Art on a Plate at Farrah Olivia

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In January 2005, the Food Network broadcast its first episode of Iron Chef America. In March 2006, Bravo broadcast its first episode of Top Chef. As a result, I am an armchair gourmet, eating vicariously, week after week, as I watch chefs turned celebrities compete against each other. I dream of being amongst the panel of judges who taste and evaluate a barrage of culinary creations, each presented on the de rigueur chefs canvas of a square, white plate.

A few weeks ago, at six oclock on a Saturday night, I really wanted a good meal. I telephoned my two perennial favorite restaurants, but they were booked solid. 

At a dinner a few weeks earlier, a woman had gone on and on about Farrah Olivia, the 2006 replacement to the inconsistent Blue Point Grille, adjacent to Balduccis on Franklin Avenue off Washington Street. So I called. Yes, they were booked, but could take my party at 7:30 p.m. on the patio.

While I felt grateful to have a reservation within the city limits on a Saturday night, it was not my first choice, nor the second, and it was bundled with a grocery store. Moreover, I would be dining on the patio, resplendent I imagined, with evening bugs, melted ice in sweaty glassware, poor lighting and a waitstaff trained in the art of avoiding the people eating outside.

Upon arrival, my jaw dropped as we were whisked beyond French doors to our table. Above us were meticulously strung white lights, ceiling fans at appropriate intervals enticing a gentle breeze, and a linen-hued canopy, creating a room of enchantment without walls, made all the more dazzling by the muffled street sounds and the darkness that fell to the edges of our oasis.

At once, we were joined by Roberto, a tall, handsome, pristinely-pressed waiter, who was our tour guide on this tantalizing ride. His assistance penetrated the evening as he led us around the menu, making suggestions, explaining every ingredient and displaying his extraordinary mixology skills, culminating in the dessert course with the most divine chocolate martini I had ever imbibed.

Deciding on the open menu, five-course plan, we made a point of ordering different dishes, so by dinners end, we had each sampled 15 unique masterpieces. Each plate was more beautiful than the next, individual works of art against alabaster. 

The painted gazpacho, actually two soups presented together, was mysteriously juxtaposed within the same bowl, as if airbrushed, fittingly forming the Yin Yang symbol. 

Without gimmick, several dishes were presented deconstructed, each ingredient strategically placed, allowing the diner to build the perfect bite. The seared scallop appetizer, encircled first with liquid peanut butter, then paprika oil, with a tiny mound of bacon crumbles to its left, bacon powder to its right, danced in the mouth when a bit of each ingredient was married on the fork.

Other dishes, such as the amuse bouche goat cheese beignet, centered on the plate with a spot of basil and aioli sauce, offered yet another perfect bite, no construction necessary.

Farrah Olivia is the brainchild of Chef Morou Ouattara, previously executive chef at D.C.s Red Sage and a competitor on the Food Networks The Next Iron Chef against Bobby Flay. Chef Morou, as he prefers to be called, was born in Ivory Coast, West Africa. His American cuisine combines French, African and Middle Eastern flavors, and he has painstakingly orchestrated the Farrah Olivia dining experience so that no other elements compete with the plate laid before you. The feng shui atmosphere, with the absence of any real color, draws your eye down to each work of art, plated for your palate, tastes perfected, demanding your respect.

By the third course, my trust in Chef Morou was complete. Little surprise, there is no salt and pepper on the tables. You will not need them.   

We continued the Farrah Olivia experience with his 12:30 p.m. brunch the next afternoon. This time, Roberto was the days primary mixologist, and Khadija was our own Julie McCoy, cruise director.

Ordering from the four-course menu, I chose the lamb burger as my entree. Upon its arrival, I was in a moral Morou dilemma. The beautiful burgers only dressing was a mint pesto, and for a split second, I almost requested mayonnaise, but stopped short. Closing the bun, I bit into the most incredible taste sensation, the pesto complementing the lamb, topped with small chunks of feta cheese, tomato and sprouts.   

Each dish is a marvelous surprise, personally wrapped and ribboned by Chef Morou, a culinary genius and a great showman. Turning armchair digital dreams to reality with his beautifully plated creations, he is a gift to Alexandrias dining community, and the most delightful luck I ever stumbled upon, searching for a good meal on a Saturday night.      
    
Farrah Olivia by Morou serves dinner every evening beginning at 5:30 p.m.; brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays beginning at 11:00 a.m.  Free underground parking.  For reservations, call 703-778-2233 or visit farraholiviarestaurant.com for more information.

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