- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Restaurant location: 2941 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church, 703/270-1500.

The tiny complimentary glass of salsify veloute, a creamy oyster plant soup, sets the tone for what’s to follow at 2941 restaurant.

The elegant restaurant lost its initial chef, Jonathan Krinn, six months ago. Now, firmly ensconced at the helm of 2941 is Bertrand Chemel, a young Frenchman formerly of Cafe Boulud in New York City. His credentials are first-rate, his skills quickly evident, and he cooks with a light touch. He doesn’t overpower fundamental flavors with unnecessary ingredients, and his combinations are frequently original and always interesting. It is a pleasure to savor his dishes.

2941 always has been a lovely place to dine, especially during the day, when the gardens, with their fountains, ponds and plantings, bring the outdoors into the restaurant through the floor-to-ceiling windows and are reflected in angled mirrors on the wall opposite the garden. At night, with the outside only dimly lit, the atmosphere is a bit colder, the tall windows reflecting darkness rather than the play of water on stone.

Concentrate on the food, and only pleasure remains. Along with the delicious soup foretaste comes a basket of mixed breads, all fresh and tasty. Bread always has been important at 2941. Mr. Krinn’s father, Malvin Krinn, an ophthalmologist by day, baked a variety of delicious breads for his son’s restaurant. Guests often got a loaf to take home. The tradition continues, and though Dr. Krinn is not the baker, the breads are fine.

We started dinner with an unusual dish, a plate of octopus carpaccio. The octopus was lightly grilled and thinly sliced, tender and adorned with slivers of grapefruit and a light vinaigrette with a touch of mustard. There was no “fishiness,” and the dish had an unexpected delicacy and freshness.

A salad of pink-and-white-striped candy beets was delightful. The beets are sliced into small pieces and fashioned as small logs. Served with creamy blue cheese and toasted pecans, they’re pretty to look at and flavorful, too.

A main course of potato gnocchi was perfect - the tiny rectangular pillows in a light, creamy butter-and-Parmesan sauce, enhanced by chopped black truffles and chives, left nothing to be desired. The truffles added a suggestion of crunch to the soft gnocchi. Gnocchi can disappoint when they are doughy and heavy, but delicacy and airiness made Mr. Chemel’s version perfect.

Excellent, too, was a serving of beef short ribs, cooked just right and served in an interesting, complex mole sauce, slightly on the salty side. With the beef comes a piece of corn bread baked in an oval shape to resemble a marrow bone. Witty, especially when the “marrow” is a dollop of the sauce.

The dinner menu is offered as a three-course prix fixe or a tasting menu of four or six courses. There is no a la carte menu, but any item on either menu can be ordered separately. The menu doesn’t give prices for the dishes when ordered separately, so ask.

The prix-fixe menu includes several salads, seared foie gras, butternut soup and a dish of shrimp, lamb sausage and chickpeas (earth and ocean). Main courses include steamed sea bass with a beurre blanc, smoked duck breast with cranberry beans, squash ravioli, lobster and roasted arctic char with ginger carrots and spinach. The tasting menu further offers bay-scallop ceviche, bay scallops with celery-root puree, venison and spiced lamb loin. The menu changes daily.

Desserts, prepared by pastry chef Anthony Chavez, are light, sweet and lovely. A Key lime tart arrived elegant and delicious. Pumpkin creme brulee, apple tarte tatin, sorbets and cheeses are other possibilities. The Krinn tradition of serving candy floss at the end of dinner has been replaced with a plate of doughnut holes and tiny fruit jellies.

Lunch is varied with several sandwiches, such as a French ham and cheese (croque monsieur) and a turkey club and salads such as a traditional Caesar, Cobb and shrimp. Lunch main courses vary from a steak with roasted potatoes and bearnaise sauce to veal scaloppini. Prices at lunch are considerably less than at dinner.

The wine list is extensive and well-selected, with many interesting bottles, but mostly a bit dear. We tried a glass of fine Oregon pinot noir for $14 per glass.

2941 is a sophisticated restaurant serving some of the area’s best food, well worth the drive out Route 50 from the District. My only quibble is the lack of prices for individual dishes on the menu, which can make ordering a la carte difficult - but that’s a very small quibble.

Don’t forget your loaf of bread as you leave.

2941 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church, 703/270-1500.

Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday; dinner 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday

Three-course prix-fixe dinner, $70; four- or six-course tasting dinner, $95 and $120, respectively; two-course lunch menu, $29.41, three-course lunch, $36. Starters, $12 to $18; main courses $15 to $24 (lunch); $29 to $46 (dinner); desserts $8 to $10

All major cards

Complimentary valet parking

Wheelchair accessible

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