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4009 Chain Bridge Road will not sit empty, vacant, waiting for an inhabitant.
Yesterday Jinson Chan walked out of that space with keys, as the stately Italian Villa Mozart exits the Fairfax City dining scene after a decade, and a craft beer bar with Asian street food enters, maybe as soon as January.
A former radar engineer and Department of Defense contractor, Chan, 41, is new to the hospitality industry. The chef and co-owner of Villa Mozart, Andrea Pace, 51, has lived in the kitchen for the past 35 years. He’s not done either. “It’s time to move on … we need changes in life,” Pace says of making the decision over the summer to sell.
He’s already thinking about what to do next, maybe open something closer to the city, or in the city, or maybe, he says, “get a little inn somewhere.” Pace, a native of Italy, says he’ll continue cooking the food of his homeland, but next time the tone could feel different. “I think people want the quality of food, but maybe a more casual look. That’s what my feeling is too.” For now though, he repeated often on the call, “I’m going to relax a little bit.”
Chan, of course, is in overdrive. His beer bar—and he wants to make sure people know beer is the star at High Side—is simple in concept, but ambitious in scope. There are 24 taps: four dedicated to cider; about 10 saved for known beer-world entities such as Bell’s Brewery and Stone Brewing; and the rest will feature local beers, microbrews and eventually collaborations between the bar and breweries.
“We really want to elevate the craft beer, craft beer is the focus,” says Chan, which is why he hopes to design beers, like a green tea IPA, basil New England-style IPA or guava sour, that will be enhanced by the mostly Taiwanese menu.
Chef Wayne Liu, a family friend of Chan’s, will develop a streamlined list of xiaochi, Asian small plates typically sold by street vendors. Items could include deep-fried chicken, popcorn chicken, Taiwanese sausage, salads, pickled vegetables and bian dang (like a bento box) with marinated pork, rice, braised egg and vegetables.
Though Chan is new to this field, his partner is Fito Garcia, who is a co-owner of Courthaus Social in Arlington, and the creative director is Mike Van Hall, a well-known designer whose work can be seen on the cans of Aslin Beer Company, whom Chan hopes to recruit for High Side’s taps.
Chan, who’s originally from Malaysia (his wife is Taiwanese) and has lived in the area since 2004, wants High Side to be “a midpoint for a lot of breweries,” especially those further out in Fairfax and Loudoun counties, where he can introduce beers otherwise found exclusively at breweries to a new audience. Chan is also working on innovative ways to incorporate the recent law allowing customers to bring beer and cider (just like wine) into restaurants.
“What I’m really trying to do,” says Chan, “is bring out the smaller breweries doing experimental beers and expose people to different styles of craft beer.” The emphasis on sharing is a reflection of the name.
Chan originally wanted to use the acronym SCIF, used for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. It’s a solitary room to discuss classified information and Chan always joked about wanting to bring in a beer. He decided on another riff. High side is also the name for a classified network used inside of a SCIF space—in other words, a place to communicate the most important information: good beer.