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Cassatt’s Café Updates Menu, Hires New Executive Chef

Cassatt’s Café, the New Zealand bistro at 4536 Lee Highway, is rolling out a new dinner menu today.

The restaurant is introducing new dishes with ingredients and preparations from other parts of the globe, which will be offered in addition to the usual New Zealand classics. Behind the additions is a new executive chef, Evan Synder.

Synder has cooked at several local restaurants, including the French-Belgian restaurant Marcel’s in Washington, and Volt in Frederick, Md. The Le Cordon Bleu, Orlando, graduate most recently worked as the sous chef at Jose Andrés’ FISH at the MGM casino in Oxon Hill, Md., according to a press release.

“Dishes like Charred Cucumber with Mint, Dill Yogurt & Casovertrano Vin speak to Chef Snyder’s appreciation of Middle Eastern cuisine (specifically Israeli food) and personal love of bold flavors,” said the press release. Other new, less-than-Kiwi menu items include a $16 octopus shawarma dish and a $14 haloumi cheese plate.

The rollout of the new menu is happening on Waitangi Day, a significant New Zealand holiday celebrated annually on Feb. 6.

The restaurant, named after American impressionist painter Mary Cassatt, has been in business for 15 years. It is located in the Lee Heights Shops.

Photos courtesy Cassatt’s Cafe

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Water & Wall Offers ‘Pop-Up’ Chinese Menu

Virginia Square restaurant Water & Wall, located at 3811 N. Fairfax Drive, is offering a “pop-up” Chinese menu for lunch until Aug. 29.

The “Uncle Paul’s Kitchenmenu, named for Water & Wall co-owner Tim Ma’s uncle, debuted almost three weeks ago at the restaurant, Ma said. It includes Chinese-inspired dishes, like Kung Pao Pork Belly, and more traditional Chinese fare, like “Uncle Paul’s Zha Jiang,” with prices ranging from $6 to $10.

The Zha Jiang is like a Chinese ragu, which Ma said the Chinese community jokingly calls “Marco Polo noodles, because Marco Polo came to China and took the recipe back, and that’s where Italian pasta comes from.”

The dishes from Uncle Paul’s Kitchen are smaller than regular entrees, reminiscent of dim sum, which allow customers to order two or three at a time. The lunch menu is available daily from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

“We are essentially running two restaurants here,” Ma said. “We have the kitchen divided for the Chinese stuff and then the rest of the storage space and refrigeration is for the regular restaurant stuff.”

Water & Wall opened eight months ago for dinner, and served only its French-inspired dishes. In mid-June, Ma, his parents, their “old school Chinese” air conditioner repairman, and some Chinese cooks were having a Chinese dinner and had the idea for the pop-up menu, Ma said.

“We were joking around, saying ‘Well this is more like a Chinese restaurant than an American or French place,'” Ma said.

From the idea’s inception, it took Ma two weeks to create the menu, which drew from dishes that his uncle served at his traditional Shandong restaurant “Paul Ma’s Kitchen,” in New York in the 1980s, Ma said.

“He had incredible success there with these homemade recipes,” Ma said. “It was like impossible to get a reservation there.”

The food Paul Ma cooked for his nephew, while living with him at Tim’s Virginia home, also inspired Ma’s lunch menu for Water & Wall.

“He continues to tell me things that I should tweak and things that I should add,” Ma said.

Ma also owns a restaurant serving American food in Vienna called Maple Ave Restaurant. For now, Ma is not sure whether Water & Wall will debut its planned lunch menu of French fusion dishes at the end of the month, or create something else closer to the pop-up menu’s choices.

“This has been really well received thus far,” Ma said. “We have a better response with the dishes my uncle created back in the day.”

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South Block Smoothie to Add Espresso, Change Menu

(Updated at 10:35 p.m. on 10/27/11) South Block Smoothie and Wrap Co. (3011 11th St. N.) in Clarendon is adding to its list of offerings.

South Block’s new espresso machine just arrived today (Oct. 26), and the eatery plans on serving coffee drinks brewed with Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso starting in November.

A manager tells ARLnow.com that the staff and atmosphere at the newly opened shop will remain the same, but owner Amir Mostafavi is tweaking the menu. In addition to serving coffee drinks, certain menu items — like Boar’s Head deli meat paninis — will be added.

There’s no specific launch date for the coffee bar and changed menu, but apparently it’s going to happen “sometime before Thanksgiving.”

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Shirlington Restaurant Week Starts Monday

(Updated at 7:35 p.m.) Right on the heels of tomorrow’s Capitol City Brewing Company 2011 Oktoberfest at Shirlington, another event in that neighborhood touts good eats and good prices.  The first annual Restaurant Week at The Village at Shirlington begins on Monday.

Prices are considerably lower than neighboring cities’ restaurant weeks. Lunch includes two courses for $15 and dinner includes three courses for $25.

The following restaurants have listed their menus for the event, which runs from Monday, October 10, through next Sunday, October 16:  Aladdin’s Eatery, Aroma Indian Cuisine, Bistro Bistro, Bonsai Grill, The Bungalow, Busboys & Poets, Capitol City Brewing Company, Dogma Bakery & Boutique, Extra Virgin Modern Italian Cuisine, Johnny Rockets, Luna Grill & Diner, PING and Samuel Beckett’s Irish Gastro Pub.

To coincide with Restaurant Week, there will be an event on Thursday geared toward ladies. During Shirlie’s Girls Night Out many of the businesses will offer discounts and specials like cocktails while you shop.  The participating stores and eateries are: Ah Love Oil & Vinegar, CakeLove, Capitol City Brewing Company, Dogma Bakery & Boutique, Extra Virgin Modern Italian, Hardwood Artisans, Le Village Marche, Nirvana Reflexology, Periwinkle, Signature Theatre, Studio Salon & Spa and T.H.A.I. Shirlington.

Times for the specials vary by business, but most start at 5:00 p.m.

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Healthy, Locally-Sourced Food… At a Diner?

When you think of diners, the greasy spoon image is the one that typically comes to mind. But Silver Diner is determined to appeal to a higher, more healthy culinary calling. The local chain, which includes the iconic location in the heart of Clarendon, is now calling itself “the next generation diner.”

As Stacey Viera writes at Every Food Fits, Silver Diner has launched a new menu that includes fresh, healthy, locally-sourced options.

Robert Giaimo, Silver Diner, Inc. co-founder and President and CEO said, “Diners are reflective of how people eat today… To get eggs from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, direct to Silver Diner, it costs about fifty cents more per omelet. When we surveyed the consumer, he said he’d pay more… This is a farm-to-table [operation] on a much, much broader basis than ever before. With this menu, we found that we had to go all the way with consumers,” and completely revamp the restaurant’s supply chain.

Stacey reports that Silver Diner had to increase its food costs by almost $375,000 in order to launch the new menu. But the effort has produced some dishes worthy of consideration by even the most experienced foodies.

“Try the new Grilled Wasabi Salmon Sliders for an infusion of Omega-3s, a salad with some of the sweetest strawberries around, and treat yourself to the gluten-free Mini Brownie Sundae,” Viera advises.

Read more at Every Food Fits.

Photo courtesy Stacey Viera.

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