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River Bend Bistro, Fort Hunt - Chef Caroline Ross Comes From Bistro Bis


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Potentially ecstatic news for those of near the restaurant wasteland that exists along Route 1 south of the Beltway. River Bend Bistro looks to be opening its doors fairly soon.

Located about halfway between the Beltway and Mount Vernon (at 7966 Fort Hunt Road, to be precise), this place shows every sign of being several notches above any other place I can think of in that area. The chef, Caroline Ross, is a former sous chef at Bistro Bis, also spent some time (according to an internet article I found) at Restaurant Eve and Cafe Milano, and is the former General Manager of Rick's Wine and Gourmet (RIP).

They have apparently been doing battle with the great Fairfax County permit machine for almost a year but are almost done. A friend I have on staff told me they most likely be open  "within the next three weeks or so."

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I got an update last night from some folks I know that are in the know: apparently staff hiring is ongoing, most of the construction is done, permits are clear, and a soft opening is 2-3 weeks away.

For those of you living up near actual civilization, you cannot imagine what the mere prospect of a decent restaurant down here means to us.....

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I got an update last night from some folks I know that are in the know: apparently staff hiring is ongoing, most of the construction is done, permits are clear, and a soft opening is 2-3 weeks away.

For those of you living up near actual civilization, you cannot imagine what the mere prospect of a decent restaurant down here means to us.....

Lived down there for 9 years. I have felt your pain.

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I'm excited about this, too- I was in the area a couple of weeks ago (Variety Store, picking up canning supplies) & I saw the space (used to be an Italian restaurant, right?) & there were folks at work. Now, if they were only open for lunch (but if they aren't, I'll try dinner)?

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I had the privilege of being invited to their soft opening Saturday evening. I like the look of the place. Very dark colors on the upper end of the room and no faux roofing panels to remind you that you're in a strip mall. They have obviously put a lot of work into it. The bar still has that "new bar" smell. We also returned to dine on their official opening evening on Monday (and it was completely packed by the time we departed at about 6:30 PM). This review in no way touches on service issues (of which there were quite a few.) Come on, folks....they just opened.

The hit of the menu so far is the Crab Flan with a Lobster Roe Buerre Blanc. (Holy crap - look at that dish title. Are you sure we are in Fort Hunt? Really?) I haven't had a whole lot of experience with savory flans, but if they're all like this (which they probably aren't) I will try them more often.

From the other starters we tried, the Rockfish Gravlax with Capers and Marinated Red Onions were also very interesting. More of a meaty feel to them with a bit more transparent flavor than salmon would have had. The Warm Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese, Red Onion, and CRISPY PROSCIUTTO !! (the emphasis is all mine) is highly recommended as well. Crispy prosciutto. Nom. The Potato and Leek Soup, while livened up by some crispy leek stems floating atop it, was serviceable, but not overly exciting.

For Entrees (in order of our preference) my wife's enjoyment of the Sauteed Crab Cakes with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes cannot be overstated. Enhanced with a lovely lightly seared crust on the outer edges, it was hard to see how they held together at all with absolutely no detectable filler.

The Grilled Ribeye of Beef with Garlic Herb Butter and Shoestring Potatoes was a lovely surprise, as I usually assume I will be disappointed by steaks in most places. The biggest shock of the dish was that is was still a perfectly cooked medium rare even though it was only perhaps a half-inch thick, yet still had an enjoyable crust on the outside. The Shoestring Potatoes was also quite good, although I didn't get to have all that many of them between my spouse and two year old son stealing the majority of the portion when I wasn't looking.

The Pan Roasted Veal Sweetbreads with an Oyster and Sherry Sauce would have been great as an appetizer, but as an entree (which I usually find with sweetbreads) it was just a bit much. The sauce was stellar, and the first bites were rapturous, but by the time I was halfway through the second piece.....less so. Oof.

The Cotswald Mac and Cheese with Crispy Onions I cannot give much of an opinion on, as our two year old companion did not allow us much more than a half spoonful to sample.....

In summary, there simply is not better food to be found between the beltway and Bistro L'Hermitage in Occoquan. Give it a couple of months to settle and there is something quite promising here.

Menu: http://riverbendbistro.com/dinner/

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I was there this past Friday, taken by a couple who live in the neighborhood.  The place is small but very comfortable and. although it was quiet when we arrived at 5:30, it was bustling when we left about 7:15.  I stuck to the specials which were lobster bisque, shad roe, and burnt orange sorbet.  I thought it was all quite good and well worth a side trip if you are anywhere in the neighborhood.  This strilkes me as being a starter restaurant, an experienced che's first try at running a place of her own.   It doesn't look like it has been reviewed by Tom Sietsema of the Post and it could take off if he decides to come out in this neck of the words. 

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We visited on Saturday night.  We liked the look of of it, and my experienced eye noted (and it was confirmed by the waiter) that the benches on the left side are former church pews.  Recycling!  But if it's busy, expect it to be loud because of the design.

Of note, their wine menu is by the 3 oz pour, 6 oz pour, or bottle, and it includes the 2011 Glen Manor Vin Rouge (and a Rose from Texas!).  Between us we had the caramelized onion tater tots, the risotto of the day (which was fig and something else), the warm spinach salad, and the oven-dried tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and roasted garlic flatbread.

If you're in the area, it's worth visiting.  The service, while not spot-on, is earnest.  Overall, it's a good value.  Plus we could tell there were regulars there, including an elderly gentleman who was known by name and menu preferences, and the chef even came out to say hello to him.

EDIT:  I'll add that they do wine tastings on Saturdays from 2-4.  Since the next-closest place that I know for this is UnWined Belle View, it's a good idea.

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Went Saturday and arrived to a partially filled dining room at about 8:45 PM.  They had just finished a packed dinner service.  The space can get noisy at full capacity, but this was a great time to go.   I had been before for a drink or a desert and had one meal previously closer to when it opened.  It is very close to my house and while I liked it before, I wasn't enthusiastic.  My opinion has changed since Saturday.  It was one of the better dining experiences I have had in a while. The server, Antonio, was exceptional.  Great recommendations, happy to do a half order of something my wife wanted to try and when we asked for a glass of wine to go with our entrees, he left and brought back two samples each of wines he thought would go well with our respective dishes.

I would have been happy with the room and service, but, bonus, the food was great as well.  The new point oysters, which as told are farmed and supplied by a friend of the owner/chef, were quite goo .  They were plump and extremely fresh with a nice firmness.  (As a note, they were more of a clean tasting oyster and not very briny for those that prefer that.)  I thoroughly enjoyed the lamb shank with gorgonzola polenta and wife enjoyed the risotto special.  She also had a monkfish which was cooked perfectly with the only complaint of the evening being she thought the Dijon in the sauce was a bit aggressive.

It has moved up on my list (crested over the nice neighborhood spot designation), and I will happily return (probably for the oyster roasts special event around my birthday.) Hope they can repeat the performance. 

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Went Saturday and arrived to a partially filled dining room at about 8:45 PM.  They had just finished a packed dinner service.  The space can get noisy at full capacity, but this was a great time to go.   I had been before for a drink or a desert and had one meal previously closer to when it opened.  It is very close to my house and while I liked it before, I wasn't enthusiastic.  My opinion has changed since Saturday.  It was one of the better dining experiences I have had in a while. The server, Antonio, was exceptional.  Great recommendations, happy to do a half order of something my wife wanted to try and when we asked for a glass of wine to go with our entrees, he left and brought back two samples each of wines he thought would go well with our respective dishes.

I would have been happy with the room and service, but, bonus, the food was great as well.  The new point oysters, which as told are farmed and supplied by a friend of the owner/chef, were quite goo .  They were plump and extremely fresh with a nice firmness.  (As a note, they were more of a clean tasting oyster and not very briny for those that prefer that.)  I thoroughly enjoyed the lamb shank with gorgonzola polenta and wife enjoyed the risotto special.  She also had a monkfish which was cooked perfectly with the only complaint of the evening being she thought the Dijon in the sauce was a bit aggressive.

It has moved up on my list (crested over the nice neighborhood spot designation), and I will happily return (probably for the oyster roasts special event around my birthday.) Hope they can repeat the performance. 

Thanks for the report!

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River Bend is walking distance from my home, so we go there pretty regularly for a glass of wine or dinner. Since they've been open, we've tried pretty much everything on the menu that wasn't a gout trigger for me. The staff has been very helpful about eliminations and substitutions. My one complaint would be that I was hoping they would switch some of the entrees out for more seasonal items. They do daily specials, but the rest of the menu seems locked. There's the ribeye and the salmon with lentils and the roast chicken and the same sides since they opened.

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River Bend is walking distance from my home, so we go there pretty regularly for a glass of wine or dinner. Since they've been open, we've tried pretty much everything on the menu that wasn't a gout trigger for me. The staff has been very helpful about eliminations and substitutions. My one complaint would be that I was hoping they would switch some of the entrees out for more seasonal items. They do daily specials, but the rest of the menu seems locked. There's the ribeye and the salmon with lentils and the roast chicken and the same sides since they opened.

They had an awesome coq au vin on the menu for a week or two last year and I'm still waiting for them to bring it back. Similarly, I hope the ribeye never leaves because it is the bomb and at an affordable price. Otherwise I agree with you.

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Definitely a thumbs up to the ribeye; really appreciate when someone knows the difference between medium and medium rare. I also really like the teres major, which looks like it's becoming a regular item as well.

Stopped in the other day and noticed that River Bend was taking reservations for a $65 oyster feast in April. Fried, roasted, grilled, chowders, etc. I'm an oyster nut, so that was a no-brainer for me.

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