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Farrah Olivia by Morou: Destination Food at its Pinnacle

Jordan Wright
By Jordan Wright
Posted on Nov 20,2008
Filed Under News , Community,

photos by Mike Geissinger/
Local Kicks Chef Morou works
in the kitchen of Farrah Olivia

Food Editor 

When you enter the stylish and contemporary design of Farrah Olivia Restaurant you are entering a 65-seat jewel box with a nature inspired décor.  

A tiny cork-covered bar is your introduction to a casual dining space with crisp white linen draped tables.  

Dark woods, earth tones and chic sconce-lit black and white photos create a sophisticated yet informal setting and floor-to-ceiling windows look out over Maxfield Parrish columns that flank a gracious patio used for summer dining.   

It was in this comforting spot that I prepared my palate for the culinary acrobatics of Chef Morou Ouattara, he of Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” fame.  

An émigré from the Ivory Coast of West Africa, Morou has been named a finalist for the Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Association’s Chef of the Year award for three years.  He is one of the acknowledged masters of food deconstruction.  

My inauspicious introduction to his legendary cuisine was a sectioned plate holding four spreads which appeared alongside the bread basket…a horseradish-flavored cottage cheese, a tomato pesto, a bok choy pesto and a ginger cranberry butter.  

A disappointing start, not one of which whet the appetite as expected, and I began to wonder if my dinner would rise above such prosaic offerings.  A pear beignet, as my amuse bouche, was proffered, but, alas, it was gummy and underdone with little evidence of pear.

photos by Mike Geissinger/Local Kicks
Chef Morou works in the kitchen of Farrah
Olivia Restaurant.

It must be mentioned that the restaurant has a stellar and well-chosen wine list and I steeled myself for the next course with a lovely Sanford Chardonnay 2006 from Sonoma County, California and memories of that glorious terroir encouraged me to press on.

Another plate arrived and it was at this very moment that I experienced the mastery and marvel of Chef Morou’s wizardry.  A beautiful stained glass mosaic of beets, both dusky red and sweet golden varieties, with an aspic medallion of glistening beet essence as an underpinning was presented.  

Flavors exploded around the plate’s borders with dual swipes of vinaigrette, one balsamic, the other orange-infused.  Tangy Oregonzola (a gorgonzola-styled cheese from Oregon State) and toasted almonds were topped with crunchy beet crumbles.  This was serious “playing-with-food,” both for the diner and the chef.

A myriad of courses arrived… each more imaginative and exciting than the last.   Shocked Ecuadorean escolar with basil-scented sisho powder, a sriracha aioli and one of the chef’s signature magic tricks, soy “pearls,” were all elegantly arranged on gleaming white plates.   

photos by Mike Geissinger/Local Kicks
Chef Morou works in the kitchen of Farrah
Olivia Restaurant.

Chef Morou’s dazzling technique and artistry are evident at every turn.

A “painted” black bean soup side-by-side in a yin-yang pattern with a tortilla soup had spirals of smoky tasso ham essence and cheddar crème fraiche.  Art as food….food as art.  

The following dish is one of those seductive food memories that once experienced becomes a craving.  Vanilla poached Maine lobster rests atop tapioca risotto, a delicious invention that is encircled by a moat of lobster bisque.  The whole sublime creation is topped by a brandied foam.  This is destination food at its pinnacle.

Quail cured in juniper berries and stuffed with curried chorizo, bell pepper and cranberries with a “wish I had a bowl of it” prune pinot noir sauce and celery root and banana puree ushered in the season in a most unique way. 

A jaunty David Noyes Pinot Noir from Sonoma County paved the way for a petite rack of perfectly cooked lamb with white mint “caviar”.  Rich plum-tasting palm fruit barbeque sauce was a perfect foil for the lamb and heavenly creamed spinach in a veloute sauce topped with little crunchy bits was addictive.  

photos by Mike Geissinger/Local Kicks
Chef Morou works in the kitchen
of Farrah Olivia Restaurant.

For the final course an English trifle made with gingerbread, petite dried and sugar-dusted cranberries and sautéed autumn pears and the traditional custard with ginger-scented whipped cream and a swoosh on the plate of spicy sweet sauce made from old-time red-hot cinnamon candies, left visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. 

When you visit Farrah Olivia bring your sense of whimsy and adventure to Morou’s innovative and inspired dishes and be prepared for the flavors of his native West Africa, France and the Middle East or anywhere else that catches his epicurean fancy.  

Prepare to soar to new heights.  This is a chef’s fantasy restaurant where new ideas and kitchen technology “reign supreme." 

Farrah Olivia by Morou
600 Franklin St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
Dinner: Daily 5:30-10 pm.
Brunch: Sat-Sun 11 am-2:30 pm.

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