Diners could travel Leesburg Pike approaching the beltway and not know that along their trek they would pass mere feet by the Idylwood Grill & Wine Bar. The massive Idylwood Plaza all but obscures it to passersby. And those who make the trip down Pimmit Drive and enter the area tucked behind Idylwood Plaza that houses the restaurant might find that small strip mall less than inspiring. But stepping into the Idylwood Grill & Wine Bar seems to transport those who enter far away from Falls Church.
The destination of that journey, though, is unclear. A Tunisian flag mounted on a shelf and elephants shown in a muted embroidery across booths are some of the accents of the décor. Images of rustic buildings are set along the walls, their warmth echoed in orange walls. A map mounted above the bar shows the entire Mediterranean region, and that best approximates the surroundings and the cuisine. The disparate pieces come together not as a mismatched jumble, but as collaborating components of a pan-Mediterranean experience.
The meal begins with a plank of warm sesame seed-dotted bread and, should the diner wish, a bit of wine. The restaurant’s extensive wine list offers bottles mostly in the $30-$50 range, with a few topping the $100 mark, as well as single glasses of select wines. Those bottles, in shelves and racks scattered across the restaurant, become part of its design, a reminder of a culture and cuisine that recommends a bit of vino to accompany a nice meal.
The influence of Mediterranean cuisine is most apparent when considering the appetizers, most of which focus on water-found delicacies – salmon, scallops, shrimp, mussels and squid. The calamari comes two ways, both battered and fried ($8.25) and sautéed ($8.95), the latter highlighted as a popular and recommended dish. The sautéed squid pieces, flavored with garlic and shallot, are coated in a creamy tomato sauce, rich with a buttery taste. The sole non-seafood option among the appetizers is the Lamb Sausage “Merguez” ($8.50), serving the well-spiced sausage links atop navy beans in a tomato sauce with a red wine demi-glace, savory and with a pleasant suggestion of wine flavor.
The entrees menu section goes much further beyond seafood, featuring filet mignon, pork tenderloin and duck breast. The Lamb Shank ($22.95), another highlighted dish, plates a massive portion of hind shank, cooked fall-off-the-bone tender and flavored only lightly with a red wine sauce. The dish is accompanied by a lemon risotto with shiitake mushroom and spinach pieces.
The entrees also include a greater variety of seafood dishes, offering tuna steak, assorted fish fillets, crab cake, scallops, and shrimp, most served with pasta. The Salmon Gnocchi Pesto ($24.95) offers the pasta with artichoke hearts coated with a homemade basil pesto sauce. Stacked on the pasta is a salmon fillet, moist despite the grilling which leaves the fish scored with a nice char.
The Idylwood Grill & Wine Bar can leave customers feeling like they’ve had a refreshing fine-dining getaway, and if they’re not quite ready to return to the bustling world outside, they can always have another glass of wine and extend their stay.
Idylwood Grill & Wine Bar is located at 2190-B Pimmit Drive, Falls Church. For more information, call 703-992-0915 or visit idylwoodgrill.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Thursday: 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 5 – 9:30 p.m.; Friday: 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 5 – 10 p.m.; and Saturday: 5 – 10 p.m.