As anticipated, Pines of Florence has closed in Virginia Square. The owners of a new restaurant going in at 3811 N. Fairfax Drive have wasted no time in preparing to transform the space.
Tim Ma and Joey Hernandez, known for Maple Ave Restaurant in Vienna, are bringing Water and Wall to Arlington. Ma said Pines of Florence moved out the last couple days of June and the Water and Wall folks brought in designers and engineers right away on July 1.
The concept will be similar to that of Maple Ave, which the chef alternately calls “eclectic American” or “creative American.” Ma said he’s classically French trained and another chef at Maple Ave is Burmese trained. Their different cooking strengths will allow for simple fare such as a chicken sandwich, and more inventive dishes featuring rabbit or sweetbreads.
“The food encompasses a large amount of cuisines. We’re able to put things like a soft shell crab with a Burmese curry, alongside something like a rabbit roulade — which is something you’d associate as very French,” said Ma. “Essentially that’s what American food is now, just a mish mash of all types of cuisines.”
No menu has been devised yet for Water and Wall, but the chefs are testing ideas at Maple Ave Restaurant.
“Maple Ave evolved as the kitchen evolved, and I expect kind of the same thing to happen here,” Ma said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to do items that we’re not able to do at Maple Ave given the limited space. That will take shape as we figure out the kitchen here.”
Ma and Hernandez had originally wanted Maple Ave to be in Arlington but it wasn’t a good fit when they were looking to launch four years ago. Now they feel ready to make the leap from a restaurant of about 10 tables to one of about 25 to 30.
“The economics and scale of that [Vienna] restaurant made more sense for a true mom and pop, which is what me and Joey are,” said Ma. “As we grew at Maple Ave it made sense that we wanted to return to where we were originally looking.”
Ma said he and Hernandez like mix of business and residential spaces in Virginia Square, as well as the overall vibe.
“We kind of like how Virginia Square is a little more quiet. It’s not the hustle of Clarendon or Ballston, it’s a little more relaxed. Yes, we’ve become more destination dining, but we’re already destination dining in Vienna,” Ma said. “We’re happy with that. We’re not in the crowd and the competition of Clarendon. There’s really, really good restaurants there, there’s so many choices now. Hopefully we provide another option here and perhaps fill a niche that doesn’t exist yet in Virginia Square.”
The crew behind Water and Wall hopes to open the restaurant by November 1. Ma acknowledged that such a goal may or may not be met, but he’s patient. He noted that it took four years to get to the point where a second restaurant became a reality, and said extra time just allows for a better opportunity to get things right.
“If the permitting process takes longer, it takes longer. That’s just the way it’s going to have to go down,” Ma said. “The magnitude, the scale of things is different from what we’re used to so we want to make sure we get things done right. Arlington is a different city than Vienna and we want to make sure we cross all the ‘t’s’ and dot all the ‘i’s’.”
Despite striving for perfection, Ma admits that mistakes are also a part of the process.
“We’ve taught ourselves so many things. There were so many mistakes we made, and I’m sure we’ll make here. We’ll make all new mistakes, the same quantity of mistakes, but they’ll just be completely different,” he said. “Hopefully we’re here for a while and learn from those mistakes.”
Although the interior has been cleared of the furniture from Pines of Florence, major renovations have not begun on the restaurant space. Ma said he has a mix of excitement and nervousness about launch the project he and Hernandez have been working on for more than a year.
“I’m just really excited to see how Arlington receives us,” he said. “We’re really stoked about this.”
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