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.