Monday, July 6, 2015

Barrel & Bushel Food Review

Hot Fried Chicken

I rarely make it all the way out to Tysons Corner, but some places are worth traveling a few extra stops on the Metrorail for (Have you been on the Silver Line yet? It's nice.) Barrel & Bushel is even nicer... a Happy Hour haven, located off The Plaza at Tysons Corner Center, and anchored inside the ├╝ber-swanky Hyatt Regency Hotel. It's often packed with well-heeled 20- and 30-somethings, but you know me... Pretty faces are a dime-a-dozen: I'm here to "chow down." Lucky for me, executive chef Dan Dienemann appears in full accord. His playful (and tasty) menu compliments the restaurant's extensive drink inventory to a tee. Time to have some fun.

Fun's the operative word at Barrel & Bushel, which is split into two separate but equal parts. The front of house is dominated by a bustling bar scene, before opening up to an ample dining room towards the back. Depending on what time you visit, the latter can be tricky to get to... There's a wide wall of drink-filled, stainless steel refrigerators, that draws the attention of B&B's army of servers. If you visit with Grandma, make sure to lead the way and pave a path.

Complimentary Biscuit

Once you get to your table however, the sea of revelers soon parts... giving way to a surprisingly airy & spacious dining area. Yes, it's still noisy; but there's great spacing between tables, affording you a nice bit of privacy (if that's your thing.) The menu is packed with tempting choices, neatly divided into Share and Large Plates. The former contains no less than half-a-dozen carnivore stunners, led by Black Garlic Marinated Wings (accompanied by a spicy/sweet sriracha honey glaze) and Smoked Prime Rib Sliders (more on those, in a bit.)

Roasted Tomato Soup

After ordering a bowl of Roasted Tomato Soup ($6) and the aforementioned Prime Rib Sliders ($14) I was presented with a complimentary biscuit, covered in cheese sauce with a delectable maple butter on the side. I love the fact it's free; but mine was a tad doughy, and I could do without the added cheese. Besides, the more room the merrier for that maple butter.

Smoked Prime Rib Sliders

The soup was (in a word) sublime. Roasted & rustic, it had a healthy dose of olive oil and a rich tomato taste. Kudos for including a generous wedge of well-grilled garlic bread on the side. It arrived a few seconds after the sliders; but it's the kind of dish, you move Heaven & Earth to get to (and devour.) Speaking of soup (and next time) I can't wait to get my paws on their New Maryland Crab variety.


The trio of sliders were superbly seasoned, but a wee bit cold by the time I got to them. They come on soft, glistening brioche buns, packed with pickled onions and a dollop of horseradish sauce... and a flavorful au jus on the side. They're not cheap ($14) but it's prime rib after all. Chorizo and Fried Chicken sliders are also available (for just $10) and Smoked Salmon for $11. As I said before... lots of options.

The main event (Hot Fried Chicken, $18) is a complicated yet utterly creative offering. It's also really, really BIG. Two jumbo fried chicken breasts, sandwiched between two slices of bourbon French toast, and slathered in another spicy/sweet combination of Barrel & Bushel's signature hot sauce and maple syrup (with a thick pat of butter on top, for good measure.) First the positive... The chicken is piping hot, with a thin layer of zesty skin and tons of flaky breast meat. The toast is good too; but it's a lot to keep track of, especially when you add in the double dose of sweetness from the butter and syrup. I'd kill for a simpler dish of the fried chicken on its own (perhaps with fries or mash) minus the sweets and double the B&B sauce. That said, it's destined to be a popular photo op on Instagram & Twitter, given its fun, over-the-top appearance.

Desserts are small, but inexpensive. I had a devil of a time choosing between another unique combo of cheesecake and peach in a $5 Hand Fried Pie, a Puffin (with lavender sugar!) and my eventual selection... a trio of Fudge ($4 per square) Chocolate Almond Nut, Salted Caramel & Peanut Butter and Strawberries & Cream. All three were delicious; but the latter was so good, it ought to be a mandatory choice.

Service was solid, even though it took a while to clear my empty bowl of soup... a bittersweet reminder of how delicious it was (before I guzzled it down.) I even had a chance to speak to Chef Dan, whose unabashed enthusiasm and excitement bears mentioning. Given my aversion to big crowds, I probably wouldn't stop at the bar next time... but I can't wait to return and try the rest of the menu (especially that Maryland Crab soup and a Grass Fed Pub Burger with stout marmalade (and hopefully some B&B pickles to boot.) Maybe Tysons Corner isn't that far away, after all.