There are several things that make Mussel Bar a hotspot. First of all, it’s located in one of the oldest buildings in Ballston, which lends itself perfectly to the industrial chic décor of the place. Second of all, when the chef comes up to you excited about a brand new dish he/she just executed into reality moments previously, you know you’re in an establishment that truly values food as the exciting art it is…
I walked into Mussel Bar on a Wednesday night for dinner and it was packed. Happy hour is a big deal here, and for good reason as the drink menu touts hundreds of beers, a rotating draft list, and a solid cocktail menu. Mussel Bar is the kind of place Arlington working folk flock to as soon as the clock hits five for a drink but then stay for dinner, because the food is simply irresistible.
I started my meal with a beautiful scallop crudo, which was a new special that day. You don’t really ever have to convince me to consume a scallop because I’m obsessed with them, but the pride in which the chef spoke about the dish could have had me ordering literally anything. This dish was a home run in all aspects. The presentation was beautiful and the scallops lavish and buttery. The flavors were also delightfully complex for a typical crudo, which was attributed to a few jalapeños for spice, grapefruit for a slight bitterness, some micro greens, and some toasted almonds for an element of crunch. This course also included the grilled octopus, which was cooked to perfection, along with more citrus and toasted almonds. This dish is typically served with farro, so just make sure to notify your server to omit the grain from your order.
Next came a plate of oysters representing both West Coast and East Coast, served alongside a trio of sauces. The oysters were fresh and salty. My favorite was the East Coast oysters with a spritz of lemon juice and doused with Mussel Bar’s impeccably delicious salsa verde. This accoutrement was fresh and packed with so much flavor, and I truly believe it would taste amazing on anything.
Of course I had to order mussels at Mussel Bar, so I opted for the Provencal preparation, which arrived at my table in a steaming hot cast iron pan filled with the most mussels I have ever seen, swimming in an extremely aromatic roasted tomato sauce. The sauce, rich in flavor and accompanied by the proper amount of tang from the capers, was so delightful in itself I found myself simply eating it by the spoonful with no shame.
Last came the Grilled Rare Tuna, with a local mushroom purée, quinoa, grilled broccoli, and a sweet-soy reduction. It was obvious the tuna was of the highest grade, and exhibited the filling meaty yet healthy quality tuna is known for.
Overall, Mussel Bar is an ideal place for NOBREADers to get their seafood fix. All of the mussel preparations, which include Spicy Thai Green Curry, Mediterranean, and Wild Mushroom are all typically gluten-free yet packed with flavor.