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Everybody has one: a restaurant that proves so disappointing on first visit that you avoid the place for months, if not years. Vermilion was that restaurant for me. In retrospect, though, I was only depriving myself. Chef Anthony Chittum’s most recent four-course tasting menu, if you discount the underwhelming deconstructed trifle for dessert, is a smart and fresh distillation of spring market ingredients. His sausage-stuffed squid, an unholy and unforgettable alliance of land and sea, is complemented with a lightly spiced bouillabaisse and perfumed with a sweet hit of frothy green garlic. His brandade-crusted halibut is practically buried in a vegetable garden of spring pea fricassee and wild ramps, each preparation as clean and bright as when the ingredients were pulled from their natural environments. Chittum’s regular menu channels the seasons with a similar creativity. For evidence, you need to look no further than the soft-shell-crab “BLT” with a fried green tomato, pickled red onions, bacon, and whipped avocado. The tart, breezy appetizer almost begs to be eaten on a wooden patio bench by the water, with a cool, light lager at your fingertips. I’m afraid my next course from Chittum will be a serving of humble pie.
1120 King St., Alexandria (703) 684-9669