Thursday, July 12, 2012

Lyon Hall

3100 Washington Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22201
703.741.7636
www.lyonhallarlington.com
Lyon Hall on Urbanspoon

There's a little triumvirate of restaurants along the triangle that consists of Wilson Blvd, Washington Blvd and 10th Street just on the edge of Clarendon (TriBeClar? Triangle below Clarendon? TriBeRo? Triangle below Rossyln? TriBeCour? Triangle below Courthouse? Yeah.  I'm retarded) all owned by the same group.  I've had the pleasure of visiting Liberty Tavern and Northside Social already and while I've had a few drinks and a light brunch at Lyon Hall, I've never had a full meal there until today.  Lyon Hall is the Liberty Tavern Restaurant Group's take on a casual French bistro and was recently added to Eater.com's 38 most essential restaurants in Washington DC, so it seemed like a good place to take a long lunch.


This is another of those places that I drive by almost every day to and from work.  In the evenings, especially during the summer, the outside patio is almost always packed and there's a bustle of bodies in the windows.  I was a bit afraid of not getting a table so I took a later lunch and the crowd had thinned out.  The inside of the place is all blue and white and looks like a more modern take on what a french bistro should be.  The menu is littered with traditional bistro offering like mussels and steak frites.  I decided to stick to some tradition and ordered the vichyssoise.  It's potato and leek soup.  Yeah, I had to look it up even though I'm familiar with the term but didn't realize how unfamiliar it was until I looked it up.  That made no sense.  Let's move on.  For my entree, I ordered a Banh Mi, a Vietnamese street sandwich which has some linkage to french food, right?  History buffs of the 50-60s would tell you, "More than you'd think actually".  For dessert, I went for the chocolate-y goodness in their mousse.

Vichyssoise is pureed potato, leek and cream soup usually served cold, which I didn't know but it was a welcome surprise with the current heat wave in DC.  This particular version also included salmon tartare and garlic chips.  It was hard to distinguish the mild flavors of the potatoes and leeks from the overall creaminess of the soup but even though it was pretty thick, it was also much lighter than I expected.  The garlic chips added a great element of crunch and flavor while the salmon tartare provided another twist of coolness and slightly chewy texture to the dish.

For my entree I got their Banh Mi which only really resembled the traditional Vietnamese kind because it was served on a crusted bun with pickled vegetables (carrots and some fresh herbs though I didn't detect the usual kick of cilantro).  The rest of the ingredients from the creamy sauce to the two kinds of pate and Westphalian Ham isn't something I've ever encountered with banh mi.  I got it with their traditional fries which were good but I barely touched them.  I should have gotten the potato salad.  I thought the sandwich to be pretty tasty but more of a pate sandwich than anything else.  The chicken liver pate and the pate de campagne have such strong earthy flavors that they hid the vegetables and ham.  To me, a banh mi is a balance between the vegetables and the protein, this was certainly a good sandwich but may not be what it's labeled to be.

For dessert, I ordered their chocolate mousse.  What I was expecting was sort of a pudding with whip cream on top put inside a sundae glass.  Yeah, I know I wasn't at Denny's so I wasn't sure why I was expecting that and no I'm not a twelve year old so again I don't know why.  However, what came out was a a dense & airy scoop of chocolate mouse on top of a bed of strawberries with two star shaped shortbread biscuits and a chocolate moon shaped cookie.  Talk about exceeding expectations.  The mousse was both thick & rich and airy at the same time.  It doesn't make sense as I write it but you have to try it so it will make sense.  The strawberries provided a nice change of pace from the really deep chocolate flavors.  The cookies on top were a great textural component that I probably should have saved to eat throughout the dessert but were all gone about .5 seconds after I bit into the first one.

After writing all that, I have to confess that I didn't expect much from Lyon Hall.  I drive by it all the time but traditional French bistro food doesn't really inspire me and I thought it was more of a watering hole than anything else (not that there's anything wrong with that).  Yes, I was aware of the reputation of it's sister restaurants as I've experienced them first hand.  I don't know why but it's clear I should have given up those prejudices and visited Lyon Hall sooner.  The food I ate showed a great sophistication and a great weaving of flavors beyond just traditional bistro food.  So, the next time you're in TriBeClar (yeah, I know I'm retarded), don't just keep passing by Lyon Hall, sit down and have a bite.

P.S.  This is my 99th post!  WTF.  And you're probably wondering why I'm celebrating 99 instead of 100.  Well, I'm Canadian and I love hockey.  That's all you need to know.
 

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