Panache Restaurant – McLean, VA | Reviews

Pinnacle Towers South
1753 Pinnacle Drive, McLean

The times when you had to trek down to DC for a stylish restaurant with great food are finally over. Top of the line restaurants are doing the smart thing and coming to suburbs to find their customers. After years of serving discriminating DC clients, Panache Restaurant brought its great menu and beautiful décor to McLean.

Panache’s retro sleek interior is the brainchild of owner Aziz Safi with some help from a local boutique decorative painting company. Brown crocodile skin adorns the wall of the opening foyer and the main dining room is awash in cream leather with accents of dark red with crystal pendant chandeliers that add a glow to the space. The  lounge and private dining rooms feature vintage 1940s-textile inspired, custom stenciled walls which evoke the look of silk wall coverings. All of this just a stone throw away from your house and with affordable prices.

The moment you arrive, you are greeted by good looking young people who are not pretentious. Once seated at your table, you are given slices of bread varieties with a delicious Mediterranean creamy garlic dip. The menu offers guests dishes blending French, Italian and Spanish flavors. You have several eating options at Panache. You can keep ordering generously sized tapas dishes until you are full, or you can order few tapas dishes and try one of the delicious entrees. We did the latter and ordered Octopus Terrine, Escalivada Mediterranea and Ceviche. Let’s start with our favorite, Escalivada Mediterranea. The presentation of this dish is very impressive. Thinly sliced grilled eggplants,zucchinis and squash are rolled up like fruit rolls and served on a bed of roasted peppers and tomatoes. This vegetable medley is dressed with tangy house vinaigrette. When you bite into the veggies, you taste and smell the charcoal which takes you back to the Mediterranean. Our second favorite tapas is Ceviche. This is a form of citrus-marinated seafood appetizer that is popular in mainly Latin American countries like Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Both finfish and shellfish are used; finfish is typically raw while shellfish is typically cooked. Panache’s Ceviche includes scallops, cilantro, capers, chopped red onions and tomatoes as well. The dish is served in a bowl with colorful fried tortillas that you can use to spoon out this refreshing Ceviche mix. Octopus Terrine is an interesting looking tapas dish that upon arrival looks like a sushi roll. The bottom layer of the dish is a pesto based sauce mixed with roasted red peppers, mushrooms and flattened Octopus tentacles. The sushi looking part turns out to be a scoop of olive potato salad and beets wrapped with, you guessed it, flattened Octopus. This was my wife’s favorite dish.

As we were getting rather full from the tapas, we decided to split a main course. We left it up to our lovely waitress to pick it and she surprised us with Risotto Frutti di Mare. Risotto to us is one of those dishes that we love eating in restaurants, but never remember to cook at home. Panache’s risotto is served with jumbo sea scallops, gulf shrimp, chopped claims and fresh mussels sautéed with garlic, basil and white wine. The dish is finally mixed with chef’s signature spicy marinara sauce. Risotto was very creamy, yet not runny. We wondered if chef was influenced by Spanish Paella and New Orleans style Jambalaya dishes. Risotto Frutti di Mare is now one of our favorites in Northern Virginia. To top it all, we split a Crème Brûlée with a thick crust and tasty vanilla flavored custard. It was so fresh that Crème Brûlée was not even fully cold. We felt like we were eating a freshly made dessert from our mothers’ kitchen. Though we did not try any, Panache also offers a rich list of wines with over 120 different varieties, focused on small production, family-owned estates and organic/sustainable wines. Our verdict for Panache, go for lunch, go for drinks and scenery and go for dinner. Although the crowd is made up of mostly professionals in the area at lunch, moms and kids in tow are definitely welcomed.

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