As an owner of two restaurants, Ashwani Ahuja isn’t in the genie business. But when the newest restaurant at Lake Anne Village Center opens for business this week, he’ll have some experience in making dreams come true.
Omar and Alexis Balkissoon always dreamed of owning a restaurant. This year, Ahuja partnered with the Sterling couple to help open the Tavern on the Lake, an American grill and tapas bar.
WITH EXTENSIVE renovations, featuring river rocks lining the walls and a custom-built bar and lounge, the Tavern replaces Il Cigno, an Italian Restaurant that lasted at Lake Anne for 25 years.
Ahuja bought Il Cigno last September.
“When it came up for sale, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss,” said Ahuja, adding that he’d been a 10-year customer of the restaurant and a fan of the location. “But I needed someone who had energy and passion.”
That’s when he looked to the Balkissoons. “They were the main forces behind this restaurant,” said Ahuja.
In the past few months, the Balkissoons have led a Lake Anne revitalization of their own, transforming Il Cigno’s former décor with a comfortable and modern bar and lounge, while maintaining the family-friendly dining area.
“We wanted to have a place where people could come after work for a drink,” said Alexis Balkissoon of the new bar and lounge. “But it’s separate from the dining room where you can bring your family in a warm and relaxed setting.” It’s a place where people will gather for good food, good drinks and good stories, said Alexis Balkissoon.
WHILE THE setup separates the bar from dining, the menu mixes traditional American classics with global influences. Nowhere is this more noticed than the tapas menu. For example, the restaurant’s nachos are served with chorizo over fried flour tortillas.
The tapas, the Spanish name for small dishes, exemplify the restaurant’s theme, which is to provide fun, flavorful food that can be enjoyed in a social setting, said Alexis Balkissoon.
The menu, said Chef Steve Jaeger, who previously cooked for the Old Brogue in Great Falls, features items that might be found in an old tavern, “but with a contemporary touch.”
“Like the chicken pot pie with the sweet potato biscuit crust,” said Jaeger, who went to Herndon High School and had many friends in Reston growing up.
THE RESTAURANT, which still has a view of the lake, officially opens Feb. 11 at noon, which won’t be too soon for some neighbors. “In the last few weeks, we’ve had people coming in all day. I think they feel good about something new coming in,” said Alexis Balkissoon, who added that former Washington Redskin Charles Mann is slated to make an appearance for the grand opening.
Also, in the next few weeks, Robert E. Simon, founder of Reston, plans to participate in one of the opening celebrations.
“I’m looking forward to the [restaurant’s launch],” said Simon. “It will add to the roster of wonderful restaurants in Reston.”
Simon is particularly excited about the wine bar and lockers. When Virginia didn’t allow liquor to be sold at restaurants, patrons had to join a Bottle Club, recalls Simon. The Tavern on the Lake plans to offer wine lockers to customers.
“If you buy a bottle of wine and don’t finish it, you can keep the bottle here in a locker,” said Alexis Balkissoon.