“In the back of our minds, we always knew we would reopen,” recalls Lage. He and his wife, Rebecca, are also proprietors of Market Table Bistro in Lovettsville and Market Burger in Purcellville. When Cocina on Market in Leesburg shuttered last June, they had plenty on their plates — literally. The chef’s own Fairbrook Farm, which supplies his restaurants with everything from pigs to maple, ensures that. But one thing in short supply for restaurateurs then and now is staff.
A five-year lease begun in 2017 meant that Lage was determined to get back into the historic bank building on West Market Street. He did so at the end of June. But a staff for his restaurants that once soared into the 80s has condensed to around 20. For the summer, Lage closed Market Table Bistro to allow for remodeling and to focus on Cocina. But fans shouldn’t expect the upscale Mexican restaurant that excelled at Oaxaca’s seven core moles and a bar of tequilas and mezcals.
The “younger gentlemen” now in the kitchen don’t have the experience with classical Mexican fare that would allow for that, says Lage. The new Cocina on Market borrows some items from his other restaurants, including its own former identity, but is more a chance for Lage, whose experience ranges from DC’s Oval Room to three-Michelin-starred Michel Bras and Pierre Gagnaire in France, to improvise.
“We’re not going to be selling $8 tacos,” he admits. “The approach to the menu is still going to be what’s in season and what we like to cook with.” That might include anything from Vietnamese recipes to, yes, a Rapidan River Ranch steak with mole negro.
“There’s always going to be some Mexican on there because I’m really passionate about that food,” says Lage. And from mac and cheese with chorizo and salty chicharrones to agave-lacquered whole duck, we are just as full of ardor for what’s coming out of the kitchen once again. 7 W. Market St., Leesburg