A quick scan of Water & Wall’s menu doesn’t reveal the variety and depth of cooking taking place at the Arlington restaurant. At first glance, most of the dishes seem like your typical, upscale dinner options but upon closer inspection, Chef Tim Ma and his team’s culinary influences begin to emerge.
Open less than a year, this is Ma’s second restaurant and like his acclaimed Maple Ave concept in Vienna, Water & Wall’s cuisine features Asian, French and southern flavors mixed with contemporary American fare. As a result, ordinarily simple dishes become more complex and exciting like fried calamari which ditches the marinara for a sudachi (a Japanese citrus fruit) aioli or seared diver scallops served with yuzu, dashi and cucumber-daikon noodles. Chicken also gets an Asian twist with a five spice rub while France meets the South when duck confit is dressed up with green tomato chow-chow.
Then there’s more playful dishes like Cheerwine BBQ sauced-brisket or mussels prepared with bacon, corn and PBR– yep, Pabst Blue Ribbon. Regardless of which main course is selected, a killer way to kick off the meal is the delightfully smooth and decadent chicken liver mousse topped with a thin layer of champagne gelee and served with a berry compote. Meat and jelly? Yeah, it works and it’s wonderful.
Desserts continue the food fun highlighted by a peanut butter chocolate tart which could pass as a giant, fancier Reese’s cup and a carrot cake ice cream sandwich featuring cream cheese ice cream surrounded by carrot cake cookies and a so-good-you-could-eat-a-bowl-of-it ginger caramel sauce. Also, don’t overlook the deliciously tart mixed berry cobbler.
Debuting last month, Water & Wall now offers brunch service on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. While the weekend menu isn’t quite as adventurous as its dinner counterpart, it’s still probably the only place you’ll find scrambled eggs served alongside Chinese sausage, kimchi and a fried slice of Spam. The compote-topped French Texas Toast is the lone sweet brunch option but there’s an assortment of savory dishes, too, like biscuits and sausage gravy, crab cake benedict and a bacon-and-spinach frittata. As for lunch plates, the juicy and flavorful pickle-brined chicken sandwich is a solid selection but the best pick of the bunch is a lobster roll lightly tossed with lemon butter aioli and served on a toasted and buttered fancy hot dog roll.
This past Monday also marked the launch of Uncle Paul’s Kitchen, a new limited-time pop-up at Water & Wall. An homage to Chef Ma’s uncle who kick-started his interest in the culinary arts, the lunchtime pop-up features twists on Shandong-style Chinese dishes made popular by Uncle Paul in New York. Running Monday through Friday until August 29, the menu includes plates like sweet and sour mussels, General Tso calamari, lobster rangoon and Kung Pao pork belly.
Water & Wall • 3811 N. Fairfax Drive, Arlington • 703-294-4949 • waterandwall.com