- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

Restaurant 2941, off Route 50 just inside the Capital Beltway in Virginia, is elegant, stylish and beautiful and the cooking is, too.

The first thing you see is the drop-dead view through the glass wall overlooking a stone patio. The eye goes to a small lake, through the trees to a few new townhouses on the far side. A few geese tread gingerly on the icy water as a small fountain bubbles through ice castles. Beautiful at night, stunning by day.

The restaurant's atrium rises through three floors with the space broken only by two glass sculptures hanging from the ceiling. Large angled mirrors facing the windows reflect the view, giving the illusion of even more space. Large booths, upholstered in stylish fabric, lend a further air of privacy. Each table is lighted by a small round alabaster lamp giving off a warm glow.

But all of this would be for naught if it were not for the cooking of chef-owner Jonathan Krinn. Mr. Krinn began as a student at L'Academie de Cuisine, studying under Pascal Dionot. Now the two are partners, with the teacher running the front of the house and his former student in the kitchen. Mr. Krinn makes frequent appearances in the dining room to make sure all is well.

Mr. Krinn studied and worked locally at Cafe Bethesda and at Gerard's Place off K Street NW. His father, Mal Krinn, a retired ophthalmologist who learned how to bake bread in Italy, turns out loaves twice a day for 2941. (Bread aficionados will remember Dr. Krinn's brief stint at Ann Amernick's pastry shop in Cleveland Park, where for a few months he baked Washington's best bread on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.)

The basket of bread served at lunch and dinner at 2941 contains at least three different kinds of bread, which disappear long before the first course arrives. (Cafe 2941, upstairs, sells loaves to take home.)

The food is American based on traditional French principles of cooking, with some of those Pacific Rim touches so dear to the American chef's heart. These original touches are particularly successful.

A lunchtime starter of lemongrass chicken skewers served with a coconut-peanut sauce is spicy, sweet, delicate and subtle. A delicious mix of flavors, it's an outstanding version of a classic chicken satay.

Equally tender and complex is the dinner appetizer of seared yellowfin tuna. Skewers of rectangular pieces of tuna are glazed with sake and grilled for just an instant. Served with a little mound of tuna tartare, this makes a wonderfully light and fragrant beginning.

The combination of two cuts of the same meat prepared in two different ways appears among the main courses as well. Roast lamb, tenderloin and leg, is served with glazed potatoes and baby root vegetables. Similarly, both the loin and the tenderloin of venison are offered in one dish, as are grilled New York strip steak and baked beef cheeks.

The combination is particularly good with veal tenderloin tender to the fork paired with a small veal schnitzel. Each of the pieces of veal has a slightly different flavor. The vegetables served with the meat are delicious. Chopped brussels sprouts are combined with onions glazed in balsamic vinegar and cooked escarole, which absorbs a sweetness from the onions. It's a lovely combination.

Wild mushrooms appear in several guises: wild mushroom soup a little thin but flavorful risotto with vegetables and herbs, as stuffing for roasted quail, as a ragout with caramelized sea scallops, and in pasta with goat cheese. Butternut squash soup, in contrast to the mushroom, is rich, creamy without being cloying and wonderfully satisfying. This is the ultimate comfort food.

The scallops, alas, disappoint. Of the five large sea scallops on my plate, only two were tender and succulent as they should be. The other three were chewy and tasted as if they had been frozen.

Mr. Krinn's French experience surfaces in the foie gras terrine and the grilled foie gras, both appetizers on the dinner menu. The former is served with quince compote and the latter with shallot marmalade and apples.

In a small salute to the British, beer-battered cod is the fish of fish and chips at lunch. The crunchy, hot, fresh fish is served with large slices of fried potatoes drizzled with hollandaise sauce an original and wonderful concept.

Desserts are worthy of the appetizers and main courses. Frozen passion fruit souffle is a creamy delight while warm banana upside-down cake is fragrant with a little liqueur, topped with pistachio ice cream and decorated with a string of tapioca pearls. Ice cream consists of three scoops at lunch and five at dinner, to be chosen from a dozen yummy flavors.

Service is professional and particularly attentive. Waiters go out of their way to be pleasant and helpful, to the point of inviting diners to visit the beautiful kitchen. Even the several dozen busy cooks are gracious at the intrusion.

A wide variety of wines by the glass are available, ranging from $6 to $14. The wine is poured at the table in substantial portions.

Dinner concludes with an unexpected surprise a complimentary dish of cotton candy and a small plate of marshmallows, chocolate truffles and sugar-coated almonds, all made in the kitchen. Another original touch at a restaurant that puts a premium on originality and fun.

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