1120 King St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
CUISINE Modern American, Bar/Pub Grub, Wine Bar
PRICE $$$ ($21-$30)
HOURS Open for lunch, Monday through Friday, dinner daily, brunch Saturday and Sunday.
NVM AWARDS Best Restaurant 2012
Best Restaurant 2007
Best Restaurant 2010
Best Restaurant 2008
Best Restaurant 2009
NEARBY METRO Blue Line(King Street) Yellow Line(King Street)
By Warren Rojas
Food: 8.9 Ambiance: 8.4 Service: 8.5
Eating local reigns supreme at Vermilion, a neighborhood retreat prone to one-upping nature by recasting farm-fresh ingredients in daring compositions.
(Just don’t tell the bar crowd they’re actually eating/drinking healthy. It might spoil their Bacchanalian romps.)
Chef Anthony Chittum is equal parts topographer and alchemist, artfully transforming everyday foodstuffs—be they animal, mineral or vegetable—into edible landscapes reflective of his boundless culinary vision.
Fried soft shell crab and green tomatoes topple convention in a domino-like arrangement anchored by pureed avocado and festooned with strips of lusty bacon and acerbic frisee.
Tzatziki-drenched pork, piquant onions and crumbled feta are piled high in a gourmet gyro (chef Chittum: Please adopt the more is more philosophy and load the crunchy, seasoned fries into the pita for a pork and potatoes party).
A citrusy closer pressed candied fruits into frothy mascarpone enveloped by ricotta pound cake.(November 2009)
By Warren Rojas
Food: 8.8 Ambiance: 8.3 Service: 8.5
Staying red hot in the hospitality game requires daring, determination and just a little bit of luck.
Vermilion toque Anthony Chittum has the former two in spades—preferring to fuel his good fortune by firing up some of the most exciting food around.
A student of seasonality, Chittum has most recently pursued a dedicated vegetarian tasting menu (plucked from the finest produce of the day) and has even applied the farm-to-table philosophy to monthly cocktail specials (cheers!). And a trio of budget-minded “power lunch” deals (hover from $11 to $19 for a two-course spread; add wine or dessert for $5) gave the midday crowd something new to smile about.
Homemade boudin, replete with pork, rice and Cajun spices, and skillet-fried cornbread (pleasantly scorched on one side) arrive smothered in hot peppers and caramelized onions (lordy!).
Grated porcinis grant golden fries just the right amount of spice to stand up to a mouthwatering hanger steak bolstered by sweet-savory-smoky homemade barbecue sauce.
Charred lemons, shaved goat cheese and panko bread crumbs take Duroc pork for a crunchy, citrusy ride.(November 2008)
By Warren Rojas
Food: 8.6 Ambiance: 8.3 Service: 8.2
Imagination and innovation seem to drive the Vermilion kitchen. Which is why this come-as-you-are dining gem is able to deliver the goods whether kicking back with gourmet pimento dip (a piquant party for one) or turning up the charm with mind-blowing tasting processions.
The totally relaxed atmosphere (comfy sofas invite prolonged lounging; low-key lights keep prying eyes at bay) makes it easy to forget your troubles, if only for a few hours. Bubbly staff keep thing breezy, but never slouch when it comes to proper service (tables are regularly patrolled; dish descriptions and daily specials roll right off the tongue).
Meanwhile, executive chef Anthony Chittum spends all his time spinning seasonal ingredients from local suppliers (Dragon Creek Aqua Farm, Davon Crest Farms) into fanciful new forms.
Anise-spiked chicken presides over a Mediterranean feast of cinnamon-y pancetta and liver kebabs, supplemented by Italian wheat sprinkled with pine nuts and dried cranberries. Barbecue pork loin spits fire atop grilled cornbread (absolutely incendiary swine). Elsewhere, fudge mint chocolate chip-capped brownies flanked by mint gel sends shivers down the spine.(December 2007)
By Warren Rojas
Food: 8.5 Ambiance: 8.3 Service: 8
Chef Anthony Chittum, who most recently kept watch over the D.C. kitchens of Notti Bianche and Dish, has used his particular brand of culinary magic to turn Alexandria’s Vermilion white-hot.
No longer merely a wine bar or after-hours spot, the Neighborhood Restaurant Group-owned Vermilion now boasts some of the most refined cooking within the local dining chain. Whereas cocktail junkies used to pace through the dining room until a spot on one of the plush chaise lounges in the back or an open bar stool materialized, foodies are now coming around to drink in and devour the restaurant’s seasonally pegged manifestations.
Chittum has taken to re-tooling the menu about every other month—a move that stokes such powerful get-it-while-you-can buzz the most popular dishes tend to sell out before the end of your average dinner rush.
Savory sweetbreads flanked by savoy cabbage and pomegranate seeds are the stuff of legend. Diver scallops in caramelized truffle oil provide the sweet, while mini-stacks of gratin potatoes surrounded by sauteed leeks come through with the salt. Crab imperial stuffed-trout (blistered skin, stark-white flesh) is absolutely wonderful with homemade spinach fettuccine. Elsewhere, brassy roast chicken hits the barbecue mark, only to be sabotaged by a limp citrus-shelled bean succotash.
Look for nearly two dozen mixed whites and reds by the glass (all under $8), plus half-glass pours offered for, you guessed it, half-price.(February 2006)
By Warren Rojas
It’s rare to find a tony eatery that doesn’t take itself too seriously, particularly if the joint becomes a hometown favorite or a media darling (or god forbid, both). But somehow, success has yet to spoil Vermilion—a celebrated addition to the King Street corridor boasting a kitchen helmed by culinary whiz kid Chef Bobby Beard and a bar swarming with local devotees just about every night of the week.
The modest storefront blends in with the rest of the Old Town scenery (don’t bother looking for velvet ropes or ear-piece toting security studs, there are none). But behind the door awaits a well-appointed interior—the exposed brick entryway to the bar, gas lamp fixtures in the main dining area and flowing tapestries scattered about the restaurant are all the more eye-catching against the deep red walls. A widescreen plasma television above the main bar makes keeping up with the game a snap. It’s hard to find an open seat anywhere during the happy hour crush—cut-rate appetizers and specialty drinks are offered from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. each week night—whereas sofas opposite the bar serve as prime real estate for late-night revelers.
Parched throats can seek solace in a specialty drink roster featuring half a dozen “coolers,” a dozen martinis and another half dozen mixed drinks (all $7 a pop). The lip-smacking King Street Lemonade (Absolut Citron, white Port wine, soda, crushed mint, lemon wedge) is easy to sip or swig, depending on your ultimate objective. Likewise, the festive jimmies around the rim of the Birthday Cake Martini (Absolut Vanilla, Sprite, pineapple juice) can turn an ordinary cocktail hour into an impromptu party (birthday suits—optional). The restaurant also fields an extensive wine list featuring an ambitious mix of boutique vintners and industry standards.
Appetizers run the gamut from no-nonsense gnosh like a ballpark-worthy soft pretzel with mustard or the homemade hummus, to more inspired dishes like the addictive risotto fontina cakes (think gourmet cheese-sticks). Meanwhile, the grilled bison hanger steak serves up lean cuts of marinated beef (about six bites per serving) alongside drops of fresh mozzarella and grape tomatoes.