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Leek American Bistro Opens in Ballston

Leek American Bistro has opened its doors in Ballston.

The new restaurant held a ‘soft opening’ for dinner on Saturday and for lunch and happy hour on Monday, but is open for all three — plus late night food — starting today (Tuesday). The new eatery replaces the former Thai Terrace restaurant at 801 N. Quincy Street.

Leek will be open for lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., for happy hour from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m., for dinner from 6:00 and 11:00 p.m., and for late night food and drink from 11:00 p.m. to closing time, seven days a week. There will also be brunch service on Saturday and Sunday.

Leek seats about 100 diners and bar-goers inside and will seat about 50 people outside during warm weather months. Chef and co-owner Nathan Spittal says he’s hoping Leek will provide fine dining-caliber food — utilizing local, organic and sustainable ingredients — in a bright, casual and welcoming environment.

“We like to call it tablecloth casual, which basically means you’re going to get fine food, good wine and good drink, but in a casual atmosphere… at a really good price,” he said.

Although the restaurant is dubbed an “American Bistro,” Spittal says it’s more of an American “melting pot,” blending influences from around the world. Among those influences: French, Thai, Latin America, Indian and Middle Eastern.

The name of the restaurant itself, says Spittal, a classically trained chef, refers to the leek, which he described as the foundation of classical French cooking technique and a “very versatile” vegetable that “makes everything taste better.” Leek can be found in some — but not all — dishes on the menu.

Spittal has proven his own versatility by working at both fine dining restaurants and on a short-lived barbecue food truck. Together with business partner Joe D’Jassebi, Spittal is hoping this venture appeals to those with discerning but versatile palates.

The lunch menu includes “starters” like a $10 ahi tuna tartare (ginger-chili mayo, spring onion and seaweed salad); salads like the $8 Leek house salad (mixed greens, grilled pear, smoked red onions, chevre cheese and herb-cider vinaigrette); “handhelds,” or sandwiches, like a $14 Maine lobster roll (lemon-terragon mayo, bibb lettuce, Napa slaw and garlic fries); and main courses like the $24 Maryland crabcake entree (English pea and roasted corn succotash, whole grain mustard remoulade and garlic fries).

The dinner menu includes a $7 fennel and leek soup appetizer (poached lobster and orange-anise cream); a $10 Leek bistro burger (hickory smoked bacon, a choice of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and garlic fries); a $20 falafel crusted salmon entree (roasted garlic-garbanzon puree, red onion and tomato compote, cool cucumber nage) and a $18 lemon-chili roasted chicken (red potato and green leek hash, garlic brussel sprouts and herb olivata).

Desserts include sweet corn panna cotta (caramel corn, poblana creme Anglaise and tortilla tuile) and black sesame-pear tea cake (candied ginger and coconut gelato).

Beers on tap include Magic Hat #9, New Belgium 1554, Flying Dog Black Dog IPA, Brooklyn Winter Ale and Sam Adams Oktoberfest, among others. The wine collection hails from California, Washington state, Virginia, Italy, France, Australia, Argentina and South Africa, among other locales. The artisan cocktail menu includes Blueberries Maryland (blueberries, fresh rosemary, smoked maple syrup, club soda and Gran Marnier), Dirty Ginger (ginger honey, fresh lime, Krug Rose and Meyers dark rum), and Virginia Royal (pomegranate, fresh raspberries and Barboursville Brut).

Happy hour will include both food and daily drink specials.

As for the Ballston location, Spittal says he’s excited to be opening in a still-growing area that has city-like foot traffic outside of D.C. proper.

“Arlington is a great neighborhood that has come a long way,” he said. “It’s not a suburb anymore.”

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