Saturday, July 10, 2010

Review: Arlington's Lyon Hall

Ever since I read this review at the Capital Spice blog, I wanted to arrange a dinner at Lyon Hall. It's a restaurant in Arlington, Va.'s Lyon Park neighborhood that can best be described as a Franco-German gastro-pub. Well, I dined there with friends a few days ago, and I had a mixed experience. First, here's the good news.

The wine and beer list offer a variety of choices, and the prices (especially for wine) are reasonable. My schnitzel was good -- slightly oversalted, but very tender meat and the breading was perfect. My two friends who ordered the roast chicken agreed that the white meat tasted better than the dark meat portions.

The mussels we got as an appetizer were good, and the white-wine broth was so amazing that we dipped a few slices of bread in that -- didn't want it to go to waste. Lyon Hall's cheese selection also gets a thumbs-up, both for variety and quality. On the ambience side of things, the restaurant has large windows that bring in a lot of light so there's not a cavernous feel about Lyon Hall.

The shortcomings at Lyon Hall? First and foremost, the noise. During the dinner hours, you may find yourself shouting at your fellow diner(s). We sure did. The restaurant placed hard-surfaced tiles on the ceiling, and those tiles (along with the floor and the glass) apparently cause soundwaves to bounce around everywhere. Lyon Hall should consider ways to lessen the cacophony. Frankly, the noise issue should have been on Lyon Hall's radar screen a long time before now.

Fries at a Franco-German eatery should be superb; the ones served at Lyon Hall are not. Unless something funky was happening the night we were there, Lyon Hall needs to give their fries an immediate overhaul. The basic frites they served with the mussels were droopy and lacked the crispness we'd expected. Just another 40 to 60 seconds in a fry-cooker might make the difference.

Unfortunately, the restaurant's duck-fat fries cannot be salvaged. We were excited to order these, but what arrived at our table was nothing like we'd imagined. The "fries" were essentially potato cakes -- roughly 2 inches thick and 4-5 inches long. Perhaps it was the thickness of the potato, but for whatever reason, they were not at all crisp. The inner potato had a bland taste, and the coating was also nothing to get excited about. Shouldn't everything cooked in duck fat taste incredibly good? That's what we thought, but this experience proved us wrong.

I will consider going back to Lyon Hall, but probably for a weekend lunch when the noise is likely to dip below the level we experienced the other night. I'd like to try some of their beers. If I go back, I will probably focus on appetizers, which sounded and looked like the smartest options.