2013 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
October 10, 2013
News that longtime chef Tony Chittum was leaving Alexandria to reimagine Iron Gate Inn in Dupont Circle left Vermilion's fans, myself included, wondering if the Old Town favorite would be less luscious without him. The warm welcome at the door is reassuring, as is the bread basket with rosemary foccacia nestled alongside tender biscuits. And the pop! of champagne corks and a gratis treat from the kitchen signal a restaurant that continues to refine the idea of a neighborhood destination.
Pale green pea soup poured over pickled shrimp with lemony foam is good, but not as swell as a similar soup I dipped into at Mintwood Place in Adams Morgan the night before. Salmon displayed on a brushstroke of squid ink alongside a smoky bar of eggplant and a dollop of house-made yogurt is better for the supports than the centerpiece.
Happy days are here again with the arrival of a rosy flank steak wreathed in chanterelles, fava beans and corn, along with a glossy bordelaise to tie the pleasure together. The early verdict? Chittum is missed, but his successor, William Morris, is a rising star.
2012 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Magazine
Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012
You have until early December to take in the cooking of Tony Chittum in Alexandria. After that, the chef plans to focus on Washington, where he aims to reopen the Iron Gate Inn in Dupont Circle next year. His yet-to-be-named successor has big clogs to fill. I've eaten bushels of crab salad on the job, none better than Chittum's steamed Maryland crab tossed with Green Goddess dressing and garnished with house-baked saltines. In his hands, chicken is anything but cooped up. Brined in sweet spices and roasted to a juicy turn, the chef's summertime bird was elevated by sweet corn succotash and Virginia ham. Nubby fritters shaped from ground pork sausage and served with see-through strips of zucchini and garlicky yogurt reflect the influence of his Greek wife. It isn't just the plates that make this cozy, two-story restaurant special; the service weaves enthusiasm with smarts, and shelves of apple butter and pickled fiddlehead ferns serve as delicious wall art.