Dec 29, 201011:08 AMTable Talk
A Very Big Restaurant Year
Recession? What recession? Given all the restaurants that opened in the new and old parts of Bethesda in 2010, it appears as if local stomachs and wallets are doing well. I’ve never seen anything like it. The pace of openings was so great, in fact, that three restaurants right next to each other (American Tap Room, Vapiano, Taylor Gourmet) all opened in the same summer week. And we snagged some serious chefs, too: Yannick Cam with Bistro Provence, Robert Wiedmaier and his Mussel Bar, and Dennis Friedman, formerly of Bezu, will be opening Newton’s Table in the former Rock Creek restaurant on Elm Street. And there’s plenty more to come in 2011.
My family always chides me for forgetting crucial details of significant events—unless they involve what I ate. So here’s a sampling of what I remember from 2010’s onslaught of new eateries in Bethesda.
Favorite entree: Veal chop special with artichoke hearts and polenta at Bistro Provence.
Best grilled chicken: The kebabs at Bistro LaZeez. Co-owner Reda Assad, a local Arabic teacher who wowed students with his end-of-the-year grilled chicken parties, turns the oft-said “you should open a restaurant” into successful reality.
Best menus: The backlit menu at the American Tap Room and the Yiddish-tinged menu at Uptown Deli. My first impression of the food from these menus has been disappointing, but I’m holding out judgment until further investigation.
Best cheese: The sharp provolone on the sandwiches at Taylor Gourmet.
Homiest soup: The white bean at Annie’s Bistro Francais.
Best dessert that flopped: I really liked the deconstructed peanut butter and jelly sandwich that was first offered at Food, Wine & Co., but others apparently didn’t. It’s off the menu.
Best dessert special: The chocolate-cherry bread pudding at Mussel Bar.
Most bizarre opening: The launching of the new menu at Bowlmor Lanes (formerly Strike Bethesda). Alleged White House dinner crashers and reality TV stars Michaele and Tareq Salahi were hired to host the event. Hard to know what was the most bizarre—Michaele hugging everyone, then bowling in a sparkly mini dress and spike heels, or all the paparazzi there to document it.
Most annoying dining experience: Dinner at Vapiano on a busy evening. The lines for the pasta were long and slow-moving, the noise level was so high I couldn’t hear the salad cook’s recitation of the dressings, it was impossible to find seating, and my husband had a meltdown. The food wasn’t worth the tumult.
Most generous service: Yamas Mediterranean Grill gave out free containers of rice pudding one lunch.
Most unexpectedly sloppy service: Bistro Provence.
Noisiest atmosphere: Mussel Bar, but I’ll go there again at an off time for the wild mushroom tart.
Nicest atmosphere: Food, Wine & Co., so long as it’s not a crowded Saturday night.