Falls Church, VA 22042
Tel: (703) 270-1500
The best (and only) thing that the 2941 restaurant has going for it is the setting. Those who can afford to splurge will be welcomed at the entrance with a large a koi pond adorned by miniature fountains and lighting effects that distract from the tall office building that looms over the restaurant. Gigantic floor-to-ceiling windows offer an impressive daytime view of nature, though as darkness falls, this view disappears, save for a handful of illuminated trees.
What 2941 lost in luster, it gained in arrogance.
When 2941 first opened in Falls Church back in 2001, it was all the rage, deservedly so. Our several meals there between 2001 and 2007 were spectacular. Each experience was marked with top-notch customer-focused white-tablecloth service and excellent food. After numerous reincarnations over the last decade, all that remains from the once-breathtaking dining is solely the beautiful setting.
We contemplated a spot in the Northern Virginia area where to mark a special occasion on a cold Fall evening. Armed with a gift card we received from an acquaintance, we browsed 2941's website's Fall 2017 menu, pre-selected what we would like to try, including appetizers, entrees and desserts, and on a Thursday afternoon phoned the restaurant to make a Saturday dinner reservation. As one of us is a flexitarian, leaning vegetarian, we inquired with the courteous young lady who took our reservation on the phone whether it would be possible for the restaurant to whip up something vegetarian off the menu that is other than the two seemingly vegetarian options listed on their menu - a heavy cream Porcini Risotto and a mushroom dish that includes Shitake mushrooms and Portobello mushrooms in a mushroom broth (whew, both are for an avid mushroom lover!). The courteous young lady asked whether we were celebrating a special occasion, indeed, we answered, we were.
She assured us that on Saturday afternoon we will receive a call from the restaurant telling us exactly what vegetarian meal the Chef will be preparing and she noted our special occasion on the reservation. We never actually requested to know what exact dish will be prepared, only made an inquiry and voiced our preference. To our surprise, our phone rang only one hour later on the same Thursday afternoon, re-promising us a call on Saturday.
Ironically, the twice-promised Saturday call never came. When we arrived at the restaurant on Saturday evening for our celebratory dinner, it was clear that not only was neither the staff nor the Chef aware of our vegetarian dish request, they were also unaware of our marking a special occasion.
We decided to overlook the obvious miscommunication among the restaurant staff and make the best of our special evening. However, what followed was a series of disappointments from confusion among servers to seating changes to hot radiators to wobbly (very wobbly) tables to dirty napkins to tragically bad food and an overall dismissive attitude. We will spare you all the peripheral, though pertinent, details that contributed to our unpleasant dining experience, and get straight to the food.
The restaurant's printed menu (pictured below) carried a title identical to the menu on their website, namely "Fall 2017," however differed significantly in the selection. We were told the website does not keep up with regular updates. Oh, well.
We ordered two appetizers that by a strange coincidence were listed both on the website and on the printed menu - The Mushroom Tartine and the Crispy Calamari. The Mushroom Tartine arrived on a wooden slab, as pictured below. The rustic bread served as a grease-dripping boat for the bland chewy mushrooms. It was difficult to eat, as picking up one of the bread slices caused the mushy middle to collapse into a heaping mushroom mess on the table, yet cutting the rock-hard bread crust with the dull butter knife at the table was similarly difficult. Folks, rarely something is so bad that we send it back to the kitchen, in the case of this mushroom appetizer, it was not a difficult choice to make. As for the Crispy Calamari, it contained more "crispy" than "calamari," and the accompanying sauce, which we left barely touched, tasted like 3/4 vinegar and 1/4 mayonnaise, highly acidic and unpleasant.
As a side note about mushrooms, we like mushrooms as much as the next person... however, the restaurant seems to offer a noticeable mushroom overload on its menu, it is some sort of a mushroom obsession. Just because something is in season, doesn't mean you have to rely on it so heavily, especially on a menu as small and limited as the one in 2941. Bottom line here, people, if you like mushrooms, run! don't walk to 2941, quick, while their "Fall 2017" menu is still in effect.
For our entrees, we ordered the Nantucket Bay Scallops from the printed menu. Unfortunately, the Spiced Corn Ravioli with lobster, scallops, clams and chorizo turned out to be one of the numerous website menu mirages. The $37 scallop dish came in a wide-rimmed kitchen bowl measuring probably about 8" in diameter with tiny scallop bites. What looked like a white sauce with some potential for dipping was actually a leak-laden viscous "sweet potato confit" beneath the scallops... sadly it was barely 1/4 inch deep and was quite bland.
We asked our waiter to request that the Chef make a vegetable dish, preferably with no squash, for us. Our waiter brought out this beauty pictured below - a square plate with two arched slabs of blanched cabbage drizzled with balsamic vinegar and two crisp paper-thin crostinis encircling.... you guessed it, our friends!!! two tiny piles of bland MUSHROOMS!!! The blanched chewy cabbage, again, was impossible to cut with the butter knife provided on the table, so we asked our waiter Jean-Mark for a steak knife. Paradoxical, yes. The saddest part of that was that when we were able to finally cut and taste the food, it was so tasteless, that we had to send it back, to chase the bad appetizer. As a result, one of us was left with neither an appetizer nor an entree. Even an attempt to dip a piece of bread into the "sweet potato confit" proved futile, as there was so little sauce in that tiny bowl.
A small aside on the topic of vegetarian-leaning flexitarians, or vegetarianism, if you will permit us. The trend across restaurants, up and down the scale, has recently maximized on offering its patrons delicious vegetarian creations, be they listed, or not, on the restaurant's menu. A strong case can be made that Chefs can (and should) be unabashedly judged on their creative flexibility to concoct impromptu phenomenal vegetarian dishes for a vegetarian that accompanies their flexitarian or carnivorous friends to restaurants. Anyone can season a chunk of meat, soften it with some salt or vinegar, call it an exotic name, and place it on a plate with some garnish. Making a great vegetarian meal takes a lot more imagination and skill.
As an example, we recently dined at L'Auberge Chez Francois, which is truly one of the best restaurants in the D.C. metropolitan area. Here, the Chef, with no prior warning at all, improvised a beautiful delectable vegetarian dish in one of the most amazing sauces we ever tasted. This is really the value of a truly great Chef - the ability to create an amazing dish with the ingredients on hand, per customer's dietary request, and make it amazing.
Speaking of vegetarians or vegans no longer having to be limited to bread and water, the absolute best thing about 2941 was Edwin, who not only kept our water glasses filled and our bread bowl replenished (after all, for one of us that was the entire meal!), but he also had a positive energy and such a pleasant demeanor, that he ended up being the only staff in the restaurant who brought a smile to our faces and made us feel welcomed! Thank you, Edwin!
To try and salvage what little of our celebratory spirit was left, we were determined to order the rich dessert for which we had prepared our taste buds when browsing the restaurant's menu online only two days earlier - The Chocolate Napoleon! The description made our mouths water, especially because it came with maple ice cream! Once again, 2941 did not cease to disappoint. AND YOU GUESSED IT AGAIN! The dessert for which we trekked out to 2941 was unavailable! It was another website menu mirage.
There was no apology, no conciliatory gesture from the restaurant for anything. In fact, the arrogance and dismissiveness was so thick you could not cut it with our dull butter knife that was on our table.
While the restaurant still gets busy, there must be some appeal to some, no doubt, as its own website touts it as "one of the most celebrated restaurants in the metropolitan area." The ambiance of high ceilings, larger-than-life paintings and meditative style music has its admirers. The real draw for repeat customers is a welcoming staff and delicious food. That's what counts. And that's where 2941 falls short. Very very short.
Much-ballyhooed Koi Pond at the restaurant's entrance
THE REAL 2941 Fall 2017 Menu, not to be confused with the menu on its website by the same name
Bread, water and butter - for one of us that was the entire sad meal
Calamari appetizer with dipping sauce that tasted like 3/4 vinegar and 1/4 mayo
Mushroom Tartine Appetizer - A grease-dripping mushy boat of bland mushrooms garnished with grass, it was so bad we sent it back
Nantucket Scallops entree in a tiny bowl with barely a quarter inch of sweet potato confit sauce
A Chef-improvised attempt at a vegetarian creation, which was bland and tasteless, also sent back
Unrolled napkin with black spots all over it, on a wobbly table that had to be wedged by our waiter, so it wobbled less
THE REAL 2941 DESSERT MENU Fall 2017, different from the one on the restaurant website, which, as explained to us, does not get updated regularly, and even the print menu may change without any notice
Some kind of a dry jelly square that was rolled in layer of thick sugar. One bite was more than enough.