Living in Bethesda, we have always passed Tavira while driving along Connecticut Avenue, but you wouldn’t know it’s there because of its unassuming location. Situated in the ground floor of an office building, we soon realized that it was a rather charming and intimate restaurant.
Thanks to (yeah, you guessed it) Groupon, it turned out to be a great venue to go out for dinner when Rachel’s parents were in town a few weeks ago. While the entrance is in the parking garage of the office building, don’t let its initial appearance deceive you. Once you step inside, you’re transported to the old country where painted murals adorn the walls with an interior design that looks like it has not changed since day one. Honestly, it was a nice change of pace from the modern interiors you see at the majority of restaurants these days.
Turns out that Friday is live music night, so we were treated to a jazz quartet just inches from our table. Featuring Portuguese and Mediterranean cuisine, we started the evening off with Pasteis de Bacalhau, or salt-cod fritters. Delicately fried, this traditional dish had some nice consistency and plenty of flavor.
We also shared a plate of stuffed ravioli with ricotta cheese, which was served with a tomato cream sauce. While it’s not necessarily a Portuguese-themed appetizer, the pasta tasted like it was prepared in-house while the sauce was creamy yet not too heavy.
For our entrees, I went with the veal marsala. Served with shitake mushrooms and a marsala wine sauce, the sautéed veal was tender and savory.
Rachel ordered the pan-seared beef medallions, which were served with mushrooms in a reduction of red wine sauce. For a place that doesn’t bill themselves as a steakhouse, these were some exceptional pieces of beef – just incredibly tender and flavorful. As per usual, I was eyeing her dish more than my own… not that mine wasn’t good, I just liked Rachel’s entrée better.
For dessert, the four of us split a warm upside-down apple tart which was accompanied with vanilla ice cream. Delightfully rich, it was a sweet ending to a very good dinner.
Tavira might not boast vaulted ceilings or funky typeface menus, but it was a warm and inviting atmosphere that had great food and attentive service. And while people occasionally tend to knock Groupon, we probably would not have tried this place otherwise. It’s a great spot for a romantic dinner or for family dining, and we’re so glad we finally had the opportunity to visit after driving past it countless times.