Well, last night I had a very lovely evening at Elysium. Elysium is the restaurant at the Morrison House Hotel in Alexandria VA -- which recently became part of the Relais & Chateaux group. I believe (tho I could be mistaken) that the only other member of that group in this area is the Inn at Little Washington.
I'll summarize by saying it was a marvelous evening -- I think it's very fairly priced for the food and the wonderful service. With one quibble I'll mention at the end. Of course, I wasn't paying 8-), so I don't know the actual total, but I would go back without hesitation.
We were welcomed by the hotel host/manager/"guy behind the desk" and asked if we wanted a drink before dinner in either the parlor or the library. The Morrison House is Federal style (I think ...) and it feels more like you're in a show house than a hotel. I use the term "show house" because it's not as comfy as a "home" but it's lovely. We sat in the library; I had a kir and my SO had a Manhattan. A little tray with nibbles was brought -- olives (pitted Kalamata, fairly salty), mixed nuts, and little pickles (very tart, which I love, but doesn't mix well with wine. 8-) )
The young man who had gotten our drinks (he turned out to be kind of the busboy, junior server ...) then came back in about 10 minutes to say our table was ready when we were. We sat for a couple more minutes then walked back to the restaurant. We were seated at a nice table by a window overlooking the little courtyard out front of the hotel. The room is fairly small -- there are 6 tables for two, and three tables for four. We were brought menus, which actually they are going to stop doing, because there isn't a menu per se. The chef comes over, talks to you about the ingredients he has to work with, asks you to pick the ones you would like, determines if you have allergies or dislikes, and then goes off to prepare dishes based on what you like from the ingredients.
These are the ones I remember: prawns from Hawaii, Georges Bank scallops, loup de mer from Iceland, wild sockeye salmon, buffalo loin, fois gras, pork loin (some marinade or sauce on it they do themselves), I think a beef thing, and I really think there was 1 or 2 other seafood items I can't recall. I picked the prawns and the loup de mer; my SO picked salmon and the buffalo. I also asked that we have fois gras somewhere in there. 8-) We also chose to have the Flight of Wine, where you are brought a smallish glass (not a complaint! there was always plenty -- it's just not a full pour like when you buy by the glass) of something that suits the item you are having at the time.
The server (a nice young woman from Portsmouth England)brought out bread and butter to start. Three types of bread (plain fococcia, *wonderful* black olive and cheese rolls, and a fabulous mushroom roll where the mushrooms were still moist and tasted almost sauteed) and three types of butter (salted French butter, goat's milk butter, and truffle butter). My SO loved the goat's milk butter; so did I, but for me, the truffle butter was the best. 8-) I realized I absolutely love truffles.
Then came the amuse-bouche: a Maryland crab "salad" with garlic on an apple crisp (which looked *exactly like a potato chip!) and half a small fresh fig with a slice of truffle and some micro-greens (purslane was a major component). I found that the truffle got lost in the taste of the fig -- maybe that's just because I love fresh figs so much. 8-) We had a glass of Prosecco with this. (I simply don't remember the vinyards of all the wines -- but the Wine/Food Manager is the one who serves you, and he tells you exactly what they are. I'm just going to call him the sommelier, even tho his card says wine and food manager.)
Then our starters: for me, sauteed fois gras over sauteed leeks and English peas with some dressing-thing. Maybe there was truffle oil? I don't recall, but it was fabulous. Definitely outshone my SO's calamari puttanesca. 8-) The calamari was very nice, but it's not fois gras. 8-) With that, we each had a glass of Chablis. The sommelier asked if I wanted a Sauternes with that instead, and I should have said yes, but actually, we were about to switch appetizers, so I just stayed with the Chablis.
Then I had the prawns (which since I had asked not to have the eyes looking at me 8-) I don't know if they were actually prawns or if they were shrimp -- they were the size of medium shrimp) with a Provencal tomato "sauce" (more like chunky bits -- yummy texture) and my SO had the salmon over some fresh fettucine. I think the salmon was the better of the two -- it was actually cooked through which is so rare these days and I realized that while I do enjoy eating med-rare salmon, it is nice to have it just cooked through too. 8-) The wines were a French rose (Domaine de la Rectorie "La Gaudie" (Banyuls-sur-Mer) and the definite find of the night for me -- wonderful) and an Entre-Deux-Mers Semillon-something for me.
Then my loup de mer over baby bok choy and Japanese eggplant. I can't recall the "sauce" -- it wasn't heavy, just something drizzled over the top. I guess I was getting overwhelmed with remembering all the details. It was good. My SO had buffalo with a chestnut "roulade" (basically a shaped potato gnocchi with chestnut paste inside) and a little fois gras. He had a marvelous Syrah from Paso Robles CA -- and I am drawing a total blank on my wine.
I have the feeling I'm forgetting something somewhere in the meal -- there was something that had balsamic vinegar (I think the real stuff) and watercress oil ...
Then strawberries Romanov with several kiwi slices, then the plate of little mini-desserts. Which are so so, but I'm not a huge dessert person, so it's hard to judge. My favorite was the little lemon tartlet.
Now the quibble -- I had read that dessert was not included in the price of the meal ($68), so I had just thought they asked you if you wanted some, and then brought it to you. They just bring it to you, and then add a separate fee. Why not just put the price of the dessert in!?!!? Seemed kind of odd to me.
Sooo, if you read this whole thing, I hope you found it of interest. I'd love to hear if anyone else has ever been there! I think I'm going to take my parents there next time they're in town. It's only 6 blocks from where I live, so it's easier than going downtown. Inertia, you know. 8-)
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