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Herndon, VA (Near Dulles) - New American - "The Ice House Cafe and Oyster Bar"

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My company forces me out of my comfortable home in Oakland and sends me to Sterling, VA for a week. So what's to eat? I poked around Chowhound and found a buried entry about "The Ice House Cafe and Oyster Bar" in Herndon.

My wife and I trundled down (it's really close by DC standards) and were seated immediately by a very nice staff. The ambiance is nondescript American tavern upgraded with white tablecloths, candles and a fake rose. It works, though, because it gets you ready for good eats vs. haute cuisine.

We ordered strictly from the appetizer menu, because I have found that it’s the best way to get a feel for a place’s chef. We didn’t have a bad bite. My wife wasn’t transported, but she found everything to be good. I am more enthusiastic about the dishes I had.

Here’s what we ordered:

6 Blue Point Oysters on the Half Shell
Really tasty, clearly fresh and served nicely with lemon and a red sauce

Steamed Clams
Huge clams, really plump, surrounding a small tureen of melted butter and shallots

Smoked Duckling Quesadilla con Carnitas
My least favorite, actually. It should have been more duck-ey. The salsa and guacamole that came with it was lame (lame duck, get it?). Remember, though, I’m from California and I expect those sides to pop.

Delta Salmon Roll
Yum. Tasty, fresh and the fish sauce was the perfect dip. It had smoked salmon, shrimp, lettuce and avocado wrapped in a mushu-pork style rice paper sheet.

Charbroiled Chicken Skewers
Outstanding! I was expecting dry chicken strips with an attempt at a thai sauce. Instead there were nice chunks of moist chicken coated in a spicy rub and interspersed with onion. The red curry peanut sauce was nicely paired with it.

Grilled Spinach Seafood Salad
The shrimp and scallops were nice, but the spinach wasn’t wilted, contrary to the menu description.

All in all? It was a nice experience in a simple setting with good food cooked by a chef who cares.

Final Tally:

1 = Bad, 10 = Outstanding

Food: 7 (My wife gives it a grudging 6.5)
Service: 6 (Just fine)
Price: 6 (2 people, martini, wine, tip and taxes = $94)
Ambiance: 5 (Unpretentious and homey. They have live jazz and blues on the weekends, but the canned stuff was weak. The air was smoky from too many smokers and not enough separation.)

A new entry in my reviews called “Can they make a decent dry martini?”: Yes, they can.

760 Elden Street
Herndon, VA 20170
703.437.4500
www.icehousecafe.com

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  1. Glad to hear they might be back in gear. Reports on the board, and the past couple of experiences I had generally were finding they were phoning it in (while prior to that they were a solid choice). I now haven't been in at least two years. I'll give it another try before too long. It seems, too, that they may be more creative than they used to be in terms of dishes being offered.