"How's your lamb?"
J doesn't usually use such strong (yet favorable) language to describe his meals! Usually a nod and a smile with "it's good" suffices for him. But before we get to the lamb, let's start from the beginning.
Appetizers! J had the cream of cauliflower soup with seafood sausage. When his mostly empty bowl arrived with just the sausage and a floret or two of cauli, he seemed confused. Then, the server poured the very creamy soup out of a teensy teapot, and ta da! Soup. My salad was the Davon Crest Blend, greens with a blackberry vinaigrette, with two blackberries and two goat cheese fritters on the side. The fritters were divine, crunchy on the outside but creamy on the inside--still warm. I wish I could go to a happy hour and just get a basket of those with an ice cold beer. Mmmmm. Are you listening, Chef Chittum? Are you adding that basket to the bar menu?
Our main courses brought J French-cut pine nut crusted lamb with a sweet syrupy glaze, and a cucumber and onion salad on the side. Consider the opener a spoiler alert--he loved it. He then compared it to other things he'd eaten recently, as in, "That pork chop at Evening Star was really good, but this is way better," and also, "My steak? At Buck's? It was good. But this...this is...::eyes roll with pleasure::."
I read that a great thing about Vermilion is that if you are a vegetarian, you aren't confined to side dishes and appetizers. If my dish I hadn't existed, I probably would have went for the chicken, which I'm sure would have been good, but I didn't really feel like chicken. The caramelized gnocchi was a dream of gnocchi, caramelized onions, fresh herbs and olive oil, and oven-dried tomatoes. As a general rule for the past 23 years, I don't even LIKE tomatoes. But I believe that in a dish, every ingredient, every line of sauce is there for a reason, and in that dish it was just fabulous. Best of all, it was nice to have gnocchi without feeling like I needed to be rolled home after. Instead of being in a thick creamy sauce all goopy-like, my gnocchi definitely hit the sautee pan, and overall the dish was inventive, light, and fresh.
J noted that one dessert choice was obvious, because it had the "F" word. No, not that F word you dirty bunch. FIG. The goat's milk cheesecake with caramelized figs was airy and delightful. As fluffy and white as the cheesecake was, the nutella bombe was just the opposite. Described as "hazelnut anglaise, salted filberts & chocolate sorbet," to us it was small round thing of super dense and delicious chocolate, with some ignorable chocolate sorbet and nuts to its right. Leaving the accompaniments aside, that anglaise was delicious. J enjoyed scraping a bit of each dessert onto his fork and eating them together. So wild.
We've been heading back to Alexandria over and over recently, and admittedly this particular evening was inspired by The NY Times.
The atmosphere in Vermilion was nice--I knew if the lounge was crowded the first level could get loud and smoky, two things that would make me sad. Neither of those things occurred. It was slightly noisy, but I'm not convinced that being upstairs would have made a difference. The lighting was not too light or too dark, the red color (or "vermilion") throughout was warm and inviting, and the gas lamps were charming. The seating was funky, especially in the lounge--similar to Tallula, Vermilion's sister.
My only complaint is that the bathrooms did not match the dining room in the slightest. Not in color, class, or style. Outside, the warm red color and stylish decor ruled. Inside the bathroom were walls horizontally striped with a circus-y purple/yellow/blue and stall doors that were once covered in black paint, but were now chipping. Badly. Also, for some reason right inside the women's bathroom was an old chair that looked like 500 mothballs woven together.
A sure sign you've had a fabulous, mind-blowing meal is when you can't imagine not have dessert. Everything has been so incredible, that you are so curious about what's next that you must have it. It helps that our courses were perfectly spaced. We didn't starve between each course, but we were definitely not rushed or overwhelmed by too much food at once.
I almost forgot about my drink! My very delicious drink! I had a King Street Lemonade, a mix of Absolut Citron, lemons, mint, sugar and a splash of soda. It didn't taste at all of alcohol and had a great balance. Too many drinks I order have been tooth achingly sweet lately, but I could have had three or four of these--good thing I didn't.
So if you don't go into the bathroom, allow Chef Anthony Chittum to surprise and delight you with every bite you take. I'd like to go back to Vermilion soon, it's one of the best places we've been to in a while.
1120 King Street
Metro: Blue or Yellow Line to King Street