Wildwood Kitchen's Unique Fit in Bethesda
Chef Robert Wiedmaier has a number of D.C.-area restaurants, including Mussel Bar (7262 Woodmont Ave.) on Bethesda Row. But his newest creation, Wildwood Kitchen by Robert Wiedmaier (10223 Old Georgetown Rd.), is almost completely different. It's small (55 seats with 2,000 square feet), there's only one way to make a reservation (the phone; there's a Facebook page but no website) and there are no television screens or any of the type of fanfare typically associated with an upscale Bethesda restaurant. The interior portrays a rustic feel, with wood beams across the ceiling, a forest scene painted on the walls and bookshelves full of candles and empty glass jars. There's also an intentional effort to ditch butter and cream and use healthier ingredients. BethesdaNow.com spoke with Wiedmaier about Wildwood and how it fits into the Bethesda restaurant scene: Bethesda Now: You seem to really be pushing a simple, no nonsense approach with this restaurant (no online reservations or TVs, short menu). Why do you think this could work in a market such as Bethesda? Wiedmaier: We live in a world where we have so many choices and options at our disposal. Having a restaurant that has no TV screens, only one channel for reservations – the phone, and a selective menu is an intentional direction to create a simplified, more European approach. Wildwood Kitchen is really breath of fresh air in that way, from the overly stimulated, technology-focused pace of today. We are giving our guests a simple and selective atmosphere. While we may use iPads to streamline our internal system, we don’t want to overcomplicate things on our guests’ end. Bethesda Now: You have Mussel Bar on Bethesda Row and the wealth of upscale places in the area make sense because of the market. But is there anything missing from the Bethesda restaurant scene? If so, what, whether it's a specific type of place, a trend or something else? Wiedmaier: I don’t think that there is anything that is necessarily missing, but I think that Wildwood Kitchen runs on a unique philosophy. Growing up in Europe, I became accustomed to seasonally-focused cooking. You could only have the food that fit in your small refrigerator and you would shop by visiting local merchants. Wildwood Kitchen reflects this European methodology and brings in dishes that are not just Greek or Italian, but pan-Mediterranean with cuisine that touches on the 23 countries that span the coast. All of our dishes are made without the use of butter or cream. It’s definitely not comfort food in the American sense. But this straight forward cooking style brings the quality and flavors of our ingredients to the forefront of each dish. While many other restaurants are evolving with the times to bring in more TVs, more options for reservations, larger menus and butter/cream-rich dishes, Wildwood Kitchen is staying true to its European roots.