116 S. Alfred St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
CUISINE Modern American, Seafood
PRICE $$$$ (Over $31)
HOURS Open for breakfast and dinner daily; Sunday brunch.
NVM AWARDS Best Restaurant 2006
Best Restaurant 2008
Best Restaurant 2010
Best Restaurant 2009
Best Restaurant 2011
NEARBY METRO None
SPECIAL FEATURESBreakfast Weekend
By Warren Rojas
Food: 8.7 Ambiance: 8.3 Service: 8.3
I’m not one for karaoke.
But the weekly crooning fest hosted by the Grille at Morrison House is my kinda fun.
The reserved but relaxing lounge attracts all kinds, from traveling salesman actively bending the elbow while debating the subtext of the seminal anti-drinking flick “Harvey” to perhaps the most music literate karaoke singers of all time.
One white-haired gent belted out a haunting version of the original “Behind the Sea”—in its native French—that had the entire room swooning.
Then again, maybe it was the food.
Slivered Vidalia onions, egg and honey mustard form the heart of an ambrosial pie.
Duck hearts speared with fresh rosemary headline a game dish replete with foie gras-infused tapioca and winey chasseur sauce (excellent shallots).
A gourmet PB&J bears grape gelee and freshly ground peanuts pressed between fried brioche, with toasted marshmallow waiting in the wings.(November 2009)
By Warren Rojas
Food: 8.7 Ambiance: 8.1 Service: 8.9
The growing roster of reoccurring faces recorded during recent visits to the Morrison House would seem to suggest that locals have finally warmed to the Grille’s unique charms.
Where once only conventioneers and travel-weary out-of-towners prowled, now roam chatty neighbors (goblet-toting ladies pored over bottles and exotic bites before skipping out for a brisk walk home) and armchair dining managers—“You tell [chef] Dennis [Marron] to call me,” a woman told a cook whose seasonal salad she hoped to make a permanent fixture—who feel just at home here as they do in their own domiciles.
Or maybe word has caught on about the food.
Snails baked in a mouthwatering basil-walnut pesto returned escargot to our culinary radar.
Heirloom tomatoes are tugged in multiple directions courtesy of sweet chili vinaigrette (draws out the sugars in the under-ripe fruits), Thai peppers (each bite ignites internal roasting), lemon verbena sorbet and fried mozzarella balls (add salty, stretchy input to the dining equation).
A mini cream pie conceived of coconut-covered custard, sugary graham cracker and liquid chocolate is a Willy Wonka-esque treat.(November 2008)
By Warren Rojas
Food: 8.9 Ambiance: 8 Service: 8.4
Rather than divorcing the two, executive chef Dennis Marron seems determined to mix business with pleasure—tempting Morrison House’s globe-trotting clientele with his epicurean artistry.
Hidden within a boutique hotel, the Grille pulls no punches on pricing (expense accounts help). Still, the menu has enough built-in flexibility—including three-, five- or six-course tasting menus (wine pairings are $20, $30 or $40, respectively), a la carte options and bistro nibbles (truffled fries)—to accommodate curious locals.
A shrimp-salad teaser delivered even shots of sweet meat and fresh dill. Pork cheeks are showered in sweet thanks to a brown-sugar braising and caramelized shallots (sublime). Scallops range from raw (lemon-spritzed crudo) to ravishing (flash seared and enveloped in bacon foam) in four delicious bites.
A bison tutorial summons grilled loin meat flanked by smoky homemade sauce and a tartare burger that mimics traditional barbecue (pristine buffalo pulls off a great pulled-pork impression).(August 2006)
By Warren Rojas
F 8.0 A 8.4 S 8.0
A popular anniversary destination, the Grille at Morrison House is all about presentation and imagination. If only flawless execution always followed.
Guests can opt for the plush, leather bound chairs in the jazzier rear dining area or the more formal environs of the whitewashed front dining room. Chef Jay Cox's menu rotates with the seasons, but typically follows a standard four-course progression.
Onion soup always summons a steaming cauldron filled with ropey onions and bubbling Gruyère. Homemade ceviche is attractive but somewhat boring; fish is fresh enough but the diced onions and peppers are not as zesty as the traditional citrus salad served at local Latin eateries. A plate of dried chorizo rounds tucked into a welcoming bed of savory polenta-a delicious foil for the robust sausage-is a spicy-smooth symphony of delights. Chilled foie gras would fall short but for a squiggle of liquid raspberry, while duck confit ravioli works like magic. Elsewhere, an intriguing orange zest risotto braces tender Alaskan black cod. Braised short ribs are riveting, whereas a sizeable N.Y. strip is occasionally spoiled by too much time on the grill.(February 2006)
By Warren Rojas
There's no plaque commemorating some obscure visit by one of the Founding Fathers. And it's not yet a landmark on any of the historic Old Town walking tours. But that hasn't stopped area gourmands from wearing a path to the illustrious Grille at Morrison House-a fine dining destination that blends faux antiquity with genuine charm.
Design features like an all-brick exterior and a Romanesque courtyard fountain help the Morrison House mimic the colonial architecture of its Old Town Alexandria neighbors, though hotel and restaurant were established as recently as 1985. Inside, the conspiracy spills over into an elegant dining area decorated with traditional portraiture and antique gold-print wall paper. The minuscule dining room (holding exactly nine tables, although additional seating is available in the adjoining piano lounge) is controlled by a candid and knowledgeable wait staff trained to cater to your every need. Servers can discuss the broad menu options and corresponding preparation techniques involved in each selection with gusto, but also make time to regale first-time visitors with anecdotes about the hotel and other neighborhood attractions.
The rotating menu features four main courses, although patrons can cherry-pick items to compose as modest or as extravagant a meal as they like. Timeless favorites ring true (a butternut squash bisque envelopes you like a warm hug), but don't be afraid to experiment with unconventional pairings (a duck cônfit ravioli bathed in an Asian mushroom consommé is quite clever). A fresh fish special (flown in daily) gets top billing every night. Meanwhile, more traditional beef (heavenly short ribs fall to shreds after stewing for four hours), seasonal game (pounce on the venison medallions with wild mushrooms) and myriad pasta dishes (keep an eye out for veggie-laden risotto creations or anything featuring the homemade polenta) serve as standard bearers par excellence. Best of all, executive chef Jay Cox may very well deliver your entrée directly to the table and will likely send over a number of unexpected treats-a tomato bisque teaser was extra creamy, bordering on cheesy, while a pre-dessert gratinee delivered icy blasts of pineapple and orange-during the course of the meal.
Just be prepared to burst into song or clap along with newlyweds and anniversary couples, as this seems to be a popular spot for year-round celebrations.