Secret Chopsticks may sound like the name of a hush-hush supper club, but there’s nothing underground about the newest restaurant headed to Rosslyn. The 120-seat Chinese eatery in the Turnberry Tower condo development will center around ambitious nine-course tasting menus from chef/partner Robin Li.
Li grew up in mainland China, but moved to the United States in 2000 and joined the US Navy, where he coincidentally fell into a restaurant career after winning a cooking contest that sent him to the Culinary Institute of America. Secret Chopsticks will be his first US venture; he also opened a steakhouse in China after graduating from the CIA. He says his vision for the Arlington restaurant is to introduce Washingtonians to a different style of Chinese cuisine, emphasizing authentic flavors but using classic French techniques and formal white tablecloth service.
Guests in the dining room can pick between four tasting menus to start: meat and seafood ($89), vegetarian or tofu ($59), and dim sum ($79). Each will be composed of nine courses, from soup to dessert, and can be accompanied by two beverage pairings that could include beer, wine, and cocktails, priced at $50 and $95 each. After the restaurant opens Li will also offer a 13-course chef’s tasting ($109) with a rotating series of dishes.
Though multi-course menus call to mind bite-size dishes, beverage director Malia Milstead says the portions are much larger than one would find at a Rogue 24 or Minibar. There’s also an emphasis on healthy preparations. Diners might find steamed Chilean sea bass with a spiced soy sauce among the meat/seafood selections, or shrimp dumplings and lamb-stuffed buns for dim sum. Perhaps the most interesting menu is the tofu, all of which is made in-house. The soy protein is served in a variety of ways, including poached, braised, and frozen with XO sauce.
Only the tasting menus will be served in the dining room to start, though guests can snack in a fairly roomy lounge space. There’s also a 60-seat patio that will open in warm weather. Barman Benjamin Flannigan designed Asian-inspired drinks such as a sage-ginger Champagne cocktail, and mojito made with green tea and jasmine-infused rum. A snacks menu will be offered with bites like spring rolls, sweet and sour crispy tofu, shumai dumplings, and more.
Secret Chopsticks is expected to open for dinner on November 17*, with lunch and eventually dim sum brunch to follow. Reservations will be accepted for the dining room.
Secret Chopsticks. 1850 Fort Myer Dr., Arlington; 703-812-8888. Opening hours for dinner: Sunday through Thursday, 5:30 to 9:30, Friday and Saturday, 5 to midnight.
* This date has been updated.