It’s a sad fact: Most restaurants don’t improve, and this bistro—the more serious sister to the quirkily lovable Maple Ave Restaurant—stumbled when it opened a little more than a year ago. Chef/owner Tim Ma appeared to be groping after an identity. But Water & Wall has since proven to be that rare and wonderful thing: the place that gets better as it goes.
The space lacks the character of his first place, but the softening touches in the room, which occupies the ground floor of an office building, help. It helps more that Ma has found his purpose in the kitchen, blending his classical French training, love of Asian flavors, and fascination with Southern culture into an appealing mix.
On a recent visit, the chef’s opening act—a plate of seared scallops with yuzu and dashi broth, and a soothingly rich oyster stew—was dazzling. The bigger surprise was that dessert, an afterthought for many chefs, was its equal, thanks to a stunning chocolate/peanut-butter tart. The wine list features a number of good Virginia bottles—don’t miss a supple red blend from Rappahannock Cellars.
- Chicken-liver-mousse crostini
- Fried calamari with sudachi (a Japanese citrus) aïoli
- Duck confit with maple gastrique
- Lamb shank with mint chutney
- Steelhead trout with white-bean purée
- Chocolate bread pudding