The Dish doesn't have every dish you wish for, but we did seriously wish for every dish it has.
On my first trip to this newish "modern American"-style Chevy Chase eatery, which opened in July in the former Le Bistro space on South Ashland Avenue, my companion and I couldn't get past the appetizers. We ordered five of the six offered and made a meal of small plates.
The duck egg rolls ($11), three or four of them, were fantastically rich, with bits of Peking-style duck, carrot and cabbage wrapped in a thicker-than-normal won ton skin. It was crunchy and topped with an orange vinaigrette. They were heaven.
The carpaccio ($10) was a slight disappointment only because it was too thick. It's been my experience that carpaccio should be paper thin — sliced thinly and pounded even thinner — but what we had was still delicious. The raw beef had been rolled, garnished with arugula and horseradish cream, and served on toasted crostini. Excellent.
The "scallop potatoes" ($12) were a slam dunk. Scallops are tricky and a good test for any kitchen — just a minute to cook and a minute to turn into a hockey puck. Huge sea scallops had been pan-seared perfectly, beautifully browned on the outside and translucent on the inside, with hardly any tooth. They were placed on a thin slice of roasted potato, then served in a very light smoked Gouda cream. This was fabulous.
The shellfish steamer ($8) was one of the best I've had in Lexington. Mussels and clams had been cooked in and served with garlic, herbs and wine. Did I mention garlic? The clams and mussels were very tender and served with dry-grilled crostini for sopping the exquisite liquid.
For dessert, we sampled pumpkin crème brûlée ($6.50) and apple pie ($6.50). Both were brilliant. The crème brûlée was two-toned, with a very light vanilla custard on top and light pumpkin-flavored custard on the bottom, both smooth as silk and yummy. The pie, filled with apples and caramel, had an exceptional crust: very light and flaky flour- and shortening-based.
Also worth mentioning is The Dish's full bar service. They were pushing martinis that Monday night, but I wanted a glass of wine. Luckily, the restaurant offers an extensive list of exceptional wines. I found one I had tried during a review in Nicholasville: Hall cabernet sauvignon ($10.50 a glass), rich, chewy and berrylike.
That dinner for two, including tax but not tip, was $80.83.
On the second trip, we concentrated on entrees — chicken and dumplings ($18) and grouper on pumpkin ravioli ($22). The grouper was roasted and wonderful, and the savory pumpkin purée-stuffed ravioli (one huge one) was an unexpected treat. The pasta's intense pumpkin flavor was quite a contrast to the fish's sweetness. The sauce — browned butter and sage — didn't hurt a bit either.
The chicken and dumplings were a complete change from the traditional version of the dish that I ate at home growing up. Chicken tenders and turned parsnips were mixed with potato gnocchi — the lightest I've had in a long time — and a shiitake mushroom sauce. It was good, but it was just so strange that The Dish called it chicken and dumplings.
For dessert we had an interesting "hot" chocolate cake ($6.50) that was a play on the "hot chocolate" in the movie Chocolat. The folks at The Dish added hot chili pepper to the chocolate mousse garnish on top of a rich chocolate cake. The chili didn't make the topping any spicier, just brighter.
The other dessert, which we were told was experimental, was Frangelico ice cream ($6.50). More experimentation is in order. The hazelnut flavor was excellent, but the texture was pasty and grainy.
Dinner for two on this visit, including tax but not tip, was $93.55.
Service on both nights was quiet and professional.
The Dish isn't the cheapest place I've been, but with a few tweaks, it could become the best place.