We recently got together with Tom’s parents to celebrate his birthday. A special guy deserves a special dinner, so his mom Sue made the excellent suggestion of Clarity in Vienna.
Diners have a prime view of the organized chaos of the kitchen from any seat in the house, a relatively unusual setup for the area. It seemed our table was not ready when arrived, so we had the special treat of being seated in the intimate wine cellar directly behind the kitchen. However, there didn’t appear to be a bad table in entire dining room.
The atmosphere is one of relaxed elegance, but the real draw is the aroma of freshly baked bread wafting throughout the bright and airy space.
The bread arrived promptly to our table, and we dug in immediately. The variety changes day by day. On this particular evening we were treated to a dense and delightfully chewy walnut bread.
For a first course, the baby iceberg wedge salad with fried green tomato, roasted pepper coulis, pimento cheese dressing and duck bacon beckoned to all of us.
I love the crunch of a good wedge salad, but don’t always love blue cheese dressing. This version was a wonderful twist on the classic with a hint of smoke from the red pepper coulis and plenty of twang from the pimento cheese. The addition of the fried green tomato and duck bacon kept things from feeling too standard.
For our main courses, the majority of the table went for seafood while I broke the mold ordering the Pipe Dreams goat roulade “au vin”.
The meat was heavily marbled and very tender with deep, smoky flavor. Surrounding it were turnips, potato confit, carrots, pearl onions, kale and a braising jus resulting in a very elevated version of pot roast. My family likes to tease Tom and I for all the “weird” food that we eat, but if you’re averse to trying non-traditional proteins I highly suggest starting with goat. In this iteration, I doubt you would know you weren’t eating beef if it wasn’t pointed out on the menu.
Andy couldn’t resist the pan roasted black bass with a Swiss chard tart, fennel puree, spartan olives, root vegetables and charred lemon jus.
The fish was cooked to perfection and the seemingly complicated list of accompaniments worked together to form a perfect harmony of textures and flavors. Andy raved about this dish and, after taking a bite, Tom joined in as well.
The restaurant apparently does seafood very well. Tom and Sue both ordered the American red snapper with red wine braised mushrooms, sweet white turnips, kohlrabi, roasted peppers and a smoked potato broth.
Tom said the snapper was incredibly fresh, the skin nice and delicate and crispy. Everything was set off by the complexity of the smoked potato broth.
Clarity is starting to make a name for itself with its desserts, and since it was Tom’s birthday we knew we had to go for it.
After much discussion, we settled on the pineapple upside down cake and a chocolate hazelnut cake.
The pineapple upside down cake won our favor with candied pineapple on top of the soft cake. The chocolate hazelnut cake was tasty as well, though a bit dry.
Overall, Clarity provided a delicious and festive meal for Tom’s birthday. The only dim spot was that we received slightly spotty service. It seemed at times that the tables opting for tasting menus were getting a little more love than we did. Sue spoke with several of her friends who have visited the restaurant and they reported that service was hit and miss for them as well. But with food as fresh and thoughtful as we received during this meal, I’m more than willing to overlook this one misstep.
Speaking of the tasting menu, it’s five courses and available for $72 per person, with the option to at wine pairings for an additional $38. In December, Clarity began offering special occasion tasting menus with reserve wine pairings in their wine cellar for two to four guests, priced at $170. Both the tasting and a la carte menus change daily.