After years of living in Bethesda, whenever someone has asked for recommendations of nicer places to eat, I generally think of Grapeseed as an obvious choice. We had been there several times for dinner, mainly for Bethesda Restaurant Week, and have always enjoyed our meals there. Earlier this year, we had purchased a LivingSocial deal for Grapeseed and were finally able to use it before it expired.
We arrived early for our reservation hoping to be seated, but they were still busy so we got a drink next door at Freddy’s Lobster and Clams, Chef Heineman’s new venture and one of our new favorite spots in Bethesda. After some tasty beers we made our way back and were seated by the front of the restaurant. It was nice to be able to see the full menu rather than a limited Restaurant Week one. One thing I noticed right away was that some of the dishes that stood out on the “sample menu” on the website were missing. I understand that many restaurants do this to only show a taste of what they offer, but I had to change my game plan and it threw me off a bit.
We already had some drinks so we appreciated that you could order half glasses of wine, so we each ordered based on the sommelier’s recommendation on what to pair with our entrees. To start, we shared the sautéed calamari. I’m a sucker for grilled or sautéed calamari (as opposed to the fried stuff), so we had to try it. I enjoyed the lemon and caper flavors but the calamari rings themselves were fairly thin and limp. I guess I’m used to calamari when it is the thick tubes you have to cut, not the smaller rings. It was still a nice dish, but I’ve had better.
For the main course, I opted for the scallops that came with a lobster sauce, asparagus, and curried mashed potatoes. Overall I liked the scallops, but the lobster sauce was too salty for my taste and it in turn made the seafood taste overwhelmingly salty. They were definitely generously-sized scallops, but something was lacking in the dish overall. Interestingly enough, the dish listed on the “sample menu” came with roasted cauliflower and mustard greens as opposed to the asparagus and potatoes that I received. I’m not sure when it was changed but I’m wondering if it would have been better if I had tasted the dish as it was originally intended.
Brett ordered the pan-roasted filet with horseradish mashed potatoes with an oxtail-mushroom ragout. Just like scallops, he thought the filet was good, not great. He ordered it medium rare, but it was unevenly cooked and just wasn’t as flavorful as anticipated. Meanwhile, the mashed potatoes were something we could have made at home and were a tad dry. Brett was also surprised how there wasn’t any sort of green found on the plate. Granted, you can order a side of mustard greens (for $7.50), but this was strictly a meat and potatoes dish that really needed a vegetable.
Overall we were slightly disappointed in our meal at Grapeseed. It’s not that we had bad service or the food was horrible, but it just didn’t wow us in the way it has in the past. We met a nice couple next to us who had never been before and they too were underwhelmed with their dinner. Maybe we were just there on an off night. Maybe we’re just tougher critics than we were when we last dined here years ago. I’m sure we’ll be back again, but I think we’ll be sticking to Freddy’s over Grapeseed.