Recent Bites: Maple Ave Restaurant in Vienna, VA.

Hello Friends,

Just about every Saturday morning, you can find me out and about visiting a few of the area’s local wine shops or tasting rooms. I even quip about it on Twitter, calling it “Bottle adoption Saturday” and urging my friends to get out and support their local shops because wine bottles need good homes, too. Wine shops, in particular, usually hold themed (free) tastings and will sometimes have educationally-geared weekend events led by someone with expertise in a certain region or with a specific producer. About once a month, I usually pay a visit to Vienna's (Virginia) Historic District to get in some exercise, a sip or two, and a bite.

Maple Ave Restaurant

I can park my car at one location in Vienna and walk to two wine shops that both conduct weekend tastings and on occasion will host sit-down educational opportunities too. I can then walk to a pet shop to grab some seed for my backyard feathered friends and maybe even catch a tune or two at a neighboring (and jamming) coffee shop. I can then walk to a nearby store and do a little grocery shopping. After I finish all of these activities, I’m usually ready for a late lunch.

Sauvignon Blanc ... Reminiscent of a fresh Spring day

A few weeks ago, while walking down Maple Avenue after finishing all the aforementioned activities, I stumbled upon a small neighborhood hidden-gem called Maple Ave Restaurant. Situated between a Car Wash and a Tire Shop, this small, minimalistic, but overall nicely designed and comfortable, nine-table ‘hole-in-the-wall’ restaurant served up some pretty tasty and creative food. They also have a decent wine list to complement their food selections. Stylistically, they define their food as “Eclectic American cuisine by blending Asian, Latin American and French flavors." I just call it delicious.

Shrimp and Grits that even Northerners would enjoy!

We started off with two small plate dishes. A shrimp and grits dish (tiger shrimp, venison blueberry sausage, piquillo peppers, stoneground grits) and a crème fraiche wings (Kendall farms crème fraiche, Korean chili paste, oyster sauce). I was born in New Orleans and shrimp and grits is one my favorite dishes. This one ranks up high with just about anything I’ve come across in the state including one of my favorite versions from Tuscarora Mill Restaurant (aka Tuskies) in downtown Leesburg. The wings are meaty and the sauce is flavorful (not spicy), savory and finger-licking delicious. I could see using the sauce for a number of things besides wings.

Crème Fraiche Wings ... Not your typical 'hot wings"

For my entrée, I went with what I thought was a pretty daring dish (seared scallops w/ coconut scallion risotto, basil ice cream). But, the fact that it is daring is probably what makes it so delicious. The basil ice cream melts into the risotto, and the flavors -- combined with perfectly seared scallops -- really work well together. The warm/cold aspect of the dish and the texture you're left with after everything marries is pleasing too. I washed all of this down with a refreshing tumbler of Sauvignon Blanc, but found myself thinking about an elegant Chardonnay by time I got down to the last two bites.

Seared Scallops w/ Coconut Scallion Risotto, Basil Ice Cream

For the sweet ending, the Bittersweet Chocolate Bread Pudding (warm bread pudding, bittersweet chocolate, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate sauce) was a no-brainer. My great grandmother, who we called Ma-ma, made the best bread pudding (of course I’m biased) ever, but I have a feeling she would give this one a big satisfying smile and two thumbs up!

Sweet Ending!

The following day, I found out that chef and owner, Tim Ma, was an engineer who gave up a promising career to pursue his passion of being a chef (which after reading about his family was clearly in his genes) and owning a restaurant. After years of hard work, Maple Ave Restaurant is the result. The chef's ‘Follow Your Passion’ feel good story, which I also see a lot of in the wine world, adds to an already satisfying dining experience. In closing, if anyone out there knows Guy Fieri, aka Mr. Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, tell him that Maple Ave Restaurant is a great candidate for his show. He can get the 1967 Chevy Camaro SS convertible washed next door while biting into some Maple Ave goodness. Cheers!

Click here to visit the Maple Ave Restaurant website.

My backyard feathered friend: The Northern Cardinal

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