Tag Archives: mussels

An (Early) Valentine's Day Dinner at Et Voila

12 Mar

A few weeks ago, Rachel and I headed out to The Palisades neighborhood for an early Valentine’s Day dinner at Et Voila. We wanted to venture somewhere we haven’t dined before, but that was also romantic, and Et Voila fit the bill nicely.

The space is very intimate, situated in a rowhouse with tables solely on the left and right of the house with a narrow aisle in the middle separating them. It’s a tight fit, so don’t even think about bringing your baby here. Good thing we had a sitter that evening!

The menu focuses around French and Belgian cuisine, and while we’re always a sucker for mussels, we wanted to explore some of the other dishes the restaurant offered. We started the evening off by splitting their warm goat cheese salad.

Warm goat cheese salad

Situated atop of bed of greens, the generous block of warm goat cheese was sitting on a slice of warm French bread and topped with a sundried tomato. It was a fantastic way to kickoff our meal as we loved every bite. Highly recommended.

Flemish beef stew

For our entrees, I ordered the Flemish beef stew. Simmered in dark beer and served with a side of their pommes frites, it was pure comfort food. Given the cold, dreary weather that day, it was a perfect choice. While the meat was flavorful and tender, it more resembled a bowl of beef chunks than an actual stew. Not that it wasn’t good, but it wasn’t the hearty stew I envisioned when originally ordering it.

Grilled trout

Meanwhile Rachel ordered the grilled trout, which was accompanied with leeks fondue and a champagne sauce. The perfectly grilled fish, adorned with beautiful grill marks, paired nicely with the creamy leeks and light sauce.

Chocolate mousse

Given our incredible knack for indecisiveness, we asked our waiter what he recommended for dessert. He immediately suggested the chocolate mousse. The waiter was right on the money as the mousse was indeed heavenly. Beautifully presented with a thin almond pistachio cookie “dunked” into the mousse, it was smooth and rich.

We left Et Voila with a smile on our face. Not only did we get to enjoy an excellent meal without the Valentine’s Day rush, but we discovered a new restaurant that we would happily return to. And once we’re feeling adventurous enough, we will have to try the mussel burger. Yes, there’s a mussel burger on the menu.

Et Voila! on Urbanspoon

A Pre-Theater Dinner at District Commons

20 Jan

A few weeks ago, Rachel and I were trying to figure out where to eat dinner before seeing Billy Elliot at the Kennedy Center. While several restaurants in the Foggy Bottom area offered prix-fixe pre-theater menus, we weren’t necessarily looking to have a three-course dinner let alone spend over $30 per person.

We were simply looking for a venue where we could have a decent meal without breaking the bank. Rachel then suggested that we try out the newly-opened District Commons. Given its proximity to the Foggy Bottom Metro station as well as their modest prices, it made perfect sense.

Pretzel Bread

Jeff Tunk’s latest venture opened back in October, and since we don’t frequent the Foggy Bottom area that much, it was an opportune time to try out the restaurant. We made our way towards the lounge area and found plenty of tables available. Even better, we made it before happy hour ended (6pm), so we were able to enjoy a couple of $4 drafts before ordering our food.

A few people suggested that we try the hot pretzel baguette, and we did just that. For only two dollars, we received a piping-hot loaf of pretzel bread, complete with their “beer mustard” butter. Warm and soft, it doesn’t get much better than pretzel bread and beer after a long day at work.

Lamb sausage flatbread

For our entrees, we decided to share the lamb sausage flatbread as well as the white mussels. The flatbread was prepared with roasted eggplant, Kalamata olives, Feta, and pomegranate molasses. The Mediterranean-style ingredients worked really well together while the crisp crust had a nice char to it.

Meanwhile, the white mussels featured house limoncello, oven-cured tomatoes, and lemon thyme cream. I enjoyed the sauce, but the overall quality of the dish fell short compared to mussel pots found at Granville Moore’s or Brasserie Beck. Then again, for only $12, you certainly get your money’s worth as it was a generous portion of mussels.

White Mussels

Considering that our entire meal cost under $30 for two people (excluding drinks), District Commons was exactly what we were looking for before heading down to the Kennedy Center. The food was good, the prices were modest, the atmosphere was laid-back, and the service was pleasant. For those looking for a casual dinner before a show, or just to have a few drinks for that matter, District Commons is an ideal destination.

District Commons on Urbanspoon

Belgian Restaurant Week at Brasserie Beck

10 Aug

Brasserie Beck has been on our bucket list of restaurants to visit since they first opened back in 2007, yet when Mussel Bar (Robert Wiedmaier’s newest venue) opened down the road from us, the journey took a little longer given the latter’s proximity to our home. Nonetheless, we finally shook off the laziness and had our very first meal at Beck a few weeks ago. We soon realized that we will have to start making that excursion more often.

Veal Bolognese Mussels

The timing could not have been more appropriate given that it was Belgian Restaurant Week. This particular Wiedmaier restaurant is more upscale than its Bethesda counterpart in regards to its menu, interior, and service. Mussels are still prominent, but you’re not going to find, say, a Cuban Panini at Beck.

After surveying the expansive beer menu, I ordered a traditional Bavik Pils while Rachel got the St. Bernardus Pater 6. With the smorgasbord of Belgian brews to choose from, it certainly sounds like a great place for happy hour (half price drafts from 5-7pm), let alone lunch or dinner. Not that Mussel Bar doesn’t provide that option, but Montgomery County’s draconian beer laws certainly don’t help in the wallet department.

Steak Tartare

We started our evening off with the steak tartare. Nearly the size of a hockey puck, it was anything but stiff. The meat was very tender, but I was even more enamored with the presentation what with the variety of colors found on the plate. Topped with a slice of toasted brioche and a fried egg, it was a very enjoyable first course. My only beef (no pun intended) was that there was a little too much emphasis on the red onion, so much that it nearly overwhelmed the flavor of the beef.

Rachel also ordered a large roasted beet salad which was accompanied with goat cheese, caramelized walnuts, and mixed greens. She remarked that it was one of the prettiest salads she has ever laid her eyes on. Oh, and it also tasted rather good for those that were curious…

Roasted Beet Salad

For our main course, Rachel and I decided to split two entrees. We of course had to get an order of mussels, but we also wanted to try one of their other dishes as well. We ultimately settled on the veal Bolognese mussels and a half-order of the braised lamb pappardelle. We felt that this would be a suitable amount of food for the two of us as well as have an opportunity to explore Beck’s menu.

First, let’s get to the mussels: they were simply terrific. While Brasserie Beck does not allow you to take mussels home with you, is there a policy of just wrapping up the broth to-go? I would buy that stuff by the pint. The amount of veal found in the sauce was incredible. Mind you, the mussels themselves were great, but it was the ragu that took them to that next level. I think the server came by at least three times before he could clear my plate just so I could enjoy every last drop of broth.

Braised Lamb Pappardelle

As for the pappardelle, the homemade noodles were excellently cooked and were very delicate. The braised lamb was succulent while the accompanying tomatoes, peas, and onions helped balance the dish. I wouldn’t have minded a thicker sauce, but given that we just had veal Bolognese by the spoonful, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

Once we finished our entrees, we were so full that we were ready for the check. Unbeknownst to us, our meal wasn’t done yet. Our server brought over a Belgian chocolate torte (special for Belgian Restaurant Week), compliments of the house. After taking one bite, let’s just say it was hard to put the fork down. Topped with roasted plums from Toigo Orchards and drizzled with raspberry sauce, this was one rich, phenomenal dessert.

Belgian chocolate torte

All and all, we had a great evening at Brasserie Beck. Between the exceptional food and service, it’s hard to imagine that this was just our first visit. Rest assured, we’ll be back for many more meals in the near future.

Brasserie Beck on Urbanspoon

Bethesda Restaurant Week at Food Wine and Co.

20 Jul

We already wrote about Food Wine and Company when they first opened last fall, and while the restaurant definitely had a promising start, we thought the food was just okay yet was lacking some direction. Clearly our hunch was right, as since that time Food Wine and Co. has been through several chefs and growing pains.

One chef, the well-known Carole Greenwood, only made it 48 hours. Since then, we have noticed great changes in the menu and offerings. Their new chef, Michael Harr (formerly of Butterfield 9), brings much experience with him that is clearly evident in his dishes and overall presentation.

Watermelon and tomato gazpacho

We have always enjoyed Food Wine and Co. and welcomed it as a much-needed replacement to the generic Pizzeria Uno’s. This past week was the first time I tried dinner there, and what better way to experience multiple dishes than during Restaurant Week.

Since their happy hour is one of the best in Bethesda (in our humble opinion) we couldn’t resist enjoying some drinks at the bar first. While the place is called Food Wine and Co., we should note their extensive beer selection. It’s one of the best in Montgomery County, which isn’t easy to do given their alcohol restrictions. Even better, their happy hour menu includes both beer and wine flights for $9.

Oyster Platter

I decided to get the beer flight, which included any four draft beers in 4oz pours. It was a great way to try some new beers that I haven’t tasted before, and after finding one I really liked, I ordered a full draft which also happened to be on special. They also had dollar oysters, so you know we couldn’t pass that up. We tried a mixture of Blue Point, Rappahannock, and Old Salts, and I have to say, they really are some of the best oysters I’ve tried recently, and at a dollar a piece no less!

Beer Flight

Happy with our drinks and oysters, we made our way to the dining area for our reservation. I should point out that they did offer a fairly extensive menu for Restaurant Week. It wasn’t the complete menu, but it wasn’t just three entrees either. After some debate, I decided on the watermelon and tomato gazpacho with ricotta. It was light and refreshing, but not too chunky or heavy like some gazpacho dishes I have had. In fact, I had one earlier that day at Assaggi and you couldn’t even compare the two in terms of quality.

Wedge Salad

The main courses included everything from pizza to salads to sandwiches to mussels, as well as full entrees. I figured I might as well try one of their pricier selections, so I ordered the salmon with English peas, alba mushrooms, radishes, and a horseradish cream sauce. It was perfectly cooked, seared on the outside while medium rare on the inside. The vegetables that accompanied the salmon were so fresh that I felt like I was tasting part of summer. I was really happy with my dish but tried not to eat it all so I could save some room for dessert.

Roasted salmon with english peas, alba mushrooms, and horseradish sauce

We decided to each pick a different dessert so we could try a few different ones. I ordered the Coconut Joy while my friends got the double chocolate bread pudding and the Elvis. I have to admit, I definitely had some food envy when I tried theirs. Mine was good, but it was originally supposed to have coconut and chocolate sorbet along with coconut macaroons, chocolate almonds, and rum syrup. Turns out they were out of the coconut sorbet and substituted it with raspberry instead. It was still decent, but it didn’t even compare to my friends’ dishes.

Coconut Joy dessert

I would order the Elvis next time – peanut butter and chocolate ice cream, fudge crispies, sweet and salty peanuts, bananas and chocolate sauce. The bread pudding was to die for as well. And considering that I work in the same building as this restaurant, there will be many next times. I may have forgotten to mention that before, but Food Wine definitely isn’t a bad place to work right above! Maybe we can get a discount for being neighbors?

Food Wine & Co on Urbanspoon

Mussel Bar Introduces Happy Hour

29 Nov

Since Mussel Bar opened earlier this year, patrons have been clamoring for some sort of happy hour to be instated at Robert Wiedmaier’s casual Belgian establishment.

Mussel Bar Happy HourWell, after six months of operation, Mussel Bar has finally started offering happy hour.

Rachel walked by earlier today and noticed a blackboard outside of the restaurant detailing daily specials offered 4:30 to 6:30pm, Monday through Friday, which include:

  • $2.75 Brabo Pils (Mussel Bar’s house pilsner)
  • $5.50 Delirium Tremens
  • $2.75 Stella Artois bottles
  • $10 Tarts (flatbreads)

I am particularly excited about half-price Delirium Tremens. $5.50 is a hell of a deal, even more so in Montgomery County due to their arcane laws which force restaurateurs to inflate their alcohol prices.

The tart deal is also a nice discount as guests can save $5 from the menu price. They are rather delicious, too.

All and all, we are more than glad to see another happy hour option in Bethesda.

Taste of Bethesda 2010: Brett's Take

4 Oct

You could not have asked for a better day for this year’s Taste of Bethesda. The weather was perfect, there were new restaurants to explore, and most importantly, we didn’t have to worry about parking.

Fresh Grill: Our first stop was Bethesda’s latest burger entrant, Fresh Grill.They have received some praise over on Yelp since their recent opening, so I decided to check out what they had to offer. I usually shy away from using tickets on samples of a slider, but I have to admit, I walked away impressed.

Fresh Grill slider

The bun was fresh, the bacon was thick, and the beef was juicy. Now I want to know what an entire cheeseburger tastes like from this place. Good stuff (and no, I’m not referring to Spike’s).

Bistro Provence: This was supposed to be our next stop as I was very much anticipating Yannick Cam’s French cuisine, but much to our dismay, the bistro’s kiosk was nowhere to be found! Quite a disappointment as they were originally advertised to be a part of Taste of Bethesda. They were even listed on the map handouts!

Nest Café: Nest has proven time and time again that they are one of the most underrated venues in Bethesda. Not only were they offering an array of higher-end options at their booth, but they had separate lines dedicated to each of the entrees they were serving up.

Nest preparing musselsNest preparing BBQ brisket Nest and their BBQ brisket

The left line featured mussels which were being freshly prepared in what looked like a delicious broth.  I opted for the line on the right, which was not a sample mind you, but an entire serving of their “Drive by BBQ”.

Customers had their choice of meat (brisket, chicken, pulled pork) as well as sauce (I went with the brisket and Texas molasses-blend sauce), and let me tell you, it basically represented my lunch for the day and rendered all other tickets nearly useless.Nest's BBQ Brisket Sandwich

For the cost of four tickets, which is essentially five dollars, customers received an overstuffed sandwich full of brisket, drenched in sauce, all atop a hearty bun. I had to sit down at a nearby table to consume all of it, but once again, Nest delivered.

In comparison, the same sandwich would cost you $13.95 at a table inside Nest, excluding the accompanying fries and coleslaw. Basically, it’s downright refreshing to see restaurants such as Nest actually take the time to offer a full portion of their menu’s offerings during Taste of Bethesda for such an unbelievable value.

Morton’s of Bethesda: For one careless reason or another, I decided to waste two tickets on their petit filet mignon sandwich.  Between the meat being well done (if you could even find it), and the oversized potato roll, this was a poor decision and even worse sample. For such a high-class establishment, I would have expected better from them.

Yamas: The newly-opened Greek restaurant was offering samples of gyros and falafel, so I went with the latter since I had already had my fair share of meat for the day.

The chick peas were fresh, crispy, and overall had good flavor. Not as tasty as Amsterdam Falafel, but I liked it. The size of the portion was fairy generous as well. My only pet peeve was the use of whole wheat pita. It just did not taste nearly as good as regular pita bread. The texture, dryness, and overall bland flavor just takes the entire dish down a notch.

Olazzo: I decided to use the last of our tickets at a neighborhood staple, Olazzo. I went with the Penne Rose with meatball for a cost of three tickets. Unsurprisingly, the dish was excellent. The rose sauce was thick and creamy while you could taste all the wonderful spices the house-made meatball was prepared with. The two together made for a great combination.

Penne Rose from Olazzo

Overall, I’d say the entire day was a success. While there was only one misstep (Morton’s), the rest of the venues I tried were solid choices. Now if only people wouldn’t take their enormously-sized dogs that could carry small children on top of, I’d be a happy man.

Brunch at Mussel Bar

29 Sep

We’ve dined at Robert Wiedmaier’s Mussel Bar several times since we first ate there on opening night, and honestly, it’s instantly become our favorite restaurant in the entire Bethesda area.

Between the excellent selection of craft brews (Delirium Tremens on tap!) and high-quality yet reasonably-priced food, Mussel Bar has filled a niche that Bethesda residents such as us have craved for.

Sunday was no exception as we decided to venture over there and see how brunch would fare over our earlier dinner experiences.

I went with the Huevos Rancheros and they were, by far, the best I’ve ever had in regards to that particular egg dish.  Served atop a grilled tortilla, the poached eggs were accompanied with some very delicious spicy pork, spinach, peppers, and a creamy hollandaise sauce.

Huevos Rancheros

The combination of flavors was excellent as the pork added just enough kick to the eggs without having to ask for some hot sauce. Letting the yolk drizzle throughout the dish made it enjoyable to savor each bite. What’s left to say? It’ll be my go-to from hereon out for brunch at Mussel Bar.

Rachel was debating between a traditional breakfast dish, like an omelet with goat cheese, chicken, and spinach, and a mainstay on the menu, the highly-praised lobster roll. She had already heard good things about it from friends, and after the craze of the Red Hook Lobster Company food truck, lobster had been on her mind. So, lobster roll it was.

And what a great decision it turned out to be.

The giant size roll was overstuffed with huge chunks of lobster meat, bonded together with only a touch of mayo and spices. The dish was accompanied with the now infamous Mussel Bar sweet potatoes fries, which we have to say, are like crack. They are crispy, with a hint of vanilla and a tad of salt, and are very, very addictive. The plate also came with a side lettuce, of which we originally thought was garnish, but turned out to be a small salad as well.

Lobster Roll

While we’ve generally never had a problem with the service at Mussel Bar, I had to track down the hostess to ask for some sugar for my coffee since the waiter forgot to bring it out when our drinks arrived. I also had to ask another waitress for a refill since ours couldn’t be found for a brief period of time.

Rachel ordered a Diet Coke with her meal, and as soon as we saw the waiter bring it in a small glass bottle with a glass of ice, we knew what that meant – no free refills. That is always a pet peeve, as soda costs are generally low and if a restaurant is going to bring individual bottles and charge for each one, it should be stated upfront. But other than those minor issues, the service was generally very good.

Now the biggest question we will have to face when going back to Mussel Bar is… lobster roll, or mussels? Decisions, decisions.

Mussel Bar on Urbanspoon

Food Wine and Co. Opens in Bethesda

14 Sep

It’s been approximately nine months since the Pizzeria Uno that occupied a prime spot on Wisconsin Avenue and Elm Street shut down. Many people were wondering what would take over the storefront given the large space and ideal location in Downtown Bethesda.

When it was announced that Francis Namin, owner of the outstanding Cork 57, would be opening a restaurant dedicated to continental cuisine and an outstanding wine selection, it immediately piqued our interest.

Food Wine and Co. finally opened its doors early last week which made it the obvious choice for DMV Dining’s dinner plans last night.

As soon as we walked in, we instantly noticed the clean, wood interior which accentuated the wine bar-themed décor. There’s a reason why this place took so long to open as the entire space was gutted from top to bottom. There is a striking display case by the bar of the charcuterie and cheese selection, as well as raw bar options of oysters and crab legs.

Love me some Ommegang
Upon our arrival, the hostess immediately greeted us and seated us at a butcher block-style table. We were also told that we could order happy hour specials in the dining area and did not have to sit at the bar.

Our server soon followed and handed us an impressive beer and wine list. Since this restaurant is owned by the same person that operates Cork 57, this wasn’t incredibly shocking, but it was great to see nonetheless. Any restaurant that features Ommengang Witte on tap is not joking around.  Add in the fact that they were offering $4 Abita Light draughts for happy hour and we’re in serious business.

Speaking of happy hour, Food Wine Co. also featured dollar Malpec oysters. Rachel and I split a half dozen of these and came away very impressed with not only the presentation but also of the three sauces that accompanied them.  As soon as we finished we ordered another half dozen since they were so good, and for a dollar a piece, they were quite a bargain. Instead of your traditional cocktail and horseradish combo, the plate came with wasabi, cucumber, and white wine dressings.  Very different, yet enjoyable. Black’s might have some serious competition here, and I’m all for it.

As for our main course, I went with the pork belly sandwich. It was topped with crispy shallots and glazed with a savory raspberry BBQ sauce and served on a roll that was prepared in-house (as is the case with all of their breads according to the menu).

The sandwich was excellent as it wasn’t excessively greasy yet still encompassed that delicious pork belly flavor while the sauce emphasized the care it took to prepare in the kitchen. Even the fries seemed freshly-cut and were much better than I’ve had at similar eateries.

Rachel opted for the ahi tuna salad which was beautifully served in rare pieces with a sesame seed crust, along with greens, carrot ribbons, kalamata olives, and a wasabi dressing that had quite a kick. It was a rather satisfying salad and a generous portion of tuna as well.

As we were finishing our entrees, the server discreetly dropped off a dessert menu then asked later if we were interested. Everything sounded delicious, most notably the goat cheesecake and a free form apple tart. We reluctantly declined because we were so full, but we will definitely have to indulge ourselves on a future visit.

We mentioned to the server that Rachel works in the building, and he asked us what we thought of our meal and to definitely come back soon as well as tell our friends and colleagues. He gave her a business card with the manager’s name on the back, and even cut us a discount on the bill! It was a very nice touch and you could tell they were anxious to see what we thought.

Overall, this seems like a great new addition to Downtown Bethesda. The prices are a little on the higher side, but so was the quality of everything presented, so it obviously seemed worth it. They also serve lunch which features smaller, less expensive variations of what is offered on their dinner menu. We were already eyeing the large bar area for a happy hour in the near future.

There is currently a website for Food Wine and Co. but the content is severely lacking. We definitely recommend they update it soon with the menu so others can see what this delightful new restaurant has to offer.

Food & Wine Co on Urbanspoon