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The dish was described on 2941’s prix-fixe lunch menu in the barest of terms: East Coast halibut, heirloom tomato, tomato gazpacho, basil salad. The early (out of?) season tomatoes did give me pause, but I ordered the entrée anyway. What chef Bertrand Chemel plated was something I never could have imagined: the halibut version of tomato and mozzarella salad. Let me explain: Chemel, former chef de cuisine at Café Boulud, prepared the halibut as medallions, which were laid atop slices of yellow tomatoes, then surrounded with the delicate gazpacho and topped with thin ribbons of asparagus, julienne red peppers, and other garnishes. The medallions were so fresh—and so moist and firm and white—that they took on an almost mozzarella-like quality when paired with the tomato preparations. Each garnish then added these precise little complementary flavors (a woodsy note here, a piquant one there) that only heightened the dish’s sense of freshness. I savored that lunch as if it were my last meal, seasonal tomatoes or not. This is the kind of creative cooking that Chemel has brought to 2941 since he arrived from New York, and he’s not the only master in the kitchen. Pastry chef Anthony Chavez turns out terrific seasonal desserts, while Patrick Deiss produces a wide line of in-house breads, some so good you’re tempted to gorge yourself on them before Chemel’s handiwork even arrives.2941 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church, (703) 270-1500
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