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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Maple Ave

Plaudits: Washingtonian 2013 Top 100
Neighborhood: Vienna

The Setup

Needing to grab a nice dinner out in the Virginia suburbs with her Aunt, Official Co-Writer/Fiancee of DCWD Texas and I went with a Washingtonian suggestion: Maple Ave Restaurant.

The Vibe

Sometimes there are little signs that a restaurant is a chef’s first passion project, and sometimes there are big signs, like the Maple Ave Restaurant’s location and décor. The space looks like a converted 1950s hamburger shop, with the same jutted roof, surrounding windows, and small dining area. The shop is bare bones, with a thin carpet and acrylic furniture in a lightly decorated space that holds only about 20 seats and belies the quality of the food inside.

The Food

To start, we order two starters: the okra and the crème fraiche wings. Both demonstrate Chef Tim Ma’s celebration of Asian flavors: the former, dressed with a garlic lime chili sauce, and scallions is a crispy spoonful that’s addictive like popcorn with some spice. The latter dish, coated with a mix of Korean chili paste and oyster sauce, is a cleaner and more interesting version of buffalo wings, with a lovely crème fraiche dip and a mild and milky kick of heat.

Our entrees represent a wide spectrum of flavors from the tried-and-true to more interesting and unconventional blends of ingredients. Texas’s mushroom-zucchini risotto was blended together by potent gruyere, and its creamy bites are made all the better by the richness of the mushrooms. So much so that we use the pieces of crostini to lap up the sauce.

For my part, I order true to form with a duck breast and brussels sprout combo. The breast is cooked wonderfully, and its natural sweetness is accentuated by the poached pears that accompany it. All sitting atop a blue cheese beurre, the tastes are friendly and familiar.

Still, it was Texas's Aunt's seared scallops that win the day. Paired with a coconut scallion risotto and a basil ice cream, this is an adventure in many ways. The scallops are caramelized perfectly, matching the sweetness of the risotto. You would think that so many strong flavors, from the scallops to the coconut to the basil would clash, but in this case, they blend in oh-so-strange but wonderful ways. What’s more, the mix of temperatures and textures is fantastic.

We finish up with two desserts: the straightforward chocolate bread pudding with vanilla ice cream, and a flight of mochi (raspberry white chocolate, mango, red velvet, mint oreo). They’re both delicious, but it’s Texas who envies my selection of mochi, with their gummy texture and their sweet finish.

The Verdict

A diamond in the rough with clean flavors and good, occasionally exceptional, dishes.

Food Rating: ****
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 1.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Bar Rating:
(out of 5) ($50-$75 for two)
: Head out to Wolf Trap and catch a concert at this awesome venue. Upcoming events in the next few months include A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Juanes, and Billy Idol with Cat Power.

Maple Ave on Urbanspoon

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