Dining Food __Featured Slider — 14 January 2012
Restaurant Week in full swing

Alexandria’s eateries are inviting culinary arts fans from far and wide to whet their taste buds on the city’s finest dishes — and deals — during the winter edition of restaurant week.

Sixty restaurants are participating in the biannual event, including Michael Nayeri, chef and owner of Madison Street’s a la Lucia, a traditional Italian eatery nestled in North Old Town. Nayeri is offering up a grilled rockfish filet seasoned with fine herbs, sweetened by lemon butter sauce and served with sautéed fennel among other dishes for the weeklong culinary celebration.

He chose the rockfish, which originally hails from the waters off of North Carolina, because it is the best piscine currently on the market. It’s quick to cook, Nayeri said, just a few minutes on the grill.

“It doesn’t taste like fish; it will just melt in your mouth,” he said. “[Grilling the rockfish] adds the smoke flavor and makes it more fresh, if you ask me… The grill itself creates a nice flavor.”

The fennel adorning the small, roughly three-pound fish is thinly shaved and braised in olive oil, garlic and hot peppers. But if that doesn’t sound particularly filling, keep in mind the entrée comes with a choice of appetizer and dessert.

At 219 Restaurant, chef Jean Claude hopes to draw patrons in with a New Orleans inspired barbeque shrimp dish. Think Worcestershire sauce, butter, white wine and a few minutes on the pan before joining a plate accompanied by creamy grits.

It’s not the only southern style dish on the 200 block King St. eatery’s restaurant week menu — 219 Restaurant also offers blackened salmon with rice pilaf — but Claude considers it an homage to the Big Easy’s eats.

“I’ve been to New Orleans, I’ve tasted the shrimp,” he said. “It’s a good dish.”

Claude won’t reveal everything that goes into the meal – just the basics – but it includes pepper flakes and a few Cajun spices. Interested customers will find it a bit on the spicy side, he said.

With restaurants in Old Town, Del Ray, Carlyle and on the West End participating in the 10-day smorgasbord, there’s a cuisine for any taste up for sampling. For $35 patrons can either enjoy a prix-fixe three-course meal or a dinner for two during the event, which formally kicked off on Friday.

And if a stop by 219 Restaurant is in the cards, don’t be surprised to find Claude and his coworkers tweaking their recipes. It wouldn’t be fun otherwise, he said.

“We change it a little bit, the recipe, and make it interesting,” Claude said. “We play with food – that’s what we do.”

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