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Waiting for Gourd Season: Water & Wall Menu Planning

Missy Frederick is the Cities Director for Eater.

Tim Ma's upcoming restaurant, Water & Wall, is scheduled to open Nov. 1, but the menu is far from finalized. The Maple Ave. Restaurant chef chatted with Eater about how he develops a menu alongside running another restaurant, with the challenge of making sure the restaurant opens with seasonally-appropriate ingredients.

"We've done quite a few Tasting Tables over the past couple of weeks, and some of those dishes will probably progress over to Water & Wall," Ma said. The events in the back of the restaurant have been marketed as an early preview of what to expect from the new space. But because it's currently summer, and the restaurant is opening in late fall, the opening menu for the new restaurant will look pretty different. "We're not going to carry over a summer tomato salad," he said.

The restaurant has been hiring staff for the restaurant since spring and thinking of menu items along the way. Some early menu planning was needed to figure out what equipment should be purchased to execute a certain style of dish, Ma said. The restaurant will have a considerably larger kitchen than Maple Ave., which operates using eight burners and a fryer, and will also have a lot more space for plating. The menu will likely be finalized about a week before opening, he said.

But there are still broad ideas about what Water & Wall will be about. Ma has been cooking a lot of dishes based on whole primal cuts of meat, which would work during the winter season. "I could see us doing a pork confit dish, a pork shoulder, things like that," Ma said. Beef cheeks are a favorite ingredient for Ma during the colder months. The chef has also been trying his hand a preserving, pickling and fermenting, and many of those techniques will be used at the new restaurant. As far as vegetables are concerned, "I tend to lean toward the gourds, any kind of squashes," he said. In general, game ingredients and offal will be featured more at Water & Wall than they are at Maple Ave., and Ma may add a tasting menu to the proceedings at the new restaurant. Water & Wall's menu will be larger overall than Maple Ave.'s, with a section devoted to more experimental dishes.

How to decide which dish is a fit for which restaurant? "It comes down to how complex the plating is," said Ma. More streamlined dishes make sense for Maple Ave., and dishes that require several touches to the plate will be reserved for Water & Wall. Diners will be able to get an early look at the restaurant's progression during some soft opening events before November, he said.
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Water & Wall

3811 Fairfax Dr, Arlington, VA 22203

Water& Wall

3811 North Fairfax Drive Arlington, Va