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THESE DAYS, THE JOURNEY INTO D.C. IS NO LONGER NECESSARY FOR HAUTE CUISINE. YOU’RE A POSH WOMAN—WHY SHOULDN’T YOU EAT LIKE ONE? WHETHER IT’S CELEBRATING A PROMOTION, AN ANNIVERSARY OR JUST A DATE NIGHT OUT, LIFE IS FULL OF SPECIAL OCCASIONS WHERE TAKEOUT JUST ISN’T GOING TO CUT IT. THANKFULLY, LOUDOUN COUNTY HAS PLENTY OF UPSCALE DINING OPTIONS THAT WILL TAKE YOUR EVENING OUT TO THE NEXT LEVEL. SO GRAB YOUR TRIBE AND VISIT ONE OF THESE THREE RESTAURANTS FOR SOME TRULY POSH EATS.
Need a romantic night out, or just want a few small plates before a night out on the town? Stop into Casa Nostra, right in the heart of downtown Leesburg. In the space formerly occupied by Palio’s, Casa Nostra is a restaurant that toes the line between traditional and contemporary Italian cuisine. Coming to Casa Nostra isn’t just a night out—as owner David Saavedra puts it, it’s an evening where you’re invited to “our house.”
With everything being made in-house from scratch, fresh, quality ingredients are a must in the Casa Nostra kitchen. Under the watchful eye of executive chef William Walden, a Leesburg native, cream is whipped by hand, pasta is rolled daily and soufflés are timed perfectly from oven to tableside.
“We really care about what we serve,” said Saavedra. From fresh ingredients to impressive presentation—order the Dover Sole and enjoy watching it be deboned tableside with two spoons—Casa Nostra strives to provide an experience to keep their guests coming back. “They’ll get something a little extraordinary for their buck here,” said Walden.
Not only does their menu hit all the right notes for Italian comfort food, they also make it a point to keep prices reasonable for the average client. They offer both family-style portions for sharing around the table, as well as individual portions at a lower price.
For the adventurous foodie, start with their Polipo Alla Griglia, a grilled octopus with Peruvian fingerling potatoes and pesto that is a nod to Saavedra’s childhood memories of diving for fish with his father in Lima, Peru. For the more traditional Italian lover, try their Antipasto Alla Casa Nostra which is an impressive spread of prosciutto, salami, artichoke hearts and housemade mozzarella.
If you’re looking for fish, the salt-crusted Branzino is a winner, or if you’re going for pasta, try the Pasta Alla Casa Nostra, their take on fettuccine alfredo, but using tagliatelle gently bathed in a sauce of shallots, garlic and cream with delightful little touches of Proscuitto de Parma. And make sure you save room for dessert: the Fiorentina di Pecan is a beautifully crafted bowl of pecan butter filled with macerated berries and vanilla gelato, a sweet and playful way to end the meal.
A restaurant based around chocolate might raise a few eyebrows, but in the hands of owner and chef Santosh Tiptur, it is an experience that is deluxe, delightful and delectable. “Trust me, it’s a hard sell,” Tiptur laughed, referring to clients’ initial perceptions hearing the concept of the restaurant. “It’s hard to explain what kind of experience you’re going to have until you come try it.”
Tiptur’s impressive and extensive culinary career—including winning the Food Network’s “Halloween Wars”—has taken him all over the world and has influenced his cooking, leading him to create dishes that build layer after layer of flavor.
Like Tiptur’s dishes, his restaurant is also multifaceted. Take a seat at their gorgeously appointed bar for a bespoke cocktail, perhaps the Moussetache for a cool, creamy chocolatey confection complete with a chocolate mustache ,or their take on an Old Fashioned. Attend a class on the weekend or even send your kids to their summer camp! Browse their chocolate boutique to take home some treats: they have a wide variety of treats that utilize local ingredients like chocolates made with wine from Stone Tower. The connection with others in the industry is a bonus Tiptur appreciates, with his previous restaurant Co Co. Sala in D.C.
“It’s a close community,” Tiptur said. “I really see a lot of difference working in a city versus working here. They’re so supportive of each other.” Tiptur’s thoughtful dishes are presented beautifully and simply, with the flavors being bold and unstoppable. Chocolate is woven into each dish in a unique and subtle way, never making your entree feel like you’ve rushed onto dessert. The chocolate burgundy reduction drizzled over their New York Strip Steak – rubbed down with cocoa — provides an rich earthiness to the tender steak, served atop a sinfully creamy roasted garlic and goat cheese puree and accompanied by broccoli tossed in a citrus vinaigrette.
Fish lovers will enjoy the Seared Scallops, pan-seared and dusted with cocoa and a citrus zest — a creative take on a familiar dish that is bright and floral. Or, try the Citrus Crusted Cod, a lightly crunchy fillet of cod atop a tower of polenta, with fresh marinara underneath, topped with Yuzu Tobiko.
But the true showstopper is The Conche Entremet, a dessert to shame other desserts with its multi-layered explosion of every kind of chocolate your taste buds could desire. Wheeled out on a bar cart and set on fire tableside, this dessert’s conception and creation is a testament to what this modern day Willy Wonka can craft with a little bit of imagination and a whole lot of chocolate.
Highly anticipated and beloved by the community, AhSo in Brambleton is quickly becoming one of the most talked about restaurants in Loudoun County, after only a few months of opening their doors.
“There’s really nothing that’s chef-driven in the area, with a dynamic menu,” said Jason Maddens, owner and Chef of AhSo. “I think we’re a refreshing update to the area.” While many restaurants boast of sourcing their produce locally, AhSo puts its money where its mouth is, not only purchasing their produce from local farms but also serving as sponsors for the Brambleton Farmers’ Market, which meets right in the town center where AhSo is located.
Sourcing produce locally is a driving force behind his menu, which changes frequently. “The idea is, when we run out of something, we don’t replace it,” said Madden. “We replace it with something new.” The relationship with local farms is one he welcomes. “We’re at an advantage, being so close to all these farms,” said Maddens. “And when we’re able to be a part of a community that appreciates us using products that are grown locally, it makes us excited, and we put that much more into the plate.” A Sterling native, who attended kindergarten with AhSo’s bartender, Phil Duong, Maddens spent three years at college studying to be an engineer. However, with his Italian parents’ blessing (to his surprise), he left engineering to attend L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg.
With experience at fine dining locations like 2941 in Falls Church, Michele at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons and his first restaurant, the much-lauded Clarity in Vienna, Maddens created a foodie’s paradise in AhSo. Being in a neighborhood, repeat clientele is a given, and Maddens welcomes the challenge to keep people coming back for more.
“Every time you come in, you might see some old favorites, but you’ll definitely see some new stuff,” Maddens said. “[Clients] are putting their trust in your hands. When they come in here… they’re putting their faith in us that we’re going to give them a good experience. It’s really cool.”
Start with one of their charmingly-named cocktails (“Orange You A Spicy One” and “Honey I’m Comb” for example) before heading onto your main dish. While we can’t promise these items will be around forever, the Grilled Bavette Steak is a surprise in each bite—a playful combination of beautiful rich summer flavors. It’s hard to choose the best part of the dish- perhaps it’s the unexpected smoky flavor in the tomato salsa or the corn shoots. For dessert, the Lemon Mousse is a light and airy confection, with a center of lemon curd tucked inside the frothy little cake. Fresh berries, lemon pound cake, a orange tuile and a shortbread crumble creates a study in extremes—crunchy to smooth, tart to sweet—with the luxurious lemon curd tying it all together with its brightness.
TRACI J. MEDLOCK is a Northern Virginia native and the owner and primary photographer of Traci J. Brooks Studios. When not behind a camera, she enjoys cooking with her husband, sampling craft brews and hanging out with her cats.