Most aren’t privy to the inner workings of a restaurant’s kitchen. It’s a world unto itself, where tables and chairs are numbered and the most complex orders are rattled off and understood with ease. The hiss of the grill, the crackle of fire dancing up from the stove, and the clanging pots and pans make a cacophony of sound in which chefs find harmony. From these mysterious reaches come the dishes that make a restaurant’s meals. Open Kitchen pulls back the curtain, and in demystifying the restaurant kitchen creates a new sense of wonder.
Upon entering the restaurant, inauspiciously situated in a far corner of West Metro Plaza, the kitchen is fully in view, its stark stainless steel a contrast to an elegantly appointed dining room. When it’s not employed for dinner service, it’s the site of cooking classes, iron chef competitions, team-building exercises, and a host of other private events that make use of its unique layout. The 12-seat chef’s table, in addition to more traditional seating arrangements, wraps around the kitchen and places diners eye to eye with the chefs who will craft their meal. Waiters navigate the space in between, relaying food the few steps from the kitchen to the one-sided table.
The warm bread and olive oil that come to the table before the meal are quite welcome, as appetites are so thoroughly stoked by the sights, sounds, and mouth-watering smells that come from the kitchen.
It’s no small delight to place an order and watch as the request works its way through the necessary steps. Should a table order the PEI Steamed Mussels du Jour with Garlic Croutons ($15), a popular choice among the “Starters and Sharing” menu section, they can watch as the mussels are steamed beneath an upended skillet, and see them plated and placed on the outward-facing counter, ready for their journey to the table. (A large television makes a strange addition to the dining room, but it offers a live view of the action behind the kitchen counter and ensures that all in the restaurant can watch as their food is made.)
Some salads are also offered as appetizers, like a Belgium Endive salad ($9) whose freshness is a testament to the restaurant’s “farm-to-table” sourcing of ingredients. Crisp greens are drizzled in a port vinaigrette and accented with smoky blue cheese, dried cranberries, and walnuts.
The Open Kitchen entrees offer familiar American dishes with some Mediterranean accents. The Angel Fire Duck Confit Cassoulet ($27) is a hearty white-bean casserole, plated with a tender, crisp-skinned duck leg standing upright at its center. The Braised Veal Breast ($24) serves the succulent meat topped with a dollop of citrusy herb garnish that is bright against the veal’s savory flavor. The tender meat is spiral-wrapped, and stands tall within a blend of creamy polenta and crunchy pine nuts.
Five dessert temptations await. The Spiced Roasted Pear Crumble with Ice Cream ($9) gives the tiny pear pieces remarkable sweetness, served warm beneath a crumbling crust with a scoop of ice cream slowly melting into the mix. The Grand Marnier Pot au Creme with Hazelnut Biscotti ($9) offers the creamy, orange-flavored custard with a piece of slightly sweet and crunchy biscotti. The restaurant also serves a full range of coffee bar drinks and teas, a pleasant accompaniment to a sweet treat.
A three-course prix-fixe option for $42 gives customers a slight discount on steep prices, but also an opportunity to slow down and savor a multi-course meal and the kitchen show that comes with it.
Open Kitchen is located at 7115 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church. For more information, call 703-942-8148 or visit openkitchen-dcmetro.com. Restaurant hours are Wednesday – Sunday: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.