La Rue 123 is located in the charming historic downtown Fairfax, VA. Located in a former bed and breakfast known as the Balliwick Inn, the interior certainly has the comforting and romantic feel of a historic old home. As Michael, Malia and I entered, the host gave us a warm welcome, took our coats and seated us promptly.
The dim lighting and elegant plating provides the perfect romantic atmosphere.
Most of the tables surrounding us were filled with couples. The ambience is certainly perfect for a romantic outing - with soft french music playing in the background. I was a little unsure at first, as to whether this setting would really be appropriate for an evening out with friends.
La Rue 123 salad (the romantic lighting made it hard to take good pictures!)
We ordered a 2006 Pinot Noir, from Napa to help us settle into our meal. I always feel a little odd when the bottle is brought over for me to inspect - I mean I know you're just supposed to make sure they've brought you the right one, but it always makes me feel like I'm under the spotlight. At least I learned to volatize the esthers (swirl the glass before drinking), so I don't look like a total idiot! The first taste made me forget all my insecurities - it was light bodied with notes of cherry, and a slight spiciness. I could have shared another bottle!
Escargot - butter and garlic make everything taste good!
Our appetizers arrived shortly after the wine. I enjoyed a delightful salad of field greens, avocado, tomato, red onion, and artichoke hearts with a creamy mustard dressing. The dressing was slightly spicy, with a little sweetness to balance out the tanginess. Michael ordered one of his favorites - escargot. As children, Malia and I refused to try these french delicacies, but have since come to enjoy these chewy creatures bathed in butter and garlic. I think the main reason people order these is so that they can sop up the garlic butter sauce with a crusty slice of bread. Malia's beet salad was wonderfully paired with some tangy goat cheese. It's amazing how often beets have turned up on our plates this winter!
Beet and goat cheese salad.
Le Poisson du jour - served with asparagus, carrots, and mashed potatoes.
One of the things I love about dining at a fine french restaurants is the leisurely pace of the meal. The staff is trained to allow the patrons to enjoy conversation without being rushed through dinner. While our conversation may have been a little (or a lot) livelier than that of those around us, our waitress never made us feel like we were out of line.
Our entrees were plated in similar fashion - all came served with sauteed asparagus, carrots, and a puree (of potato or chestnuts). The portions were perfect. While some people rate the quality of a restaurant based on the quantity of food that is served, I prefer to enjoy something smaller that is made with excellent ingredients. I ordered the poisson du jour - the salmon with a dijon sauce. It melted in my mouth. The sauce was not too rich, with a slightly sweet slightly tangy flavor that paired well with the mellow buttery salmon.
Malia ordered the scallops provencale - pan seared and served with tomatoes, garlic, in a white wine sauce. They were sweet, and flavorful, but we all agreed we have had more tender scallops elsewhere.
Rack of venison.
Michael chose the rack of venison. I was eager to taste venison, as it had been quite some time since I had eaten venison my uncle had umm...procured... The venison was actually quite tender, not gamey like I was expecting. It was served with a brandy cherry sauce, that was more earthy in flavor than sweet. We were left wondering what puree was served with the meat. It was sweet, and slightly spicy reminding us of sweet potatoes, but not quite. Our waitress informed us it was a chestnut puree - a first for all of us!
Grand Marnier souffle.
While we began on our entrees, we were advised that if we wished to order a souffle for dessert it would take 25 minutes for the chef to prepare, and that we should give ample notice. While I had not thought much about dessert in advance, I knew a souffle had to be ordered. We decided to split the two souffles offered - the grand marnier and the chocolate. Michael ordered a coffee as well.
Pinot Noir, chocolate souffle.
The souffles are served with a little pot of sweet cream. We pierced our souffles and poured some of the cream on top. A single souffle could easily feed two people. Both were light, slightly eggy, with a lovely sweet crust on top. The chocolate souffle was lacking somewhat in the flavor department. The chocolate flavors were very muted. The grand marnier gave the other souffle a wonderfuly sweet, yet subtle orange flavor. This was the clear winner! The creme provided a rich silky foil to the airy dessert. Michael's coffee failed to arrive until we were almost done. Our waitress apologized and told us it was "on the house".
Our check arrived with another nice surprise, a gift card for $20. This technique encourages patrons to visit again. While I wished we could have used the card that evening after seeing the bill, it was certainly a memorable dinner. While very pricey, I could only help thinking, we're only young once, right? What better way to spend a Friday evening than dining in style with two of my favorite people.
4023 Chain Bridge Rd
2.5 out of 3 JAMs