Archive | September, 2010

Weekly Restaurant News

30 Sep

As always, I like to be on the lookout for news about new restaurants opening in the DMV. This could include a new concept from a relatively unknown chef or business, a new outpost from a well-known figure either locally or nationally, or a new location of an established restaurant. Today’s post covers all of these categories.

Pizza Tempo: One day I was walking on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda and noticed a small sign in a vacant space where a Pizza Hut used to be.

Pizza Tempo before opening

Pizza Tempo before Opening

I hadn’t been by there recently and forgot all about it, till I thought today to look at the image on my phone and saw a web address. Sure enough, Pizza Tempo’s website says that it is now open, so I did my research on this establishment.

It wasn’t clear if this was a standalone location or if there were others out there. Just from the website alone, it seems that the site is only for Bethesda, as the Map and Contact Us tabs only provide information for that location. However, when doing a Google search on them, I mostly got results for the same company name, but in Rockville as well as a mention of one in Kensington.

So, this is not a brand new establishment, but a relocation of one that has been in business since 2005. It was hard to tell if the other locations were closed, but that seemed to be the case when looking on Google Maps. However, any mention of it on either Chowhound or Yelp showed positive reviews, whether talking about the old or new venues.

From the outside, Pizza Tempo looks like it could be just another pizza joint, but that is not the case. First, their story, according to the website, is that they began in a small gas station in Rockville back in 2005, and then added a second location in Kensington. These were small establishments with only two or three tables, but they received a following from locals. Second, the menu includes not just pizza joint staples such as pizza and buffalo wings, but it is Turkish-owned so pides, hummus, falafel, lamb, and baba ganoushare also included. Looks like we’ll have to check this out soon.

District of Pi: More pizza places are coming to DC, and this one is a transplant from St. Louis. An article from the St. Louis Magazine website reported yesterday that its hometown pizza establishment, Pi Pizzeria, will be adding a new location early next year, on March 14, 2011 to be exact.

This will be the first outpost outside of St. Louis, and the magazine suspects our most famous resident may have something to do with that. Though the new location on 9th and F St. will still be a few blocks from the White House, it may not be long before they start getting delivery calls from the President. The deep dish pizza establishment already has a website up, with more to come as they get closer to opening.

The Pearl Dive Oyster Palace: Finally, there are some chefs and owners that are local favorites, and anything with their name and stamp on it is destined to be a success. This can be said for Jeff Black of Black Restaurant Group. We are definitely regulars at Black’s in Bethesda, particularly for their great happy hour that includes some great oyster specials.

So when I read Tom Siestema’s report that Mr. Black will be opening a new location in DC that features oysters, I could immediately tell that it would be a success. The plan is for the restaurant to open by February of next year, and the two-story space on 14th will include an upstairs bar and even a bocce ball court. We’ll be keeping on eye out for more news about this one, but this is one restaurant empire we’re excited to see expand.

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

Taste of Bethesda: Bigger and Better

28 Sep

It’s hard to believe that Taste of Bethesda is only four days away, yet this may very well be the best one yet given how many new restaurants out of the 56 (!) that will be participating this year.

While there are some newer venues missing, notably Mussel Bar, Taylor Gourmet, Vapiano, and American Tap Room, there are still some great eats to be had throughout the day.

Taste of Bethesda has already updated their website on who will be working the booths this year, so leave it to DMV Dining to give you its recommendations on who you should devote your tastes, as well as your money, to:

Bistro Provence: Chef Yannick Cam’s latest venture offers the best French cuisine in all of Bethesda
Fresh Grill: Word is that this is the better burger joint in all of Bethesda.
Mia’s: Their pizzas are top-notch. Here’s hoping they offer the meatball pie.
Nest: We have yet to have a bad meal at this place. Great sandwiches and fries.
Olazzo: One word – cannolis.
Oz Restaurant & Wine Bar: Underrated restaurant with excellent flatbreads.
Passage to India: I don’t know how we haven’t eaten here yet given all the acclaimed reviews.
Shangri-La: One of my favorite lunch buffets in Bethesda.
Spring Mill Bread Company: Great pastries without the lines and TLC endorsement.
Yamas: See last week.

Some other notable favorites:

Jaleo: This is a classic and worth it if nothing else than to see the massive paella pan in the middle of the street.
Matuba: Great sushi spot, but sadly they won’t be serving it on their signature conveyor belt. On an unrelated note, it’s also the spot of one of our first dates.
Morton’s: Really, you can’t go wrong with a mini filet sandwich. But then again, you can always grab those during their Power Hour, too.
Lousiana Express: Great jambalaya, even better Bloody Marys on the weekend.

As of now, the weather forecast for Saturday looks to be cool in the mid 60s, but thankfully no rain in sight. DMV Dining suggests you get there early in order to beat the crowds, particularly the families with strollers, dogs, strollers, and more dogs.

We’ll also be live-tweeting the event throughout the day, so be sure to follow @DMVdining this Saturday. We’ll see you there!

Arthur Bryant's: If Ben's Chili Bowl was a BBQ Joint

24 Sep

The next stop on DMV Dining’s Kansas City BBQ tour took us to the equivalent of Ben’s Chili Bowl in DC. You know, an institution. That staple restaurant serving up what the city is fundamentally known for. Of course, I’m talking about Arthur Bryant’s.

The man behind the counter assertively slices the barbecued beef for an extended period of time before plopping it in between two slices of white bread. Then, he tops it off with an enormous pile of freshly cut French fries, not forgetting some pickles on the side. The result? This:

Arthur Bryant's Beef Sandwich

You know what the worst part about this was? Just like Homer Simpson’s senior yearbook quote: “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”

I mean the picture speaks for itself. It was rather delicious. The fries were made to order while the layers upon layers of beef stacked on the sandwich demonstrated why Kansas City is such a great barbecue destination.

The only problem I had was the sauce. It just wasn’t very good. My coworker mentioned that people love to take Arthur Bryant’s meat and top it with Gates sauce. I wish I could’ve done this, but alas, we were eating in the dining room and were relegated to the three or so varieties the restaurant offered.

The Sweet Heat Sauce might have been my favorite out of all three Arthur Bryant’s has on their tabletops, but compared to the other KC venues, their sauce is by far the weakest.

It’s definitely an experience, and although I certainly paid a price throughout the day consuming the entire sandwich, you simply can’t find food like this in DC.

Arthur Bryant's Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Oklahoma Joe's – Best Ribs in the Country

23 Sep

One of the perks of having to travel to Kansas City for work every so often is the chance to have some of the finest barbecue in the country. Yeah, I said it.

I’m not the biggest fan of Carolina BBQ, but that’s mostly because I prefer a thicker, spicier sauce. Kansas City not only offers that, but their meats are just so well-prepared in terms of smokiness and flavor.

I’ve been to Oklahoma Joe’s several times in the past, but I’ve always stuck to their trademark dish, the pulled pork sandwich.  It’s incredibly delicious as the pork is exceptionally tender while the in-house sauce is excellent yet just a step behind Gates (DMV Dining’s all-time favorite BBQ sauce).

Anyway, my coworker suggested that I should try the ribs this time around. We split a half a slab and, well, now I can’t go back.

Oklahoma Joe's Ribs

Oklahoma Joe’s took great care in preparing these bad boys. The meat nearly fell effortlessly off the bone as they were slow-cooked to perfection as evidenced by how pink the meat was.

Ribs Platter

Between the smokiness and the dry rub used, they were arguably the best ribs I’ve ever had. I only added a touch of sauce because they were already that flavorful.

We also split a brisket sandwich which was, of course, top-notch. I added more sauce to this item since it wasn’t nearly as juicy as the ribs, but it was still good nonetheless. I even used some of their spicy Night of the Living BBQ sauce. When I was putting some on my sandwich, one fellow customer came up to me told me that I “was one brave soul.” I mean sure it had some kick, but it wasn’t like I was drinking the sun or anything.

Brisket Sandwich

All and all, barbecue doesn’t get much better than this. In case you’re unaware, Anthony Bourdain recently listed Oklahoma Joe’s as one of the 13 places to eat before you die. Sounds like I’m on the right track.

Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue (Kansas City) on Urbanspoon

Yamas Reintroduces Bethesda to Greek Cuisine

21 Sep

When we were living in our former apartment on Woodmont Avenue in “Old Bethesda”, there was a cute Italian place called Frascati that we loved, and more importantly, was one of the few places Brett’s grandparents actually liked. It was a Bethesda staple that remained in business for nearly three decades.

So, of course, it closed just a few months later after we first discovered it.

The space remained vacant for several years and left us wondering if anything was eventually going to replace it.

Flash forward to last month and we couldn’t help but notice a sign in the storefront announcing the opening of Yamas, a new Greek restaurant in Bethesda.

With the departure of both Levante’s and Athenian Plaka, this was a welcome addition among a sea of Lebanese and other Mediterranean establishments such as Bacchus of Lebanon, Lebanese Taverna, Moby Dick House of Kabab, and the new Bistro Lazzez.

Cava Grill has already announced the construction of their new casual space on Bethesda Avenue, but for now, it seems that Yamas has a jump on the action in Greek fare in the area.

The atmosphere at Yamas is fairly casual, with a menu on the wall by the ordering area, but there is also a seating space with waitstaff in addition to a bar area.

Happy Hour specials include a “Mezze ‘Opa’ Ωra” of $5 Mezze dishes, house red and white wine in a half kilo or kilo for $5 or $10, respectively, bottled Greek beer for $4, and drafts for $2.99. There is also a Yamas dirty martini that features Ketel One with olives stuffed with feta cheese.

One mezze dish that was particularly good was the zucchini fritters.  In fact, we were very excited about ordering this appetizer given that we recently went to the Greek Islands for our honeymoon.

Just to give a backstory: when we would drink champagne or other cocktails while in Greece, instead of toasting with “cheers”, it was tradition to instead shout “Yamas!”. One of our favorite dishes in Greece was the zucchini fritters (otherwise dubbed zucchini balls at most Greek tavernas) and was served with a tzatziki sauce.

Let’s just say that the dish we had at Yamas was the only one that compared to what we had in Greece, and trust us, we have tried several Greek restaurants since returning to the States.

zucchini fritters

The famous zucchini fritters

There is much variety found on the menu, listing typical Greek items such as marinated octopus, spanakopita, falafel, chicken souvlaki, and of course, gyros.

The restaurant also features items such as the Yamas lamb burger and a rotisserie chicken with fresh and unique sides to choose from. These sides range from “opa fries” (which consist of olive oil and feta cheese) as well as a house salad, roasted vegetables, green beans, and roasted vegetable orzo.

The second time we dined at Yamas, I went with two of my girlfriends while Brett was off working and eating his way through Kansas City.

We started off with some wine and, not shockingly, the zucchini fritters. The wine glasses were somewhat small, but they had a nice variety of Greek selections. My friends also agreed that the fritters were excellent.

The waiter was very attentive and came over several times to ask if we needed anything. This time around my friends ordered the house salad with falafel, the chicken souvlaki on whole wheat pita, and I got a quarter chicken with roasted vegetables.

Rotisserie chicken with roasted vegetables

Rotisserie chicken with roasted vegetables

Chicken souvlaki and house salad with falafel

Chicken souvlaki and house salad with falafel

The chicken was incredibly flavorful with a mixture of lemon, oregano, olive oil, and other spices. The vegetables consisted of tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, and red peppers and were a perfect compliment to the chicken.

Overall, we really enjoyed our meal and will definitely go back soon. The waiter even discounted some of the wines off of our bill which was a very nice surprise.

You can see that Yamas is trying hard to earn customer loyalty and we have definitely been won over. You can view their full menu here, and be sure to sample some of their Greek cuisine at Taste of Bethesda on October 2nd.

Yamas Mediterranean Grill on Urbanspoon

A Sneak Peak at Uptown Deli

17 Sep

The Washington metropolitan area has anxiously awaited a true, New York-style jewish delicatessen.

Let’s face it: it’s hard to find a place in the District that offers pastrami coming through the rye (yes, that was an Alan Sherman reference).

The only thing that comes close is Deli City in Northeast DC with its ridiculously good corned beef sandwich. But Deli City isn’t really a deli nor is that accessible nor has great hours.

There’s also Parkway Deli in Silver Spring. Any place that has a pickle bar gets our approval, but you still need a car to get there.

Enter Uptown Deli in Bethesda.

Owner Howard Wasserman was supposed to open his delicatessen back in July, but according to his Twitter account, Montgomery County has (not surprisingly) slowed down the process with their inspection processes.

Nonetheless, DMV Dining walked by the space formally occupied by La Miche and checked out the menu taped to the window.

Let’s just say this author started schvitzing in anticipation of their opening after reading what they will be offering…

Matzo ball soup? Check. Bagel and smoked whitefish platters? Yes, please.

Hot corned beef and pastrami sandwich on an onion roll with deli mustard aptly titled “The Jets ‘n The Mets?” Oh, you better believe it’s on.

Tongue sandwiches, Coney Island kinishes, and kosher hot dogs are featured as well, but it’s The Big Fresser that takes the cake (err, babka?) in proving you were Bar or Bat Mitzvahed.

For $19.99, one can engulf themselves with a sandwich with no less than four meats and three cheeses piled high with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cole slaw, and Russian dressing. I’m sure your parents will kvell if you finish it.

Anyway, we’ll be sure to keep you posted when Uptown Deli finally opens.

'Tis the Tailgating Season

16 Sep

There’s nothing better than grilling some food in the crisp, autumn air while standing in the middle of an asphalt parking lot.

I’m talking about tailgating, people.

We’re in the midst of football season and it’s about the only time I get to enjoy the use of an outdoor grill. Then again, you can blame that more on Montgomery County and their strict ban of grilling appliances on balconies, but I digress.

Anyway, Rachel and I finally had the opportunity to pull the grill out of storage a couple of weeks ago while tailgating before the Maryland/Navy football game in Baltimore.

We threw on some hot dogs, sausages, burgers, and plenty of veggies. Let me tell, it’s hard to top some grilled onions atop a freshly cooked burger.

But the biggest hit of the day might have been the corn. We decided to grill several corn on the cobs right in their husks over a medium heat for a good 15 minutes or so and the results were excellent.

Our only lapse in judgment was that we did not soak the corn in water before throwing them on the grill which led to some partial dryness. Lesson learned for next time but it wasn’t a deal breaker by any stretch.

Speaking of college football and, well, eating, Patrick Stevens (one of the Interweb’s best college sports bloggers in my honest opinion) compiled a list of the best restaurants in the ACC.

Having already visited seven of the eight listed establishments in College Park, Marathon Deli is hands down the one you must step foot in should you ever be in the area during game day, or any day for that matter.

That place warrants a post of its own, and it will definitely deserve one down the road, but their gyros are undoubtedly the best in the entire Washington metropolitan area.

On that note, DMV Dining wants to ask you: What’s your favorite eatery from your alma mater?

OpenTable Introduces Spotlight, Enters Deal-of-the-Day Market

15 Sep

Many people know me as their go-to reference for finding out great deals and discounts, especially when it comes to food and restaurants. If it’s free ice cream day, burrito day, you name it…I can probably find it and will ultimately tell you about it.

I also think coupons are a great way to try new restaurants without having to break the bank. I was a frequent purchaser with, but wasn’t always thrilled with the restaurant selections.

As you could guess, I was elated when I first saw companies pop up such as Groupon, Living Social, What’s the Deal D.C., and countless others. It seems that a new one starts up each day.

I love the idea of buying coupons for restaurants, massages, kayaking trips, and even the Newseum. While the expansion of these offerings has possibly saturated the market, it’s great that several of them are now geographically targeting and sending out deals each day not only for D.C, but also for Montgomery County and Northern Virginia. Groupon recently stepped up their game by increasing their focus yet again via offering deals to locales such as Silver Spring or Bethesda

Just when I thought there couldn’t possibly be another coupon site that would warrant attention in my inbox, a new one appeared from a familiar name, and it made perfect sense.

While scanning my emails this morning, I received a message from OpenTable saying that they would be offering daily weekly deals as well, but from top restaurants that already participate with their site.

I trust OpenTable and have used it for years. I have reached VIP status as well as received enough points to acquire several gift certificates over time just for booking reservations and, of course, honoring them. Many people already receive regular emails from OpenTable, so they already had a large pool of followers to start out with.

The first deal is also quite enticing: a voucher worth $50 at Charlie Palmer Steak House for only half the price. DMV Dining has always heard good things about this particular restaurant but, alas, we still have never been before.

I think we just might have to grab OpenTable’s introductory deal and wait and see what else they have to offer. Too bad we’ll have to wait another week!

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