Walking down King Street on a warm, early summer’s evening after a good meal, I thought to myself, “Why don’t I come to Old Town more often?” You can wander in and out of shops, there’s no shortage of places to eat and it’s a nice little escape from downtown. It’s the picture-perfect Main Street and it’s only a short (well, when Metro’s working) ride away. My reason for being in Old Town Alexandria this particular time was to check out the new menu at The Grille with their new chef, Brian McPherson.
No stranger to the kitchen, Brian started cooking in restaurants at age 15 in his hometown of Pittsburgh. He started out at The Balcony where his uncle was a chef and then worked at his godmother’s bakery, Prantl’s. After some time in Martha’s Vineyard, the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts and Durham, NC, Brian moved to DC. Most recently, Brian was the executive sous chef for five years at fellow Kimpton restaurant, Poste Moderne Brasserie. Now Brian is at the helm of both The Grille and Jackson 20.
Starting out the meal, our table went for a trio of rich dishes. The artichoke pate might not be the dish you’d immediately be drawn towards, but don’t pass up the creamy spread is given even more body by earthy, black truffles and crunchy artichoke chips. The salmon tartare topped with a dollop of caviar is paired with a creme fraiche with chives and a short stack of soft blinis. And topping it all off were the medallions of foie gras pastrami with pickled vegetables on thick, slightly charred slices of bread. Despite the richness of each starter, none were overwhelming or too heavy, and that’s no easy balance to come across.
Winding our way through appetizers and to the main courses, I opted for the halibut with ricotta gnocchi. Though the gnocchi were a tad dense, the dish as a whole had bright late spring/early summer flavors from thinly shaved radishes, an English pea pistou (that’s a sauce, in layman’s terms) and hedgehog mushrooms. While our table split the apricot pudding cake to round out the meal, the appetizers and entrees definitely stole the show here.
So next time you’re itching to get out of the city for a little bit and try some place new, you don’t have to look further than Old Town and head to The Grille.