By: Stacey Viera
What was once a small storefront in Shirlington Village, The Curious Grape is reincarnated as a charming restaurant and wine shop on South Quincy Street in Arlington, Virginia, near the intersection with Campbell Street, Shirlington’s “main drag.”
Upon entering through the glass doors, you’re greeted by a knowledgeable staff that can easily simplify the process of choosing wine. I don’t know about you, but no matter how often I drink wine (almost daily), I still have a hard time pinpointing specific characteristics that drive me to enjoy a vinho verde or Riesling or carmenere. The Curious Grape offers the expertise of Certified Wine Educator Suzanne McGrath, Certified Specialist of Wine Katie Park, and a number of certified wine consultants to help you choose a palate-pleasing wine.
Staying for a bite to eat? A delightful aspect of the menu is the “Pair With…” column located next to each starter, entrée and dessert. Here’s a quick list of my menu picks:
- The Virginia-grown asparagus ($9) with Meyer lemon vinaigrette, soft boiled egg and Speck ham was perfection on a plate. The crisp, green asparagus and sweet-tart Meyer lemon flavors made this a favorite. A close runner-up: warm baby artichokes ($9). Pair one of those with the 2011 Anne Amie Pinot Noir Rose “Midnight Saignee” ($4.50/3 oz., $8.50/6 oz.).
- The beauty of the menu from executive chef Eric McKamey are the half-portions available for several popular items. The lemongrass shrimp ($12 half/ $23 whole) is tasty and a bit more “lemony” than even the name suggests, and far and away the best dish I tried is the pan-roasted sea scallops ($12 half/ $23 whole). Creamy black rice makes the dish a winner, as does the bok choy and plum wine beurre blanc. I never met a tempranillo I liked until I tasted the 2010 Bodegas Arrocal Ribeira del Duero ($4.50/3 oz., $8.50/6 oz.).
- Listen up, folks. And listen good. If you go to The Curious Grape for nothing else, go for the pear crisp with 5-spice crumble & fennel ice cream ($3.50). Pretty darn affordable as far as desserts go, hurry up and get it before the seasonal menu changes. It’s the fennel ice cream that makes the entire dish. You’ll never look at the aromatic herb the same way again. Pair with a sweet dessert wine, such as a moscato.
Open from 7:30 am daily, The Curious Grape is not just for dinner. Stop in the café for coffees, espresso beverages, pastries, and sandwiches. (I haven’t tried any of those treats yet; several great reasons to go back!)
DISCLOSURE: The restaurant treated me to this delicious meal, but that did not impact my opinions expressed in the article.
Have you shopped at The Curious Grape for wine? Dined in the new 55-seat restaurant? Dish on your favorites!