- This upscale modern restaurant opened November 16th with extremely high expectations. I have not been a fan of Robert Wiedmaier's disappointing Mussel Bar, but hoped he'd get it right since Wildwood Plaza is desperate for a go-to place. I think he did.
- The contemporary woodsy interior is warm and the bar was lively even on a Sunday night. The owner has also paid close attention to detail, from the variety of aesthetic plate shapes to the cutlery (take note, Black's Bar & Kitchen) to the infused oils on the table.
- A limited menu of 8 starters and 8 entrees is a perfect size and suggests that the chef is focused, even if the menu is hard to pigeon-hole (modern American with a mediterranean twist?).
- An emphasis on light healthy meals (no butter, no cream) does not detract from the vibrant flavors. In fact, none of the our dishes tasted like we were trading down for the sake of health. (Unlike, for instance, Seasons 52, which is serviceable but a constant reminder it's low-cal...)
- The clams with pasta is fragrant and delicious. The lamb meatball is luscious. The grilled octopus is smoky and tender with sweet peppers for balance. At the heavy end of the spectrum, the short ribs and Osso buco are both rich and satisfying.
- I love the wine list, which has a wide range of choices at $60 or under.
- My two visits have been within a week of opening so I expected chaos, but service was friendly and efficient. The only obvious mistakes were that the waitress didn't really know the menu yet and no one seemed no know the wines (hint: tempranillo is a grape not a region). Small, early blips that I'm sure will go away soon. I, for sure, will be back.
- JANUARY 2013 UPDATE: I've been back twice more. Still a big fan. Service still working out the kinks.
- APRIL 2013 UPDATE: Kobe Burger for lunch a strong contender for Best Burger.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
10223 Old Georgetown Rd, Bethesda, 301-571-1700, no website yet
Duds: Duck breast wrapped in bacon and the Bibb salad both unmemorable
4866 Cordell Ave, Bethesda, 301-312-6160, website
Duds: burger, sliders
- Bethesda could use a decent sports bar, so I was hopeful for Brickside, which opened in January 2013 in a cursed space on Cordell Ave that has been a graveyard for failed restaurants.
- On the plus side, they have HUGE high def televisions, a tasteful exposed brick decor, and friendly staff. The drinks menu is also diverse and inviting.
- The food, not so much. There are very few creative items on the menu. Even the burger (how can a sports bar get that wrong?) was dull and unmemorable.
- I'll try again when I want to watch a game, but for now, this is a disappointment.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
4867 Cordell Ave, Bethesda, 240-743-4257, website
- UPDATED REVIEW: improved from 2 forks in April 2012 to 3 forks in April 2013.
- I still love the concept: a lively, rustic, lobster shack in the middle of Bethesda. Outdoor picnic tables on a faux-deck are terrific. Feels almost like you are at the beach.
- The menu has been impressively expanded over the past year, while sticking with the core lobster rolls, fried shrimp, and fried clams -- all of which are notably better than a year ago.
- The lobster rolls are finally in the running with the stiff competition the nearly-perfect Red Hook food truck and the always-fun Luke's Lobster.
- The beer list is extensive and they've belatedly added creative cocktails and some decent wines, but at my last visit most of the better wines were inexplicably out of stock. (How hard is it?)
- Service is still pretty uneven (a waiter who works at a place with this name probably shouldn't admit to the customers "I don't eat seafood!") I don't understand the problem here, but at least the managers seemed to be paying attention, so I'm hopeful this will improve too.
- In the meantime, Freddy's is back in the regular family rotation.
Friday, February 22, 2013
12505 Park Potomac Ave, Rockville, 240-386-8080, website
Duds: Chicken parmesan unmemorable, gnocchi too rich
- The successful Cava crew has branched into hearty southern Italian, tapas-style small plates. It works.
- Light salads pave the way, especially the luscious tuna carpaccio.
- The pizzas are light and crispy. Eat them quick, before they cool.
- The main meals are much heavier, but the small plates compensate and allow sampling without getting overstuffed. The veal meatballs are probably my favorite of the main dishes, soft on the palate and covered with a thick rich tomato sauce.
- Decent affordable wine list and creative cocktails.
- Very helpful international staff and a lively bar-like atmosphere.
- It's in a weird suburban office building complex next to Founding Farmers overlooking I-270 that feels like it's been dropped randomly from the clouds. Don't let this put you off.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
2319 University Blvd, Wheaton, 301-949-6287, website
Winner of my Best Falafel, Best Matzo Ball soup
Duds: Corned beef sandwich not worth it.
Winner of my Best Falafel, Best Matzo Ball soup
- Max's is a zero-frills cafe with straight up great food. Best of the few remaining area Jewish delis.
- Order at the counter, plenty of big tables, eclectic mix of cultures.
- Highlight is the falafel and schawarma bar where your sandwiches are expertly assembled with a huge array of salads and sides. I can't identify everything, but you want it all.
- The matzo ball soup is rich, packed with chicken and carrots, and the matzo ball is a perfect texture. By far the best I've had in the DC area.
- Owned and run by Orthodox Jews, so closed on Friday evenings and all day Saturday.
- (hat tip: Ellen!)
Monday, January 14, 2013
4733 Elm St, Bethesda, 301-215-9068, website
Duds: burgers, fries, ouch.
- Joining the burger barrage, right in the heart of Woodmont triangle, is Kraze Burger.
- All the right noises about quality beef, hand-packed, fresh buns, etc, plus they do have a few healthier options (although if you want healthy, why, really, would you be at a fast food burger joint?).
- Bottom line: burger is just ok. I like the loosely packed meat and topping options, but nothing memorable here. Plus everything is stacked so high it's a mess.
- Fries looked good, but were not crispy.
- Excellent selection of speciality root beer and other sodas.
- I will have to try again.
Monday, December 10, 2012
4705 Miller Ave, Bethesda, 301-654-6369, website
- Hidden in an alley between Wisconsin and Woodmont Aves is this no-frills Italian deli. This is exactly the kind of place that Bethesda needs more of: no nonsense, good quality, fair prices.
- Come here for the homemade sausage, the fresh frozen pastas and sauces, the cheeses and deli meats, and the special italian items.
- The takeaway options of pizza and subs are just ok. The pizza has an oddity that the sauce is on top of the cheese. I'm not sure why but it doesn't work. The meatball subs are serviceable, but not memorable.