Vermilion

If you ever find yourself on in Old Town, Alexandria, make sure to stop by this King Street townhouse for a meal. The dishes are plated carefully but not pretentiously. The service is soft-spoken but friendly. And executive chef William Morris is crafting some great dishes that are creative but also satisfying.

My meal at Vermilion started with an amuse bouche of salmon tartare. Already off to a good start. A server brought warm, fresh bread to the table. Solid menu selection. Let’s start with the appetizers, which were generously sized:

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Even prettier in reality

Let’s start with the Charred Octopus. It came with garlic confit purée, shisho, la ratte potato, and a ham broth that, had I a spoon, I would’ve eaten like a soup. The octopus was wonderfully cooked, meaty and satisfying and not the least bit chewy. The garlic and shiso balanced out the char. A really nice preparation of a protein that, in the continental states, is usually limited to sushi.

The Beet & Apple Salad with ricotta was simple as it read but beautifully prepared. Roasted Path Valley beets, honey crisp apples, some thinly sliced shallots… Perfect transition between summer and fall.

Up next, Shrimp & Grits, something I rarely order outside the Deep South, but this genuinely surprised me with how good it was. Shrimp roasted, head-on, creamy grits, chorizo from Spain, roasted red peppers. Familiar, American textures with Mediterranean flavors.

Veal Sweetbreads tend to be a staple at fine dining restaurants. Served fried, as per usual, but rather than drenched in sauce, these came on top of Path Valley carrot purée with braised baby carrots and a veal jus spiced with coriander. The sweetness of the carrots and the spicy in the broth brought out the sweetbreads’ flavor in a nice and refreshing way.

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Photo courtesy of Jewelyn Cosgrove

Entrée-time: Berkshire Pork, cooked to a nice medium. Hakurei turnips and sorghum to round out the savory and sweet flavors inherent to pork. Squash (I’m assuming also from Path Valley) pureed to contrast with crispy potato cakes. One tiny, easily correctible nuance in this: The pork was less seasoned than the other components, so they overwhelmed it a bit. But like I said, easily correctible.

I’m going to preface this dish by saying it’s made up of ingredients I love, so I will try to remain objective: Fields of Athenry Lamb, cooked medium rare. Panissa – Fried cubes of chick pea flour. Eggplant pureed with black garlic. Caramelized artichokes. Grilled green onions. Pomegranate seeds. I was a bit hesitant because of all the textures and intense flavors, but this came together beautifully. I felt like I was eating far, far away…. The Mediterranean, the southern part of it. This was a stark contrast to the delicate pork dish.

For dessert, the Goat Cheese Cheesecake was dense and satisfying. Bruleed figs, candied pistachio, and pistachio ice cream lent some sweetness and meaty, nutty flavor to go with all the cream. The Blackberry Crumb Cake had a similar setup: Apricots, candied almonds, and a sweet corn ice cream that I would happily consume by the pint. Strong finish to a stunning meal.

I tried a lot of purées, but I finished them all so I’m definitely not complaining. The proteins were all excellent, but it’s also nice to see that the vegetables were incredibly fresh and also cooked expertly. (A lesser restaurant would get proteins right but overcook or undercook vegetables.) Local ingredients. Superb dining experience. I know where I’m taking my parents next time we’re back in Old Town.

Vermilion Restaurant
1120 King St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 684-9669
Dinner: 5:30pm-10pm 
Lunch Monday, Wednesday-Friday: 11am-3pm 
Brunch Saturday and Sunday: 11am-2:30pm

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