During the height of winter Restaurant Week, Foodie Field Trip traveled to Lyon Hall – a French brasserie (brewery en Francais) located in Clarendon, to see what they had to offer a foodie in search of a meal. We were rewarded with a sampling of items from the menu and a delightful conversation with British born Chef de Cuisine, Andy Bennett.
Bennett developed his palate exploring the cuisines of France, Italy, Spain and Greece, before he
received professional training at the esteemed Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxford under Chef Blanc. There he gained the appreciation for fresh, local, quality ingredients that influences his approach to Lyon Hall’s menu – a simple, but sophisticated method, which allows the integrity of each component to stand out. Using the services of Freshlink, an industry group that connects local farmers to metropolitan restaurants, Bennett maintains this commitment to fresh, seasonal flavors and offers monthly farm dinners to celebrate this community connection.
Our evening began with a platter of charcuterie studded with a visually pleasing variety of colors and shapes. True to Chef Bennett’s mission, the forcemeats and mustards are all made in-house and the vegetables are pickled while they are in season. Only the cheeses are left to French and Italian experts. Our plate featured a pungent Mountain Gorgonzola, a rich, creamy Chaource and a truffle-heavy Sottocenere. The meats include mildly flavored country pate, pork terrine bejeweled with hazelnuts and cornichons and tender rabbit rillettes – a tasty bite atop cranberry walnut bread with a dab of cranberry compote, apple butter or one of three mustards – pub, pomegranate, or apple. Trout wrapped with lightly smoked salmon melted on the tongue.
The cocktails at Lyon Hall are a treat. We tried the subtle cucumber infused Northside Fizz, the strong, tart Last Word, the spicy sweet SJF and the tangy Blood, Sweat and Tears, but the star of the bar was Beer Director, Dave McGregor. Dave went to great lengths to help us select a beer that would complement our meal. We decided on an Ommegang Abbey Ale, but be forewarned – the bottles can be big!
Lyon Hall offers several typical French appetizers including several versions of steamed mussels. We chose a rarely seen dish with warm blue-cheese, bacon and Empire apple perfumed in a bath of Calvados-leek broth. The mussels were steamed to an ideal plump, firm texture, and the blue cheese created a subtle tanginess that played against the mildly sweet Calvados apple-brandy. This dish begged for the traditional brown and sourdough bread slices that accompany it to soak up the delicious stew.
Another appetizer, potato and prune dumplings sprinkled in speck were a lovely dance of sweet, savory and smoky flavors. The dumplings swim in a creamy, complex Ubriaco cheese sauce and their fluffy dough is the perfect instrument for collecting it.
Our dinner entrees offered a wide range of tastes and textures. The braised lamb shank was a more mildly flavored cut than we expected, and it fell off the bone into an au jus pool of al dente white bean ragout and autumn vegetables.
The Sabodet Lyon Sausage entrée is a mélange of rich, earthy flavors. Tender house-made pork sausage and pork belly is crispy on the outside and fall-apart tender on the inside. Braised mushrooms, Lyonnaise potatoes, and piquant accents of pickled shallots cut through the richness. The dish is pushed over the edge by a deeply-flavored red wine sauce that makes it a hearty winter time dish and captures the essence of French decadence.
The Diver Scallops were pure pleasure. Caramelized for texture, they were cooked to a medium doneness in the middle and paired with the crunch of Brussels sprouts and kale, all atop a sweet potato puree that gave nice contrast to the savory sauce.
We discovered too late that we should have started with dessert. Chocolate profiteroles stuffed with light, creamy mint ice cream were delectable. The puffs did not have too much chocolate, but the tiny pitcher of chocolate sauce they came with could have been served on its own.
Plated on a bed of caramel crème Anglaise, the Chocolate Caramel Brioche Pudding was well worth the room required to put it away. The brioche is a perfect doughy consistency and is drizzled with a divine melted semi-sweet chocolate. Needless to say, the plate returned to the kitchen clean enough to be put away.
Lyon Hall: 3100 N. Washington Blvd., Arlington, VA 703-741-7636; www.lyonhallarlington.com
While the food at Lyon Hall was wonderful, the real treat was talking to Chef Andy Bennett.
On Tap: Which dish do you most enjoy preparing?
Andy Bennett: Charcuterie is a passion of mine so I have a lot fun with that and with coming up with new variations on mustards and pickles to go with it.
OT: Name 5 ingredients that your personal kitchen has to be stocked with at all times?
AB: Kimchi, Marmite, eggs, Sriracha and Scotch.
OT: What is the number one mistake people make in their cooking at home?
AB: You can get too caught up in the process of following a recipe. Use the recipe to get you started, but then be more intuitive and let the process of actually cooking take over.
OT: What’s your favorite sandwich?
AB: The Primanti brothers sandwich at Liberty Tavern.
OT: What was your favorite lunch in school?
AB: Someone else’s.
OT: What is your pet peeve in the kitchen?
AB: I get irritated when people don’t put things back where they belong, but generally my philosophy is don’t sweat the petty stuff and don’t pet the sweaty stuff.
OT: Date night – do you cook at home or go out?
AB: For special occasions we do a fair bit of both. Most of the time we lkeep things simple — go to the pub, eat burgers, drink Guinness.