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321 Ashland in Ashburn, VA - Ashes.

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I've often advocated for some chef-driven restaurants to open near my home in Loudoun County. If only for the selfish reason that I might be able to avoid driving into (or at least towards) the city once in a while when I want a nice meal.

A few months ago, 321 Ashland opened its doors in a strip mall in the Broadlands development with a pledge to return formality to dining, according to some local newspaper reports. My initital thoughts were that this doesn't exactly jibe with what the area is looking for, especially with a newly opened Bonefish Grill a few doors down that has people lining up outside and a quoted wait time one Thursday evening of 160 minutes. And the prices for the original menu were higher than many of the high income, but house-poor neighbors might be willing to shell out (entrees in the mid $20's to mid 30's, no appetizer under $12).

I stuck my head in one day after they first opened and it is an attractive space and the menu read well. I started to have high hopes but circumstances kept me from stopping in at first.

When the weather finally began to warm up they opened an attractive patio tucked away from the parking lot with a fountain nearby and the quickly becoming fashionable "patio menu" with sandwiches and salads at a slightly lesser price point and the ability to order off the regular menu as well, a la Palena. Things were looking up.

I want to like this place because they are at least trying.

My wife and I finally made it in last Friday on a wonderful Late May evening. We sat outside and ordered a glass of wine. jenrus had the French Onion soup, a burger and a chocolate cake covered in ganache. I had a spinach salad and a 'diver' scallop dish with a ruby grapefruit vinaigrette from the regular menu and a Meyer lemon chess pie.

In the interest of saying something nice first, I will say that the bacon wrapped scallops were cooked just right and very flavorful and the spinach salad was well dressed with a 'farmer's cheese' and a nice tangy dressing. And our waiter was good and pleasant.

That's it. The soup was bland and a soggy mess. The burger looked suspiciously pre-formed in its round perfection. The vegetable medley that came with the scallops was basically carrots with a faint burned taste covered in a sweet dressing. The chocolate cake was OK, but the tasteless lemon pie gave new meaning to the word gummy.

I really wanted to like this place and I'll probably give it one more try, but my hopes are not high.

Did I mention it was a beatiful night to sit on the patio by the fountain?

Edited by bilrus
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