Sunday, January 8, 2012


It had been a while since we had gone to a nice restaurant, and I wrapped a silk scarf around my neck for the occasion. Fiola! I had missed the Maestro in his heyday at Tyson's Corner, and word had it that the food at Chef Fabio Trabocchi's new incarnation was more rustic. Still, I could tell by the pictures and some of the press that this was a fine dining establishment. Some critics had been disparaging of the attempt to fuse simplicity with sophistication, and many had pointed to the high prices charged for what was supposed to be a more accessible trattoria.

And so I was on my best dining behavior as we were led to our table in the beautifully appointed dining room. And remained so, as I savored the buttery dinner roll that was as delectable as it was reputed to be, and the salads that lived up to their exquisite reputations. But all of this changed abruptly with my first bite of the main course: branzino braised in olive oil, with leeks, malpeque oysters, and lemon-prosecco zabaglione.


I don't know if you can imagine how these contrasting flavors combined to inflame the passions, but before I knew it, I was ripping off that silk scarf and rolling up my sleeves. The mild fish flavor of the branzino was coyly dressed in the delicate zabaglione, with egg whites whipped as light and frothy as can be. But just as I was becoming attuned to this refined and mellow timbre, out popped a briny oyster, trumpeting its presence. That in turn gave courage to the prosecco, which revealed itself more with each bite. Every now and again, the leeks snuggled up close to the branzino, which could now no longer be described as coy. No, this was definitely not a dish to eat while wearing a prim scarf. I needed there to be as little between me and it as possible.

Perhaps it is the element of surprise -- a surprise planned by a mischievous mind -- that resonated so well with me. There was evidence of it as well in Chris' dessert, which was by turns hard and soft and sweet and creamy. Such food deserves to be eaten without awareness of time passing. Alas, the service at Fiola is rushed, and no matter how divine the food, it cannot transcend the feeling diners are given of being processed through the meal and ejected at the other side, the table vacated for the next reservation. In the end, Fiola felt neither refined nor rustic, but more like a corporate mill. An opera turned into an operation.

There is much talk of the bargain-priced power lunch served during the week at the bar. With no expectation of lingering, this might be the better way to enjoy Chef Fabio's genius.

Fiola on Urbanspoon

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