Vegetables are about to get significantly more airtime at 2941 Restaurant in Falls Church. Chef Bertrand Chemel launches his “Meatless Monday” eight-course vegetarian tasting menu Oct. 5, just in time for fall’s bounty.
“We tried this a few years ago, but it didn’t really have a big impact,” Chemel says. “But things are changing—chefs are more aware, and they’re doing more composed dishes instead of just five side dishes.” He’s referring to the time both a vegetarian tasting menu and regular tasting menu were offered side-by-side every day of the week. The new edition is far more than a relaunch because it has more finesse and more courses.
By offering the special menu exclusively on Mondays, Chemel is both capitalizing on the cutesy “Meatless Monday” phrase that’s now a popular social media hashtag and creating demand. “When you create the demand, sometimes it’s more successful than doing it all the time,” he says. “It’s like Christmas: If every day were Christmas, my kids wouldn’t care about presents anymore.”
Highlights from the $70 per person menu featuring five savory dishes, a cheese course and two desserts include the following dishes, but don’t get too attached because seasonality will dictate frequent changes:
- Beet carpaccio with Meyer lemon sabayon, Parmesan and nasturtium leaves
- Butternut squash velouté with apple cider compote
- Warm mushroom tartlet with roasted porcini, shaved celery and mushroom foam
- Burratta raviolo with black truffle, broccoli puree & florets and Parmesan
- Couscous en papillote with caramelized lemon, fall vegetables and chermoula
The couscous en papillote is a particularly memorable dish because it provides drama—something vegetarian diners aren’t always privy to. Often, they’re left on the sidelines as a server fillets a Dover sole tableside. But Chemel does his part to give them some action when he snips the plastic encasing the dish, causing a Mediterranean-spiced steam to escape.
The cheese course also stood out, but not just because of Chemel’s culinary prowess. He took a cue from one of his line cooks who is Ethiopian. “One day she made family meal for us. It was like a rolled crepe with meat inside, and I really liked the sourness of it,” Chemel says. “I wanted to give it a bread texture, so we tried to bake it, but that didn’t work, so we fried it.” That’s why you’ll find chips made out of injera, Ethiopia’s signature sour bread, serving as the holster for creamy cheese served alongside fig coulis.
Optional wine pairings are also available from sommelier and beverage director Jonathan Schuyler for an additional $65 per person. Schuyler says pairing wines for vegetarians is on some level no different than pairing for an omnivore’s plate. “While meat may set the weight of a dish, sauces, spices and vegetables always set the tone of the pairing,” he says. However, the sometimes shallower body of a dish calls for leaner wines, which is why you can expect to see grapes like gruner veltliner, chenin blanc, garganega, cabernet franc and other cool-climate varietals being poured by Schuyler for vegetarian tasting menu guests.
As of right now, 2941 Restaurant plans to offer the “Meatless Monday” vegetarian tasting menu through December, unless demand, as predicted by Chemel, is high. “The idea is to see if it will attract people on Mondays. Then maybe if it works very well, we could offer it during the week or every day.”
The whole table does not need to participate in the tasting menu, and while it’s not required to reserve the vegetarian tasting menu in advance, it’s helpful to mention it when making a Monday reservation.
2941 Restaurant, 2941 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church; 703-270-1500
Laura Hayes hails from Philly (but don’t hold it against her). She’s been covering the local dining scene for three years, and her work has been published in the Washington Post, Food Network, Washington City Paper, Arlington Magazine and more. Having lived in Japan for two years, she finds herself in a constant state of craving sushi. Laura always orders her favorite savory dish again for dessert and keeps her gut in check through lots of CrossFit classes.