Now THAT is a True Adventure in Gastronomy

With Randy out getting liquored up wine-tasting in California, I invited the usual gang of friends over Friday night for what I had expected to be take-out food, board games, and wine. Only two different have previous engagement so they arrived around 7:30 and we brain-stormed what to do for dinner.

Being the spontaneous lot that we are (sarcasm) we decided to try eating out. Unable to come up with a local option nobody had tried before, I suggested a restaurant I pass by every day on my way to work: Prose.

A coworker had told me that the food was quite good, but the owner quite eccentric. I relayed that information to Chris and Zach and after a quick look at reviews on Yelp (most said food was good, but service was peculiar, to say the least) I called to make a reservation and we walked on over.

The first words to greet us upon entering were “Are you pressed for time?”. Um, as a matter of fact, no. The woman, dressed in rolled up pants (or very long striped shorts), a white shirt, and doo-rag covering her wavy salt-n-pepper hair, led us to a table in the corner.

I must admit the space isn’t much to write home about. But I loved that nothing really matched. Our table had the most fun salt and pepper shakers; one shaped like a retro refrigerator, the other shaped like an old stove.

There were two other couples in the restaurant, but it still took a while for the waitress to drop off menus and water. It was about this time that we realized that the hostess, waitress, busboy, bartender, dishwashwer, cleaning crew, and chef were all the same person. Yep, this restaurant was run by one single person. There was no staff.

We looked at the menus (a single sheet of standard copy paper slid into one of those transparent plastic report covers with holes for a 3-ring binder) and, I must admit, I got scared and wondered if we should sneak out. There was not a single item on there that I would have ordinarily ordered. Every single item had at least one ingredient that I didn’t like (or, didn’t THINK I’d like).

I was wrong.

So, the menu was filled with things like rabbit and octopus and kim chi. She serves everything in small plates so you get to sample numerous things. I can’t recall everything we ordered, but the meal started off with the most delicious home made bread. It looked like Wonder Bread, yet was heavy and dense. It had the most amazing taste, not quite sour dough, and at times bitter yet sweet. I couldn’t get enough of it.

We started with a pear and spinach salad with pecans and raw milk Roquefort cheese (I should mention that she only uses locally grown produce). I think the dressing was a plum-vinegar. It was delicious.

We also had the rabbit and chicken liver pate (which was amazingly tasty on the mini pickles it came with (and the bread). Then there was some dandelion stem (leaf?) salad with heirloom tomatos and the fattest, tastiest bacon I’d seen in my entire life (seriously, the pieces were 1/3 of an inch thick).

Then came the spicy beef with kim chee. Although not a spicy food fan, I did try it and liked it (but in very small amounts since it was quite potent for my tastes). We finished off the meal with an anchovie, cauliflower, and sun-dried tomato pizza that was quite tasty (albeit salty…as anchovies are known to be). The home made dough was great.

Chris also got a surprisingly good (very dark “stoudt”) beer from Belgium (she has a surprisingly good beer menu).

All in all, we were there over two hours. The food came very gradually, one little plate at a time. But all of the food was good. Best of all, dinner for three people, including Chris’s beer, was only $55.

I find that amazing. I mean, you’d spend that much for two people in a chain restaurant that essentially mass-produces it’s food in an assembly line. Here, everything is made from scratch, by one single person. Every menu item is unique and unusual (to most Americans who tend to eat rather safely).

The menu changes daily, I believe, so I’m very curious to return and try other things I normally wouldn’t.

As I said, the reviews online almost unanimously praised the food but considered the owner rude. I didn’t find her rude at all. Quirky? yes. Eccentric? yes. But that was half the charm. Actually, that was probably the only charm since the decor, as I said, was minimal. But she was more than friendly and is extremely talented. The food seemed like the sort you’d find at an extremely fancy restaurant (probably French), yet without any of the pretension or exorbitant prices.

So, if you’re sick of Not Your Average Joe’s or the Cheesecake Factory and want to have some truly inspired food, check out Prose, in Arlington. As the restaurant’s FaceBook page says, you can expect: “Poetry-Level Cuisine at a restaurant named Prose”.

Just be sure you’re not pressed for time.

3 Comments

  1. Comment by Lise on August 16, 2010 12:42 pm

    Cool – thanks for the tip! Won’t go to Za’s all the time now

  2. Comment by Randy on August 16, 2010 2:08 pm

    shame i missed it but i had some good indian food and then pizza and bbq over the weekend. oh yea an lots of yummy wine

  3. Comment by Jeffrey on August 16, 2010 5:18 pm

    The people that think that lady is rude are probably the Cheesecake Factory demographic.

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