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Aug 11, 2014 06:45 PM

Gypsy Soul Report - From WOW to OW!

When I thought about testing RJ Cooper's Gypsy Soul in Merrifield, VA, I realized that the smaller plates and sides looked so good in the online description that it would be a waste to order the more expensive main courses. It's always more risky to take a flyer on a dish that costs around $26, right? This is not the kind of place, though, where you cant trust the onlne menu, and we wound up ordering two beginners and two mains.

Both beginners were 'WOW' dishes: bome marrow with sea urchin, and the pole beans with an egg. No need to traipse downtown and lock ourselves into a tasting menu to get food this great!

But the bigger plates fell into the kind of trap I often see at good restaurants: the bland takes over. The pork belly was a very large piece simply seared, served with 'cape beans' - which tasted just like field peas - and some matchsticks of compressed apple (as we were told), which were kind of wimpy in texture and flavor.

The other main we tried was rabbit, made into a roulade, with a faintly sweet braising liquid and a mild spinach puree. Also turned out to be quite bland.

This seems like a place where many an astounding meal can be had, but at first be cautious and lean toward the smaller plates.

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  1. Mosaic location, Mosaic prices. 'nuff said. I noted that the on-line menu says "Preview." An $18 burger at lunch?

    1. No surprise. I almost always make a meal out of smaller plates at places like these nowadays, for this very reason. The big plates are usually just a lot of meh. Thanks for the report.

      1. Forgot to mention the 31.5 inch high tables are akward, distracting and unfomfortable. I felt like Lily Tomlin in the highchair.

        1. Had dinner at Gypsy Soul last night (Fri). The service was very friendly, if not very polished. It didn't bother me - as long as the food comes out in a timely manner, I can overlook most anything.

          We ordered some fried chicken skin, the bread basket, and the bone marrow with sea urchin to start. The fried chicken skin was good (nicely seasoned) but for $9, you could've had equally good skin (and chicken too) at Popeye's. We ate the whole bowl.

          From the bread basket I tried the biscuit and focaccia. I had a few bites - no desire to eat carbs or fill up on carbs.

          I didn't love the marrow/sea urchin but that's just because I've never loved bone marrow. Its popularity eludes me notwithstanding many tries. Instead of parsley, RJ uses seaweed to cut through the fat and the sea urchin. Caution - don't use too much seaweed (it might overwhelm you). The ink toast was lovely. It looks like a piece of burnt toast, but in fact it's perfectly toasted.

          For entrees, we split some awesome shrimp and grits. Usually the dish is loaded with grits that I don't bother to finish. In this case, I was ruing the small dab of grits because I wanted more.

          Then we got more grits in the chicken fried quail. These grits were cooked with sweet corn. The collard greens were also sweet. I had about a bite of each. I did eat my fried quail, even though it was a bit bland and a bit tough. I'm not sure quail fried until well done can ever be tender.

          The last dish was confit shoat. 4 cubes of confit. By this point I was fairly full and I just wanted a taste. It was a fine dish (though not my favorite of the night).

          1 Reply
          1. re: Worldwide Diner

            Sweetened greens is a food crime. I hate it when chefs think they have to 'improve' greens.

          2. Thanksgiving with family was spent at Gypsy Soul. We ordered 6 entrees this time because they sounded interesting. We ate them family style.

            Because it was Thanksgiving, we had the turkey with stuffing. Another special was tortellini. From the regular menu we tried the shrimp and grits, chicken fried quail, pork belly, and lamb neck confit. I was pleasantly surprised that every dish was cooked perfectly and tasty. The turkey (all dark meat) was tender and I loved the oyster stuffing. The quail was not dry like last time, and tasted more like the quail I recently had in San Antonio. The shrimp & grits was as good as the last time. The 4 of us finished everything.

            Finally there's well executed and interesting food in NoVA. I hope that they can keep the quality consistent and the food creative.

            Pictured are shrimp & grits, chicken fried quail, turkey & tortellini.