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The Dish: polenta soufflé
The Location: 100 King, 100 King St, Alexandria, (703) 299-0076.
The Price: $7
The Skinny: While it lacks the fragile, pin-prick inflations of the classic baked version, 100 King’s polenta soufflé opts for densely packed flavors over a lot of hot air. This small-plate concoction, created by executive chef Denis Soriano, has a crumbly, muffin-like texture, the result of carefully combining both coarse-grain polenta and flour-like cornmeal into boiling milk. Soriano cools this mush before adding butter, egg yolks, and parmesan cheese; he then allows the mixture to reach room temperature before folding in the egg whites, pouring the batter into soufflé dishes, and cooking it with a sprinkling of parmesan on top. It’s all fairly standard stuff until Soriano gets to the sauce—a surprisingly subdued blend of cream, black pepper, and gorgonzola cheese, which adds a perfect sharp, high note to the soufflé’s earthy corn-and-egg tones. You may be tempted to eat several of these savory little cupcakes, each accented with sliced mushrooms, and call it a (heavy) meal. But I suggest you pair it with Soriano’s Mediterranean fish soup ($9), a delicately perfumed bowl of scallops, halibut, and shrimp in a broth composed of tomatoes, fish stock, dry vermouth, onions, leeks, and a little orange zest to give it a touch of sweetness.