First Look: Bungalow Lakehouse

In Sterling, former Central chef Jason Maddens aims high—and sometimes succeeds.
Comfort food at its finest: blueberry crisp with vanilla ice cream. Photographs by Scott Suchman.
Comfort food at its finest: blueberry crisp with vanilla ice cream. Photographs by Scott Suchman.

On Saturday nights, nearly all of Sterling seems to pack into
the sprawling, 18,000-square-foot Bungalow Lakehouse—a restaurant with a
split personality. Just behind the host stand lies a dining room and
lounge with dark wood and hunting-dog paintings that recall the
horse-country aesthetic at Clyde’s. But look to the left and you’ll find a
more rollicking scene, with a sports hall, patio, and outdoor cigar bar
packed with a crowd putting down pints and lining up in front of
dartboards.

Head chef Jason Maddens, who once led the kitchen at Central
Michel Richard, grew up five minutes from the restaurant—as a kid he
scrubbed dishes at the defunct Lone Star Steakhouse, in the same building.
Here he aspires to make food that both befits his fine-dining skills and
appeals to less adventurous appetites.

(Left) Roast lamb is set next to white-bean purée, olives, and zucchini and finished with basil-scented jus. (Right) Seared scallops with cauliflower, haricot verts and brown butter.

Sometimes he nails it. Take his quartet of pork from a
Virginia-bred pig—a rosy grilled chop with house-made sausage, belly
confit, roasted shoulder, and tangy mustard slaw—or his textbook roast
chicken with silky meat, crisp skin, and jus-soaked mashed
potatoes. Rich bits of bacon cling to the cheddar-coated pasta spirals in
the macaroni gratin, the best of the current lineup of sides. Starters
include beautifully fried brandade balls and a peppery country
pâté.

In sharp contrast to those successes, the cauliflower
“couscous”—desert-dry crumbles—ruined a plate of sea scallops. Worse
still: a four-cheese-and-garlic flatbread with a wet, steamy texture, a
limp crust, and a coating of oil.

The plot turned again at dessert. Fans of crisps will fall hard
for the warm blueberry version here—a simple pleasure, sure, but from
crunchy crust to buttery vanilla ice cream, Maddens gets all the details
right. It’s a dish worthy of his pedigree, yet altogether appropriate for
the atmosphere and a broad audience—and that’s the sweet spot for Bungalow
Lakehouse. The chef’s challenge: to find a way to hit it every
time.

Bungalow Lakehouse. 46116 Lake Center Plaza, Sterling; 703-430-7625. Open daily for
lunch and dinner. Starters $6 to $16, entrées $10 to $34.

This article appears in the June 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.

Head chef Jason Maddens.
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