Jennie Tai
American Shirlington

6 Things To Love About The Curious Grape

It’s only been a little over a year since The Curious Grape opened its’ doors in Shirlington Village back in March 2011. Since then – they’ve earned themselves a top spot in Northern Virginia Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants of 2012. Though they first started as a boutique wine shop – they’ve since hired seasoned Chef Eric McKamey to create a locally sourced, farm-to-table menu that compliments the hand-selected wines offered at their new restaurant and wine bar. Below are things I enjoyed about the dinner I had there for the first time.

1) Hand-Selected Wines
Open Table diners have voted Curious Grape as one of the Top 100 Wine Lists in the country. Starting out as a wine store in Shirlington two years ago, the Curious Grape’s mission has always been ‘to bring wine back down to Earth’. Currently, they offer hundreds of hand-picked wines from around the world.The staff is very helpful, friendly and patient when it comes to talking about wine, and on the menu – each dish has a wine pairing suggestion that helps you make find out which types of red or whites go best with whatever you decide to order. The Curious Grape’s mission was to create a ‘fun, informative experience… from friendly, passionate staff members without intimidation or attitude.’ No wonder they’re the only wine bar in NoVA’s top 50!
2) Seasonal Starters
Pictured above is a refreshing yellowtail sashimi plated on a few slices of the last green tomatoes of the season. Now, their Fall menu features spunky comfort appetizers like fried james river oysters with daikon kimchi and spicy ketchup, or braised pork empanadas with pumpkin seed salsa.
3) Mushrooms!
I’m a huge fan of mushrooms, and mushroom soup is one of my favorite things. Here, the mushroom soup is made of preserved beech mushrooms, cremini mushrooms and topped with toasted sunflower seeds, chives and olive oil. Two other dishes that include them are the arugula salad (matsuke mushrooms) and spice roasted chicken (chanterelles).
4) Heavenly Seafood Pairings
Pan-roasted sea scallops with black rice, bok choy and plum wine beurre blanc. Crispy and perfectly seared scallops and buttery rice I could eat every day. This is apparently another of the popular dishes that will most likely stay put on the menu, but other current entrees for the seafood lover include the butter poached lobster with corn-stuffed agnolotti pasta and pan-roasted sturgeon with pancetta (basically-Italian bacon) and butternut polenta.
5) Mains for Meat Lovers
Pictured above is sliced steak with potato puree, but since my last visit – it’s been replaced with a few other meat entrees. One thing to love about The Curious Grape – they’re always swaying to the rhythm of what’s in season. Chef Eric McKamey firmly believes in simple, honest, farm-to-table fare. Currently, entrees for meat lovers include the roasted duck breast with black truffle port vinaigrette and the spice roasted chicken with mascarpone spaetzle (a european take on baked mac and cheese) and chanterelle mushrooms. But not to worry, they’ve got a great pest-potato gnocchi with castelvetrano olives and roasted eggplant for veggie lovers too.
6) Cheese & Sweets
The dessert is definitely worth waiting for, but you’ll need to order warm chocolate souffle ahead of time if you’ve got your eye on it. I’m a bit of a salt tooth, so even when it’s time for dessert – I’ll still reach for the cheese platter. Current desserts, sure to satisfy your sweet tooth include the fresh fig tart with blue cheese ice cream and balsamic caramel, and the pomegranate sorbet in a cookie cup of blueberries and cranberries.

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For more reasons to stop by The Curious Grape – check out these next few events.

Tonight – Nov. 5, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. Award winning chili at the bar and Mike’s seasonal beer tasting. $3 per person.

Wednesday – Nov. 7, 6:30 p.m. Oregon Pinot Noir Wine Dinner – featuring wines from the Shea Vineyard with a five-course dinner. $125 per person.

Thursday – Nov. 8, 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. Under $15 Wine Tasting

2900 South Quincy Street, Shirlington Village, Arlington, VA;  703-671-8700; www.curiousgrape.com.

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