Secret Chopsticks to Open in Rosslyn
Secret Chopsticks, 1850 N. Fort Meyer Dr. in the Rosslyn section of Arlington, will open Tuesday, Nov. 17, serving ambitious nine-course tasting menus from executive chef/partner Robin Li.
Feng shui with hand-picked, authentic artwork
Lika Fu of Dimensional Strategy designed the 4,400-square foot space with feng shui. Guests are greeted with iconic Asian statues, Chinese artwork and hand-painted umbrellas hanging from the high ceiling that Li brought from China. The columns are covered in bamboo and black marble accents. The walls are gray with a red accent wall. There are also wine walls displaying the restaurant’s wine selection. Black leather chairs and black tempered glass tables – bare in the lounge and covered with white tablecloths in the dining room – are accented with red candles. Come spring, there will be a 60-seat outdoor patio naturally canopied by trees. There is also a semi-private room that can seat 33 guests.
Healthy, authentic Chinese dishes
Li grew up in mainland China and moved to the United States in 2000 to join the U.S. Navy, where he worked as a cook and won a contest that sent him to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. After leaving the Navy, he returned to the Culinary Institute then returned to China where he opened the Fusion Wine Bar & Grill, a steakhouse. He returned to the U.S. in 2014 to begin opening the 120-seat restaurant in the Turnberry Tower condo development, his first in the U.S.
“Americans’ perception of Chinese cuisine is a little bit skewed,” said general manager and beverage director Malia Milstead. “It’s not a true representation of what they are doing in mainland China.”
Li’s vision is to introduce diners to contemporary Chinese cuisine served western style, emphasizing authentic flavors and healthy selections using classic French techniques and formal white tablecloth service. “First it has to be healthy, then it has to be tasty,” he said.
There won’t be any MSG or additives in the food, and only real Chinese ingredients, often grown in Asia, will be used.
Diners at the new restaurant won’t be handed the menu until after they’ve finished their meal. Only the tasting menu will be served in the dining room. Guests will choose between four options: vegetarian or tofu ($59), dim sum ($79) or protein with meat and seafood ($89). Each will include nine courses from soup to dessert. Two drink pairings can be added that include beer, wine and cocktails: $50 for five three-ounce pours or $95 for four three-ounce pours of high-end, allocated wines and one beer or cocktail. Li plans to offer a monthly 13-course chef’s premier tasting menu ($109).
Diners might find Portobello mushroom in vegetarian oyster sauce and Chinese yam with tomato sauce on the vegetarian menu, or sweet and sour crispy tofu and frozen tofu with XO sauce on the tofu menu. The tofu and all the dim sum will be made in house. Dim sum selections could include crab meat wonton soup and lamb stuffed bun, while the protein menu may include steamed Chilean sea bass and crispy durian pastry.
The menu will be dynamic, Li said, changing monthly, although some dishes could change nightly depending on what fresh ingredients his suppliers are able to get. “There will be a constant flow of things changing” so diners won’t get bored.
The 40-seat bar and lounge area will offer a la cart dining along with Asian-inspired specialty cocktails designed by Benjamin Flanagan such as the Qin Shi Martini garnished with a pan seared lotus root meant to be eaten, and YiYi Lin sage-ginger Champagne cocktail garnished with fried sage. There will also be 20 wines by the glass priced from $12-$25, six craft beers on draft and 20 craft beers by the bottle. One specialty cocktail will be only available during the 90-minute “Happy Work Ending” (Arlington County has laws prohibiting happy hour).
Secret Chopsticks, about two blocks from the Rosslyn Metro station, will be open from 5:30-9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 5 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday. Lunch and brunch will be added later.