By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Then: Brimming with surprises (2010)
Again: High-rise food on target
One of my favorite mom-and-pops in the area remains this three-story retreat in the charming hamlet of Clifton, where owners Stefan and Victoria Trummer continue to greet you as if you're good neighbors, and chef Clay Miller sends out food that makes the trip from anywhere worthwhile.
An elegant beaker of hot coconut milk thickened with pureed yucca is poured over a bowl of tender clams and diced pineapple, each spoonful electric with habanero. But Miller is just as content to display something wonderful he's found -- Alaskan snow crab one night -- without much more decoration than a backdrop of shaved ice and creamy yuzu mayonnaise for dipping.
The chef has a penchant for tall food these days. An already fat veal chop looks even bigger when it's served on a flat of creamed spinach sparked with cumin seeds. Chilean sea bass rises high with the help of oxtail ragout and crisp carrots at its base and a stack of tempura onion rings on its surface. The savories lean toward the rich: A tiny black pot of satiny mashed potatoes, served with that veal, tastes as much of butter as Yukon Golds.
Popcorn for dessert? Try it, you'll like it, especially as the snack is staged here, as velvety ice cream infused with the flavor of the movie snack. Garnishing the scoop is caramel popcorn, "steaming" with liquid nitrogen.
You will drink as swell as you sup, thanks to cocktails as tasty as any in the city and sommelier Tyler Packwood. His list encourages a diner to drink local with nearly 20 Virginia labels.
No matter the season, there's the sense of dining al fresco in the capacious Winter Garden, thanks to an endless ceiling, streams of light, grass displays on the table and a palette culled from nature.