with piave vecchio cheese and herbed panko. It too arrived lukewarm.
We tried some of the cheese plates and they were both quite good with some odd additions to be sure. The FALL Cheese plate had pumpkin chevre, cranberry Wensleydale and a maple smoked cheddar with apples chips and the most divine port-infused cranberries. The TRUFFLE Cheese plate had TREMOR Truffle cheese, which could have been a shade riper and BOSCHETTO al Tartufo with Truffle Toast, Truffled Salami, a swath of divine Thyme Honey which went great with the two cheeses and a pile of Preserved Mushrooms which were quite odd. The small pile of micro greens had a glop of gooey balsamic that I thought was worms at first; need I say more.
So, while we had some good dishes, THE CURIOUS GRAPE no longer holds top billing for us and boy does Shirlington need some more fine dining for those of us that love going out to eat before or after attending our beloved Signature Theatre down the street!