Sneak Peek: Water & Wall in Arlington
Tim Ma’s Maple Ave Restaurant in Vienna, VA, was opened on a credit card, and is now a bright star on the foodie radar screen. Ergo, scoring one of the nine tables in its dining room can be a challenge. So it’s good news that he and his team are about to open another, bigger venue for his distinctive, modern American, globally influenced fare - this time in Arlington’s Virginia Square. It’s called Water & Wall, named for the intersection of the NYC streets where he and his wife/co-restaurateur Joey Hernandez lived when they first cooked up their restaurant plans.
We talked with them about their strategy for Water & Wall, and they walked us through the airy, big-windowed space that’s still a work in progress.
Zagat: Why did you choose this location?
Tim Ma: Virginia Square is like the suburb of Clarendon and Ballston. We didn’t want to be in the middle of a crowd in those locations, we wanted to stand out on our own.
Zagat: Will the menu be similar to Maple Ave Restaurant?
Tim Ma: Some popular dishes like shrimp and grits, the mussels, and a pork dish will be on both menus. But this restaurant will definitely have its own identify. I will be switching up some preparations (like the bone marrow dish), adding more to the plate (relishes, vegetable) and introducing new dishes (like sweetbreads with deep-fried skate cheeks). One exciting thing about the bigger space is that I can offer a six-course tasting menu five nights a week.
Zagat: You spent time at Momofuku restaurants in NYC. How has it influenced you?
Tim Ma: I was an extern there while I was still in culinary school, so I was given jobs like making ravioli. In fact, I never even saw the finished dish I was working on. I did learn to behave as a cook - to be clean, efficient and precise in what you do. Mostly I developed dishes by teaching myself to cook while running Maple Ave Restaurant with my sous chef, Nyi Nyi Myint. However, David Chang has had a huge effect on the culinary world. He’s taught us to cook what you think is cool. Put together the unexpected, but make no compromises in technique.
Zagat: Are you sourcing locally?
Tim Ma: We’ve always been responsible, but we don’t make a big thing about it - it’s what we do. We get our pork from Polyface Farms and our other meats from a similar source. Our produce comes from Tuscarora Farms.
Zagat: This restaurant has a bar area, can you tell us about the drinks?
Joey: Nick Seo, our general manager, can tell you about that.
Nick: We're going to start simply with a few speakeasy-inspired cocktails based on gin and bourbon, like a basil gin and tonic. The wine list will be simple too - eight whites and eight reds from locales, like Argentina, Spain, and the U.S. We’re looking for easy-drinking wines that are interesting and different. We’ll have two taps for craft beers, too.
Zagat: Tell us about the space.
Zagat: When do you plan to open the restaurant?
See the slides below for some of the highlights of our tour.