Bazin's on Church

I’ve been to Bazin’s on Church on several occasions since it opened in 2006. It’s exciting to have a trendy, non-chain option right in Vienna, where I live. It’s located on the very charming Church Street. The street is adorned with cute antique stores, a fresh bread shop, frozen custard, and even a wine cellar right next door to the restaurant. Bazin’s on Church is a very charming restaurant itself, and definitely the neighborhood “gem” of Vienna. It’s small, with only one main dining room, and very simple, but modern at the same time. The simple ambiance of the brick walls and arched wooden ceilings makes you feel like you are having dinner at a wine cellar. They also have a really nice wine list to compliment. The food for the most part is very good. Don’t expect to be amazed (except for the apps), but do expect above average dishes, and satisfaction. The overall package (proximity, charm, and food) is why I continue to return.

Appetizers are the highlight of the menu. It’s also very hard to choose, since they literally have over 10 options, all sounding equally appetizing. I have never had a bad appetizer here. The delicate potato ravioli smothered in a lobster beurre blanc is decadent. The crispy oysters on a bed of pureed spinach are the best oysters ever to be served. Everyone that has tried these oysters has only raved and raved. The ravioli and oysters are constant offerings. Most of the other appetizers are seasonal offerings. I had delicious butternut squash ravioli with amaretti cookies in the winter months, and pesto pasta with chorizo and shaved parmesan in the summer. You can’t go wrong with any of the appetizers on the menu. I’ve even ordered 1 appetizer to start and 2 additional for my entrée. They are that hard to choose from!! On my most recent trip, for my cousin’s birthday, the 6 of us decided to order a different appetizer so we could all try one anothers. Great idea! The apps are very generous portions for sharing too. In short, don’t pass up the apps.

Entrees on the other hand fall short of the first course. Neil and I both agreed that we’ve had better experiences with their entrees when they first opened (2006). Since then I’ve seen a decline. They seem to be putting more focus on their starter menu and desserts (I’ll get to later). It’s a definite buzz kill, because the apps get you so giddy and excited for what’s to come. The entrees all sound appetizing on the menu. Most recently, a grouper on a bed of stone ground grits, spinach, with crawfish and a Cajun spiced sauce, didn’t live up. It was bland, and the sauce tasted, for lack of better words, “ketchupy”. The grouper, itself was seared nicely though, and the grits were yummy. My cousin, who’s vegetarian, ordered the seasonal offering of asparagus risotto. A nice blend of taste was definitely there, but the risotto was underdone…risotto is not meant to be served “al dente”. Neil ordered a pork chop that had a smoky bacon sauce and pearl onions. Again, the sauce was really bland…every bite left you wanting that extra spice to give it the right kick. The best part of his meal was the pearl onions, which he cleaned up.

Get your buzz back with dessert! Like the appetizer menu, there are also about 8-10 dessert offerings all made in house, and all divine. The strawberry shortcake biscuits release sweet juices when bitten into, from the berries that surround it. The warm chocolate tart is a solid offering.... can’t go wrong with dark chocolate paired with chocolate ice cream. Even better is the peanut butter tart. I don’t even like peanut butter in my desserts, but it's my favorite dessert there. I'd describe it as a peanut butter mousse sitting on top of a chocolate cake, and topped with a super thick layer of rich, velvety ganache. It’s just perfect. The hazelnut crunch bars are a fun treat, resembling the kit kat bar (originated by Michel Richard of Citronelle).

The service needs to be worked on. Some nights I’ve felt very rushed because they are trying to turn over tables quickly. It’s a small restaurant that’s always booked up, so it’s understandable. My way around this is to not order everything all at once…otherwise they will bring your entrée out before you have bitten into your appetizer. Chef Bazin’s wife is the general manager. She walks around throughout the night, but it’s obvious that she’s partial to tables that she knows. This restaurant has a lot of regulars. She could make a little more effort towards newbies (and I’m not even a newbie). I think the restaurant is starting to get a bit “cocky”…they know they have a following, great location, and barely any competition. I think they should be careful though, because it’s only a matter of time....

So, if you live nearby, definitely give it a shot, and don’t forgo appetizer or dessert. Also, you should hit the wine cellar next door, Church Street Cellars before dinner and do a few tastings. It’ll make for a fun evening. Reservations are a must!

Bazin’s on Church
111 Church Street, NW
Vienna, Va 22180

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