Tag Archives: deals

Assaggi Mozzarella Bar: Bethesda Restaurant Week Lunch

1 Feb

Due to an unpredictable week complete with thundersnow and power outages, some of our planned restaurant week meals didn’t quite happen. However, I was able to head to Assaggi Mozzarella Bar on Bethesda Avenue to take advantage of their restaurant week lunch deal.

Six of us from work went at noon on a Monday, and even though we made a reservation, we clearly did not need one as the place was nearly empty. We were seated right away at a table by the front, and several servers were on hand to take our order and explain the menu and specials.

As it turns out, while the $12 restaurant week deal for a choice of soup, salad, or dessert along with an entree was a great deal, Assaggi has a $14 two-course deal on many menu items every day of the week.

We all decided to take advantage of the more limited $12 option, and since it was one of the coldest days of the year, we unanimously ordered the carrot and pumpkin soup with slivered almonds to start. It was a perfect winter soup and wasn’t too heavy or filling for a first course.

For my entree, I decided on the fresh calamari stuffed with shrimp and sea scallops, stewed in tomatoes, over white polenta. I have to admit, the dish wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be as it wound up being two large tubes of calamari, almost like pasta shells, filled with seafood sausage of shrimp and scallops.

I originally thought there would be fresh seafood in the calamari itself, not in a casing. However, everything still tasted delicious, and the seafood stuffed calamari combined with the creamy polenta and light tomato sauce was a perfect lunch on a cold day. It hit the spot but wasn’t too filling or too large of a portion for lunch.

I have to say, I can’t believe after living and working in Bethesda all the time that this was my first trip to Assaggi. Unfortunately, the food was so good that by the time I remembered to take a picture, it was too late.

Assaggi Mozzarella Bar is located on 4838 Bethesda Avenue in downtown Bethesda.

Assaggi Mozzarella Bar on Urbanspoon

Nest Cafe: Beyond the Row

24 Jan

If you are in Bethesda and looking for a quiet spot away from the bustle of Bethesda Row, I would highly recommend Nest Café.

It is located on Bethesda Avenue on the other side of Arlington Road right behind Giant. While it is easy to overlook some of these places due to the proximity of the numerous restaurants found at nearby Bethesda Row, Nest is a great option for lunch, dinner, drinks, or brunch that won’t break the bank.

I met a few friends there recently and we had no problems getting a table since it wasn’t too crowded. Aside from their regular menu, they also offer daily specials as well as a “Bento Business Lunch.”

Bento Business Lunch

For $9.95, diners can choose a salad, soup, and half sandwich from several selections and is served in a three-square presentation for a complete lunch. If you are tired of Sweetgreen or Taylor Deli and want more of a sit-down meal, Nest is a great alternative.

I decided to go with the French onion soup, Senora salad, and grilled chicken sandwich combination. It was the perfect portion, and especially great for someone like me who can never make a decision on what to order.

The lunch and dinner menu at Nest is the same, with the highest priced entrees set at $14.95. They offer salads, sandwiches, brick-oven pizzas, and pasta entrees. Nest also has great weekly deals such as “Hump Day” burgers and fries for $5.95 (carry out only), half-price bottles of wine on Mondays and Tuesdays, and live music on Fridays and Saturdays.

One great feature about their brunch is their build-your-own Bloody Mary bar: you check off your ingredient selections on a sheet and the bartender then makes your concoction for you.

I have to admit that I sometimes forget about Nest myself given the location, but I’ll definitely be back, especially for their lunch special. It also will give me an excuse to stop by Cork 57 and see what seasonal beers they have in stock.

Nest is located on 4921 Bethesda Avenue in downtown Bethesda.

Nest Cafe on Urbanspoon

Unlimited Pre Fixe Brunch at Masa 14

10 Jan

Daily Petite QuicheI recently heard about the deal at Masa 14 for Sunday brunch, and upon first glance, it seemed too good to be true. My friend Livya and I decided to check it out for ourselves and indulge on unlimited tapas and drinks for $35.

We decided to order some drinks first, with Livya choosing the Masa Mimosa while I got the Lychee Bellini. Both were very refreshing and we hardly noticed when they would come by with pitchers to refill. I think we each had about four glasses, but it was hard to tell since the servers never let our glasses go empty.

To start, we ordered the Daily Petite Quiche, Hijiki Seaweed-jicama Salad, Petite Mushroom Escabeche Omelet, Veggie Benedict, Black Bean Puree, and Spiced Tuna Steak. Granted, this may appear like an excessive amount of food, but Masa 14 specializes in Latin-Asian tapas, so these smaller plates are meant to be shared.

Masa Mimosa and Lychee BelliniHijiki Seaweed-jicama SaladPetite Mushroom Escabeche Omelet

Overall, everything was delicious, with some standouts like the seaweed salad, tuna, and omelet. Some of the dishes were definitely heavier than others, and before we knew it, we were getting full with all the plates in front of us.

The rare tuna steak came on a sandwich bun along with a small but thick piece of bacon, avocado, and wasabi. The bread wasn’t really necessary so we discarded it to focus on the high quality piece of fish. The Veggie Benedict was actually a variety of roasted vegetables with a poached egg atop a piece of challah bread. Again, a nice dish but the bread seemed to overpower the rest of it. The black bean puree was a perfect bite with a scoop of the puree with poached egg on a tortilla chip.

Black Bean PureeSpiced Tuna SteakVeggie Benedict

We decided to order a few more items to stretch out our relaxing and gluttonous Sunday. Up next was the Fruit and Granola with yuzu yogurt, the Pan Dulce with ancho whipped cream and pineapple syrup, and to top it off, the Crunchy Shrimp. I know looking at these selections, you might think, “dessert, dessert, and shrimp?” Yes, it definitely did not belong, but with unlimited options to choose from, it was simply too hard to resist. The sesame crusted shrimp came with a chipolti aioli sauce that went perfectly together. We only ate one or two, and then it was on to dessert.

The fruit, granola, and yogurt combo was nice and light, and definitely the healthiest thing we ate all day. The large chunks of homemade granola were nice and crunchy and elevated the dish to more than just a bowl of fruit. The Pan Dulce tasted just like French toast and was a perfect way to end the meal.

Crunchy ShrimpPan DulceFruit and Granola with yuzu yogurt

All in all, brunch at Masa 14 is a great opportunity to try lots of different items on the menu without feeling limited by price. It’s hard to tell how much of a deal it was, since we didn’t individually add up each dish to see if we would have spent as much or less compared to ordering a la carte.

However, the unlimited drinks alone makes the $35 brunch worthwhile. If we went with a larger party we would have been able to try more dishes, but regardless, we undeniably left satisfied. I could potentially see us going with a group of 10 and basically ordering the entire menu, with everyone being able to have more than their fair share of food while already knowing up front what the bill would amount to. Hmm, this year’s birthday idea perhaps?

Masa 14 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.

A Decadent Brunch at Birch and Barley

27 Oct

Rachel and I have been fans of Birch & Barley, as well as its upstairs counterpart ChurchKey, since it opened last year. The food has been outstanding while the beer selection clearly speaks for itself, yet we’ve heard rave reviews regarding their brunch for some time and have been dying to try it.

So, what better way to celebrate Rachel completing the Army 10 Miler that morning than eating at a venue that offers toffee-bacon donuts? We felt it was due time to see what all the Sunday afternoon hype was all about.

Their infamous special is called the Boozy Brunch, which for $30 includes donut holes, two drinks, any entree, and unlimited coffee or tea. This is quite a deal, but considering it was still early and we knew that we would be drinking later that day to watch some football, we ultimately passed on the offer. We did get some tasty Bloody Mary’s and mimosas though.

Freshly Fried DonutsWe started our meal off with a plate of their freshly-fried donuts which ranged from lemon-poppy glazed to bittersweet chocolate to the aforementioned toffee-bacon. All of them were delicious, but the bacon donut might have been our favorite given how well the sweet and salty combination worked. Everything tastes better with bacon, right?

One strange thing that happened was that several of us ordered coffee, and it seemed that the coffee that our friends Jim and Livya received was brewed without using a coffee filter as the bottom of the cups were full of grinds. We pointed it out to the waiter and he apologized and seemed embarrassed by it, and quickly replaced the coffees with fresh ones.

House-Brined Corned Beef HashFor our entrées, I went with the house-brined corned beef hash. Topped with fried duck eggs, the corned beef was succulent yet was lacking a kick. In my opinion, it really needed some spice to bring out the flavor. I’m not one to ask for hot sauce, but I was nearly compelled to which was rather unfortunate.

On the other hand, the duck eggs were fantastic. The egg whites were not runny at all, and because duck eggs are larger than your typical chicken egg, the presentation nearly covered the entire plate of hash! These could honestly be a meal in themselves, and then when you factor in all the corned beef hash below it, you have yourselves quite a meal.

Rachel ordered what seemed to be their signature brunch offering,  chicken and waffles.  Brett had this dish at nearby Marvin a few years ago for dinner, and it does seem like a heavy meal to start the day off with, but she simply could not resist. After running 10 miles in a great time (under 90 minutes!), she felt she deserved it.

Chicken and WafflesAnd it was quite the reward indeed. A full waffle cut into four pieces with lightly drizzled syrup and pecans on top, next to three boneless pieces of perfectly fried chicken. It was a completely indulgent and delicious dish. She made sure to eat every forkful with a piece of chicken and waffle together, and it was the perfect combination of sugar and salt.

We were stuffed after that and didn’t eat much the rest of the day. Many hours later, we were still thinking how good our dishes were, and if only we lived slightly closer to this beloved establishment.

Birch & Barley on Urbanspoon

Bethesda Row Restaurant Week Starts Monday

15 Oct

Bethesda Row will be rolling out its fall edition of Restaurant Week this coming Monday and will conclude on Sunday, October 24th. Diners can enjoy a three-course lunch for $15 or a three course dinner for $30 at select restaurants in downtown Bethesda.

DMV Dining has even taken the liberty of finding some of the venue’s Restaurant Week menus for your reading convenience. The following restaurants will be participating:

American Tap Room
Assaggi Mozzarella Bar: RW Lunch and Dinner menu
Cafe Deluxe
Lebanese Taverna: RW Dinner menu
Le Pain Quotidien
Mon Ami Gabi: RW Lunch and Dinner menu
Parker’s American Bistro
Redwood: RW Lunch and Dinner menu
Tara Thai
Taylor Gourmet

Out of the list above, we would definitely recommend Raku. Not only is their food and service exceptional, but they also offer their entire menu for diners (a rarity in Restaurant Week these days). Lebanse Taverna is a good option as well.

I’m honestly a little surprised that Taylor Gourmet is participating since their chiefly a sandwich shop where a hoagie and soda will certainly run you less than $15 per person.

As for us, we might finally try Redwood or Assagi. We’re honestly embarrassed that we have yet to have a meal at these places despite living so close.

Thanks to Bethesda Actually for the heads up!

Cuba Libre Opens Its Doors in DC

8 Oct

There has been buzz growing for quite some time about Cuba Libre, a new upscale Cuban restaurant in Penn Quarter. The mini-chain has other locations in Atlantic City, Philadelphia, and Orlando, but this is the company’s first foray into DC. When we heard that not only were they opening October 1st, but that for the first week all food items would be 50% off, we snagged a reservation on OpenTable right away. We somehow were able to add our friends as well, so the four of us ventured there on Wednesday to check it out.

(Note: apologies for the camera phone pictures. We had showed up with our actual camera only to find out that the battery was not charged, so we had to make due with Rachel’s Android instead. C’est la vie!)

We arrived for our 8pm reservation and the place was packed, notably with people crowding the bar area. The place itself is pretty impressive, with balconies overhead and colorful walls that made it look like you’re stepping into Havana, not that most of us would know what that looks like given that we’ve never actually been to the Caribbean country, but I digress.

While waiting for our friends we decided to try some of their supposedly famous mojitos. There are 14 varieties to choose from, as well as specialty cocktails, caipirinhas, an extensive rum menu, and of course beer and wine. I decided to try the grilled pineapple mojito after hearing a recommendation from a friend on Facebook, and Brett went for the classic variation. They even had flavors such as an energy mojito with Red Bull, and one that included basil and beet puree.  Both of ours were tasty, but I definitely think I liked mine better of the two.

The menu is broken out into Piqueos, or small tasting plates, aperitivos (appetizers), ceviches, and entrees. We were told that the ceviche is what they are known for, and the James Beard award-winning chef of the chain even has a cookbook dedicated to them. So we opted for the sample of all five varieties.

Ceviche AssortmentNormally, we would have just left it at that, but since in the back of our minds we knew everything was half price, we decided to also go for an appetizer of Mariquitas Cubana, which was essentially a trio of dips with different chips to try. The dips were a black bean hummus, rum-cured smoked marlin salad, and Haitian eggplant spread, essentially a play on Mediterranean dips. The chips were plantain, malanga, and yucca, and looked like large Terra chips to me.

We figured the ceviches would be smaller since it was a sampler, but we were able to taste each one. They included smoked salmon, diced tuna, scallops, shrimp, and Maryland lump crab. It was nice to see a local touch on the menu with the crab, although we were skeptical about how it would taste in a ceviche. Some were definitely better than others. The salmon had roe on top and a dusting of popcorn which provided an interesting flavor combination, but the winners in our opinion were the scallop and crab ceviches.

Mariquitas CubanaThe dips were reasonable and definitely something different than your traditional hummus or eggplant. The smoked fish salad tasted more like a traditional white fish salad, something I would normally eat with bagels and lox than at a Cuban restaurant. Overall, the spread was nothing spectacular and the portions of each dip were small, especially to share. For the regular price of $13, I don’t think I would get it again.

There were several different choices for entrees, with most of them being Cuban-inspired but with a twist from the chef.  Again, since everything was half off, we probably looked at the menu a little differently than we normally would have as we went for the dishes that were more on the expensive end. Brett got the Bife de Nueva York which was a 12 ounce strip steak with caramelized shallots, steamed kale, polenta fries and accompanied with tamarind ketchup and steak sauce.  The entrée normally costs $32, and since Brett is already a steak lover, he opted to go with that.

I was torn between several dishes; either the paella with black forbidden rice, whole boneless sea bass, filet of salmon, or BBQ shrimp. I decided to try the jumbo shrimp, or Camarones con Cana, which was prepared in a mango BBQ glaze. I was a little skeptical with the sides, which were listed as “crispy Anaheim pepper stuffed with creamy quinoa, sweet potato and Mascarpone cheese.” It was also served with chunky guacamole as well.

Camarones con Cana

The shrimp were great, some of the biggest I’ve seen, and the sauce on them had a nice flavor, especially eaten together with the guac. It was the side of the pepper that I felt didn’t really fit with the rest of the dish. I thought it would be a green pepper with some quinoa inside, but it wound up being a huge, fried jalapeno pepper with a creamy mixture within. It was essentially a giant jalapeño popper. Granted, I ate most of it, but I felt fairly ill after and thought it was way too heavy compared to the lightness of the shrimp. It might have been paired better with black beans and rice instead.

Brett thought his steak was excellently cooked as the kitchen perfectly accommodated his medium-rare request. The steak was supposedly marinated but Brett thought it was more on the dryer side but was tender nonetheless. The provided steak sauce helped things as it had its own unique flavor while the polenta fires and tamarind ketchup were a nice compliment to the dish.

Bife de Nueva York

Our friends got the paella and the sea bass and liked both of their dinners as well. This night was a case when I had food envy and wish I had chosen one of those dishes instead. Don’t get me wrong, I liked mine overall, but I think I would have enjoyed one of those better.

Torta de Chocolate y Dulce de LecheWe were all pretty stuffed at that point, but again, at half off the food bill, we thought in order to give a full report we should order some dessert too. We all shared the Torta de Chocolate y Dulce de Leche, basically a chocolate lava cake. The soufflé was layered with dulce de leche, and served with dulce de leche ice cream, a chocolate orange sauce, and blueberry compote. If I was not so full I would have devoured it, but the few bites I had were delicious. The server told us if we liked chocolate that we should get this dessert, and she was ultimately right.

When we got our bill, it was enclosed in a large wooden box. We noticed other tables had this as well. Some tables received cigar boxes while others, such as ours, received ones suited for baccarat. We said this was something that seemed like a good idea in theory, but could increasingly get annoying with the awkwardness of carrying around boxes and having customers dig into a box to fish out different credit card receipts. We wouldn’t be surprised if they did away with it within a few months.

Bill in Baccarat Box The 50% off deal is a great idea, both for the diners and the restaurant itself. Customers get a chance to try different things on the menu and splurge a little since everything (excluding beverages) is discounted. The restaurant is able to feel its way the first week or two if some dishes are a miss as well as hear feedback from the diners. Plus, if service is bad or if something is off, it’s hard to complain when you’re getting such a great deal. The 50% special is over, but you can still take advantage of 25% off food items from October 8th through 13th.

Overall, we felt it was a fun, new addition to the DC dining scene. The service was fairly slow and a little uneven, but we’ll chalk that up to first week opening craziness. One thing that was a big turnoff was the kitschy Cuban music in the background. It was loud and distracting, and didn’t add anything to our dining experience.  The food was good and unique, but didn’t wow us by any means. Looking at what the prices normally are, we all agreed we would be hard pressed to come back and order the same dishes. Most of them were in the upper $20 range, and while that is now becoming the standard for nicer restaurants in the DC area, some of the dishes just didn’t seem to warrant those prices. Especially with specialty drinks like the mojitos costing $10 or more, the meal could easily rack up to at least $100 or more for two people.

The website currently doesn’t offer much information about the DC location outside of saying that it is officially open. You can view the menus if you go to the other cities, and they all seem to be fairly similar. I would say to definitely check it out if you’re curious, but I could honestly see myself going back more for a girls’ night of drinks at the bar than for a date night.

Cuba Libre on Urbanspoon

Lunch Crush at Proof

7 Oct

If you’re looking for one of the greatest lunch deals in the entire DC metropolitan area, Proof is undoubtedly the way to go.

Rachel and I were figuring out places to go to for lunch last Friday, and we both wanted something that was upscale yet reasonably priced.  Proof was able to fulfill both of our requests thanks to their outstanding Lunch Crush special.

The deal is only available in the lounge area, but if you can grab a spot by the bar, you’re in for a real treat. Diners have a selection of six entrees in addition to a glass of red or white wine for, you ready, $12! It’s quite an exceptional value, especially when you compare the prices of the entrees alone as opposed to if you were to order them a la carte. Throw in a glass of their house wine and then it becomes a real steal.

Enjoying some wine at ProofI ordered the grilled garlic chicken and a glass of the red, an Argentinean Malbec which was very good considering it was only the house wine.  Then again, Proof doesn’t mess around with its vino to begin with, but it’s nice to see that they offer customers excellent selections even from their first tier of bottles.

Rachel opted for the shrimp burger, which came with jalapeno, shaved cucumber, cilantro, pickled daikon and carrots. She tried the house white, which turned out to be a sparkling wine and was very different, but in a good way.

We were definitely waiting a good amount of time for the food to arrive, especially considering the fact it was the lunch hour, but it didn’t bother us since we had the day off and were not necessarily in a rush. We looked at our watch a few times, but the wine we had was enjoyable while we waited nonetheless.

When our food arrived, the server had placed in front of me the sautéed potato gnocchi instead of the chicken. The server then came over and informed that he thought I had ordered the gnocchi, but when I corrected him in saying that I had asked for the chicken, he was very apologetic for the error and said he would have it immediately prepared if I liked.

Having read rave reviews about the gnocchi prior to visiting, I was open-minded about the situation and told the waiter not to worry about it and would have what was served instead. Because of the gaffe, the waiter offered Rachel and I another glass of wine compliments of the house, which was a very nice gesture. The waiter did ensure me that the gnocchi was one of his favorite dishes and that I would enjoy it.

Sautéed Potato Gnocchi

Well, he was right. It was perhaps the best gnocchi I had ever tasted. I guess I understood why our food took so long to arrive because of how it was meticulously prepared in the kitchen. The homemade dumplings practically melted in my mouth while the wild mushrooms were full of flavor and really added something to the dish as a whole. The serving was also very generous and well worth its normal price of $16.  The fact I was enjoying my meal for $4 less and a glass (or two) of wine exemplifies why Lunch Crush is such a true bargain.

While there weren’t any sides that came with Rachel’s dish, the shrimp burger itself was very filling, and again, hard to complain about with such a deal. The burger itself was made of all shrimp, almost like a seafood sausage, and was crispy on the outside. It was definitely a different taste, but the combination of the shrimp with the toppings made for an excellent bite. It also had some kick to it but the spice wasn’t too overpowering.

Proof Shrimp Burger

When the waiter dropped off our check and thanked us for coming, my jaw nearly hit the table when I read the bill. He not only did not charge us for the additional glasses of wine, but he also only billed us for just one of the Lunch Crush specials. In other words, our bill came out to $12 and tax.  I could not believe it. That, my friends, is how to run a restaurant and establish goodwill with your customers.

We left him a very generous tip and departed Proof with an abundance of satisfaction to say the least. Between the fantastic meal and an even better customer service, it was pretty much a perfect dining experience.

Proof on Urbanspoon

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 Restaurant.com, 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!