Oh, I believe I’d love some fried oysters in my larb gai shouldn’t be a thought that ever occurred to me. However I’m grateful it did to chef Yuan Tang, who brings these two dishes collectively in a beautiful marriage of flavors and textures at Ellie Chook, the Falls Church restaurant he and his spouse, Carey, opened in April.
The larb gai acquainted to us in Thai and Lao cooking is a salad of floor rooster, crimson onion, toasted rice powder and herbs wearing lime juice and fish sauce. For his riff, Tang mixes the rooster and onions with house-made curry paste, puffed black rice and hazelnut French dressing (which imparts toasty notes) and tops it with diced apples and cilantro. He then surrounds the larb with 4 plump, batter-fried oysters and bibb lettuce leaves for wrap-making.
“It’s a tackle surf and turf,” the chef explains. With its tartness, saltiness, crunch and brightness, I’d name it one of many tastiest and most progressive dishes of the second.
It’s clear the Tangs know what they’re doing. Their fine-dining sister restaurant in D.C., Rooster & Owl, earned a vaunted Michelin star in 2021. Now they’ve parlayed that savoir faire right into a extra informal setting at Ellie Chook, the place all the things—the décor, the drinks, the superlative meals—is on level. The workers, I’m thrilled to say, disproves the parable that it’s unimaginable to search out good service in eating places these days.
Opening within the new Founders Row growth was a homecoming of kinds for the Tangs, each of whom grew up in Falls Church. (Yuan’s household emigrated from Hong Kong when he was 12.) As youngsters, each labored in eating places on Broad Road—he at Crimson Lobster, she at Applebee’s.
They moved to New York Metropolis in 2008 so Yuan might observe his dream of a culinary profession, forsaking a lackluster job as a federal auditor. He would later drop out of cooking college, choosing on-the-job coaching at three Michelin-starred eating places in Manhattan: Jean-Georges, Dovetail (now closed) and The Fashionable.
The couple returned to the DMV in 2014, began a household and opened Rooster & Owl in 2019. They now stay within the Sleepy Hole neighborhood of Falls Church.
Named for his or her second daughter, Ellie Chook is open and ethereal, with excessive ceilings and floor-to-ceiling home windows. The eating room is a cheery spot with herringbone-patterned flooring, caned accent panels, a midcentury shade palette (teal, blush pink, chartreuse), and a colourful pop-art mural harking back to Roy Lichtenstein.
Conceived by D.C.-based //3877 Design, the setting consists of whimsical nods to the avian nomenclature of the Tangs’ two eating places—pink neon birdies on the wall, birdcage-like framing round cubicles and daring, bird-patterned wallpaper within the toilet.
The three,200-square-foot house seats 70, together with an eight-seat bar. At press time, a 40-seat coated patio was within the works.
I’m sorry to disappoint naysayers, however I’ve nothing unfavorable to say in regards to the meals right here. Tang’s menu presents 20 savory dishes, all of that are reliant on contemporary, seasonal substances. It’s a concise assortment with nothing extraneous; every dish is superbly introduced and sings with taste, texture and shade.
Begin with a breadbasket of fluffy pineapple buns (a Rooster & Owl signature), focaccia and grilled scallion butter, and a few cocktails—maybe This Is Your Mind on Pisco, a fairly purple pisco bitter made with pineapple and hibiscus. For a refreshing, spirit-free possibility, It Takes Two to Mango is a mélange of mango, peach and lime.
Along with the oyster larb gai, I’m taken by the Little Gem wedge salad dressed with herby inexperienced goddess yogurt dressing and topped with candied bacon and blue cheese from FireFly Farms in Maryland. The salad, a summer time backyard that involves life with every chunk, is a stunner.
Equally snazzy are the ricotta gnudi (dumplings) garnished with contemporary peas, pea tendrils, queso fresco and a sprink-ling of sunflower seeds—a picture-perfect style of the season.
Given the chef’s penchant for cooking with no matter is contemporary, many of those dishes could have rotated out by the point this evaluate goes to print. One with everlasting standing, nevertheless, is the Vietnamese French onion soup, which finds a phô-inspired oxtail broth loaded with chunks of oxtail meat and enhanced with lemongrass, star anise, cinnamon and fish sauce. Add croutons, Parmesan and a great deal of gooey Gruyere cheese and it turns into a wealthy, hearty liquid rendition of a French dip sandwich, filled with depth.
From the record of entrées, the carrot garganelli (ridged tubular pasta) shine in a creamy sauce made with feta cheese, carrot purée and toasted black pepper. Tang finishes this intelligent tackle cacio e pepe with carrot shavings, toasted pumpernickel breadcrumbs, verdant dill oil and sprigs of mint and dill. The dish displays the chef’s trademark stability of sweetness, texture, shade, acid, salt and herbaceousness.
That very same stability is obvious in a bouillabaisse of Nordic cod, Hokkaido scallops and littleneck clams whose underpinning fish fumet (inventory, on this case made with charred fish frames) is emboldened with Korean chili flakes, fennel and garlic. Kimchi fennel salad, tiny cubes of tofu, chili peppers, honey and charred scallion oil spherical out this powerhouse dish. Use the grilled focaccia that comes with it to sop up the broth.
The tender lamb shank, braised in crimson wine and completed with a glaze of fish sauce and vinegar, is a stick-to-the-ribs providing appropriate to fall climate. It’s served on a mattress of grated cauliflower “tabbouleh” with apricots, almonds and chopped parsley and topped with crispy shallots.
I’ve saved my largest rave of all for one of many aspect dishes. I’m a sucker for spaetzle, these fantastic, squiggly little German dumplings made by drizzling batter by a colander into boiling water. Yang’s creamed spinach spaetzle—impressed by steak home creamed spinach—is up there with one of the best I’ve had. He makes the flour-based batter with spinach purée and bitter cream, rendering the dumplings a vivid inexperienced, and sautees them with Dijon mustard cream sauce, mint, parsley, dill and chives. They’re elegant.
On the dessert menu, pastry chef Rachel Sherriffe’s fudgy, moist chocolate cake, made with espresso and buttermilk and frosted with chai-spiced buttercream, is billed accurately as “Can’t miss!” (Take the à la mode possibility.)
One other winner is a cheesecake sundae that includes graham-cracker and cream-cheese ice lotions and frozen cheesecake cubes, topped with heat pecan praline and crushed graham crackers.
Going out with youngsters? Ellie Chook’s eating room overlooks a courtyard inexperienced house with fountains, permitting mother and father to ship their kids exterior to play and regulate them from the consolation of their desk.
The restaurant additionally has a “Little Birdie’s” menu that includes kid-tested choices similar to carrot garganelli with butter and Parmesan (plus optionally available asparagus); cornflake-crusted rooster tenders; a Lunchables-esque “char-cute-rie” assortment of cheese, crackers, fruits, veggies and ham; and naan pizza.
It’s a superb gateway to introduce kids to meals that’s whimsical, contemporary, seasonal and downright scrumptious—similar to we grown-ups get to take pleasure in at Ellie Chook.
What To Drink
Beverage director Christopher Sang’s program is completely attuned to Ellie Chook’s allure. Six cleverly named, well-balanced signature cocktails ($13 to $16) are listed with little drawings of the barware through which they’re served. Resting Seaside Face is a refreshing mélange of rum, cognac, peach liqueur and mint, served over crushed ice in a hurricane glass. For a kicky, tangy quaff that brings the warmth, strive the Spice Up Your Life, made with mezcal, gochujang, grapefruit and rice wine vinegar. There are additionally two spirit-free cocktails ($8).
The compact however properly curated wine record consists of three glowing, one rosé, seven whites and eight reds, all of which can be found by the glass ($12 to $18) or bottle ($48 to $72). The record closely favors California, however Middleburg’s Boxwood Vineyard exhibits up with a sauvignon blanc and an “Ellie Chook x Boxwood” crimson mix.
125 Founders Ave., Falls Church, 703-454-8894
Dinner: Tuesday to Thursday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 5 to 9:30 p.m.
Brunch: Saturday and Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Loads of free parking within the Founders Row garages
Starters: $12 to $19; Entrées: $21 to $65; Desserts: $12 to $14 (plus a meringue dessert for 2 for $18)