Sunday, January 8, 2012

El Manantial ~ Reston, VA

A small cozy European restaurant tucked away in a sleepy shopping center in Reston, VA. A mixture of French, Spanish, and Italian cuisines, it is an undiscovered gem to many in the area. 

I went there for a romantic supper with the hubby, and my 1st thought was how open and inviting the layout was, especially the kitchen. I wanted to just go in, roll my sleeves up, and get to work. Naturally, I quelled this desire.

The walls were painted with scenic Mediterranean landscapes (which I believe were hand painted), the lights were dimmed for the evening’s amorous crowd. From the menu, I was very torn between three seafood items. In my experience, I only find exceptional fish at fine dining establishments, and will only order it there. Fish is a delicate medium. You cannot be heavy handed or inexperienced. It is one of the easiest ingredients to completely destroy.

My perplexing decision tonight was between the Dover sole (Pan fried whole Dover sole, served boneless, served w/ lemon butter & white wine sauce), the barramundi (Australian mild white fish, semi boneless & stuffed w/ crabmeat), and the seafood paella (steamed rice in saffron w/ shrimp, mussels, clams, squid and monkfish).

When I am in this sort of conundrum, I rely on the experts to steer me in the best direction. In this case the expert, our server, was Raoul. Raoul is one of the shining beacons that make fine dining worth the cost. He listened carefully to what I was interested in and provided well thought out and planned advice. “Will you be having the soup?” He asked. “Tonight it is lobster bisque.” That is a vigorous affirmative. With that combination, he recommended the barramundi. Off we go.

Lobster bisque, a creamy flavorful liquid concoction only made better by the crusty French bread endlessly supplied. It was one of those soothing moments like sitting next to a roaring fire on a snowy evening.

Shortly after, the main event arrived. The barramundi was regally displayed and dressed to the nines. As beautiful as it was, it could not compare to the luscious and vibrant flavor. A celebration of light citrus notes with garlic. The flesh of the fish perfectly done, light and delicious. It was accompanied by simple steamed broccoli and some carrots. The fish was the rock star of this dinner, the vegetables were not to distract from that fact.

In conclusion, wonderful food, wonderful staff, enough said.

Contact Information
12050-A North Shore Dr.
Reston, VA 20190
Phone: (703) 742-6466

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