- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 15, 2001

When he opened his restaurant, Kinkead's on Pennsylvania Avenue NW in 1993, Bob Kinkead looked around to see what was not being served in the city. He concluded it was upscale seafood or Mexican cuisine and he chose the former.
He concluded correctly in the eight years since it opened, Kinkead's has been one of Washington's most popular restaurants, consistently serving outstanding modern American cuisine, featuring fresh seafood and seasonal ingredients.
Now Mr. Kinkead has turned his eye to the suburbs and opened a restaurant at Tysons Corner, neatly lodged between Hermes and Tiffany & Co. on Route 7. What worked in the city appears to be an instant success for Kinkead's Colvin Run Tavern (named for the old mill farther out Route 7 in Great Falls), judging from several recent visits.
Designed by husband and wife team, Adamstein & Demetriou, the 168-seat restaurant is divided into a bar and four dining areas decorated to represent different regions of the Eastern seaboard. Stone fireplaces, dark wooden shutterlike partitions, glass walls, interesting geometric chandeliers and table lamps, authentic artifacts and pictures and crisp white napery make a sophisticated countrified atmosphere. Upholstered booths lend an air of privacy, as well as muting dining sounds.
More to the point, Mr. Kinkead has once more put his remarkable culinary talent to work and the result is outstanding food, both at lunch and dinner. Several dishes appear on both menus, which change daily, and the lunch menu reflects a lighter hand. Colvin Run Tavern also offers a three-course prix fixe lunch for $29.
As at his restaurant in Washington, Mr. Kinkead has a special touch with soups and stews. A salmon stew, redolent with chopped leeks, mushrooms, dill and white wine, is wonderful. The small pieces of salmon in the stew are crispy on the outside yet still tender and moist.
Similarly, escarole soup is a marvelous combination of rich broth with tiny meatballs, a hard boiled egg, tomatoes, chopped celery and two thin slices of salami (actually soppresata). The escaraole lends the slightest touch of bitterness, the salami adds texture and saltiness to a combination unusual and satisfying.
Rockfish in a steamer clam stew with celery, parsley root, bacon and potatoes and a Portuguese-style seafood stew of clams, monkfish, squid, mussels and shrimp in a tomato fennel broth make up other imaginative fish stews.
The fish presentations are fresh, creative and stellar. A lunchtime salad combining lobster, shrimp and mussels in a lovely light Thai curry sauce with a garnish of mango, snow peas and papaya is superb as fresh and delightful as a stroll on a sunny beach.
Crabcakes are made of quality lump crabmeat no shell, no filler. The creamy mustard sauce and salad of baby greens make a single crabcake a perfect lunchtime portion. Sesame or pepper-and-spice tuna is served seared rare with a soy ginger dipping sauce or a tomato, garlic and caper saucey.
Whatever is in season is prepared of an evening, often with unusual ingredients, such as swordfish medallions in a lemon artichoke sauce with cauliflower, capers, olives and tomato, served with a galette of yellow peas. Sea scallops are seared and accompanied by a garlic, caper and parsley sauce.
Colvin Run Tavern is not merely a fish restaurant. The meat selections, first and main courses alike, are as outstanding as the harvest of the sea. Grilled calves' liver is served as a beautiful, slightly pink and tender thick slice. It's crusted with walnuts and served with Lyonnaise potatoes, a parsley-herb salad and bits of bacon, as good and as carefully prepared as any I've tasted anywhere.
The roasted rack of pork, which in other places can be a bit tough, comes to the table almost fork tender, the noble pig at its best, enhanced by spoonbread, skillet browned scallions and mashed sweet potatoes. A simple sirloin strip steak, perfectly cooked to order, is accompanied by paper-thin potatoes Anna, truly crispy onion rings and a bearnaise the real thing, without a flour thickener. For the meat-and-potatoes diner, it doesn't get better than this.
Among the first courses, crispy sweetbreads are served on baby leeks with chanterelle mushrooms, pancetta (Italian bacon) and fava beans; roast foie gras is coupled with a savory apple charlotte; and seared steak tartar is balanced with pickled beets and a green peppercorn sauce.
Salads are particularly splendid, especially a slaw of endive and radicchio with figs roasted with gorgonzola, walnuts and a scattering of pomegranate seeds in a good viniagrette. Hearts of romaine with avocado slices, radishes and celery root in a peppercorn Roquefort dressing is another fine combination.
What's not to like here? The avocado wasn't quite ripe and the celery root could have used a little zip in the dressing. In a starter of a green tomato Napoleon with avocado and crab salad in a red pepper gazpacho, the mashed avocado and crab were just fine, barely dressed, but the "Napoleon" rounds had the consistency of flavorless soggy bread. The bright red gazpacho is too assertive for this delicate dish.
But these are mere quibbles. A meal under the hand of Bob Kinkead is memorable, and at Colvin Run Tavern he has come very close to perfection.
Desserts are up to the high standard set by starters and entrees. Pastry chef Sam Gedal makes a perfect tarte tatin, hot, rich and delicious with a caramelized butter coating on the apples. A little scoop of vanilla ice cream and a spoonful of whipped cream make this dessert memorable, too.
Colvin Run Tavern's wine list offers primarily American wines, but there are imported bottles as well, including a very pleasant Italian barbera, one of the most reasonable choices at $31. Wines by the glass are also available and very good.
With Mr. Kinkead's creative touch, executive chef Jeff Gaetjen's expertise, and the sophisticated welcome of maitre d' Martin Garbisu's (whom many patrons will remember from the late Jockey Club), and a staff offering discreet, knowledgeable and attentive service, is likely to become Northern Virginia's No. 1 restaurant. Even a city dweller will find it worth a drive to Tysons Corner.
There's a risk that such a dinner could inspire romance, and if so the engagement ring is available next door at Tiffany's; the right wedding dress at Priscilla's on the left; and Hermes is a few steps away for honeymoon luggage. There's even ample free parking to boot.


RESTAURANT: Colvin Run Tavern, 8045 Leesburg Pike, Tysons Corner; 703/356-9500
HOURS: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday to Friday; dinner 5:30 to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, until 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday
PRICES: First courses $6 to $14 (lunch), $8 to $20 (dinner); main courses $11 to $24 (lunch), $24 to $39 (dinner); desserts $10
CREDIT CARDS: All major cards
PARKING: Complimentary valet parking lunch and dinner; ample mall parking also available
ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible


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