Restaurant Review: TenPenh Tysons

TenPenh has staged a comeback in Tysons Corner. But it isn't quite the same as the original in D.C.

Crispy shrimp toast, ahi tuna poke and pickled cucumber salad. Photo by Jonathan Timmes

When chef Jeff Tunks and his partners at Passion Food Hospitality Group announced plans to resurrect TenPenh, their paean to Pan-Asian cooking, in Tysons Corner, the food community was abuzz. Could the restaurateurs stage a comeback of the wildly popular concept that had enjoyed an 11-year run at the corner of 10th Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue (hence the name) downtown? Could the lightning bolt of critical acclaim strike twice?

Photo by Jonathan Timmes

The restaurant’s newfound home in the sparkling Silverline Center certainly seems to anticipate crowds. TenPenh Tysons is vast, with seating for 244 inside and 34 outside. Designed by the architecture firm Gensler, the space is effectively broken down into a series of rooms—the Dining Room, the Tea Room, the Imperial Room (for private dining), the Dragon’s Lair bar, the Engawa sushi bar, and two cocktail lounges, the Salon and Jade Room—though the sheer scale of the place allows for some sweepingly dramatic design turns. A moon-shaped entryway outlined in ornate fretwork leads to a panorama of ebony-stained tables, floor-to-ceiling windows and an impressive art collection that includes everything from tabletop Buddhas to a multi-paneled Japanese mural of mermaids drinking tea.

Variously sexy, inviting and sumptuous, TenPenh is a perfect date spot—especially if you start off with one of the delightful specialty cocktails. In the Jungle Bird, yellow Chartreuse provides an herbal kick to a blend of Irish whiskey, Lillet Blanc and cacao. A touch of apricot jam lends just the right smack of sweetness to a gin-based Lotus Sour. I’d recommend unwinding over a bubbling skillet of crab Rangoon dip, a riff on the Americanized takeout staple which, in this case, is served with sweet chili sauce and wonton chips.

TenPenh Tysons does honor a few of the original’s greatest hits, reviving popular dishes like Chinese-style smoked lobster over crispy spinach, and shrimp in red-Thai curry. Chef Cliff Wharton, who helmed the original D.C. location, recently replaced Miles Vaden in the kitchen.

At the same time, the new restaurant, which opened in late 2016, isn’t an exact replica of its predecessor. Much has changed in the dining landscape since the year 2000, when the first TenPenh opened its doors, Tunks explains: “A fast-casual explosion has taken place. Sixteen years ago, no one was serving ramen. Back then, people had an appetizer, entrée and dessert. Now, things are more shareable and accessible. People aren’t committed to $29 entrées, so we changed up the format.”

The dining room at TenPenh Tysons. Photo by Jonathan Timmes

Categories: Food & Drink
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