A few months ago I heard about a new restaurant in Bethesda. Not that it’s unusual for new restaurants to open here, but this one was different. One of the owners likes using the Internet to promote his restaurant. He’s got blogs and a website, podcasts and tweets as well as the restaurant’s own social network. I’ve been wracking my brain to figure out exactly where I heard about the restaurant, but I guess it doesn’t matter. Somewhere on the Internet I’m guessing. (I do remember emailing the restaurant about an annoying pop-up they used on their home page. I received a friendly response.)
I’d wanted to visit the restaurant for a couple of reasons. One was the exuberance of one of the owners, and because it seemed to be more down-to-earth than some other Bethesda establishments. My one worry was that the food might not be so good. I worried, perhaps the owners were a little ADHD, based on Tony’s all over the place Internet habits. (Look who’s talking!)
The restaurant is located on St. Elmo St. in Bethesda, just across the street from a parking garage. My husband said the space used to be an Asian restaurant. It’s exterior is modern looking with clean lines and primary colored letters. My husband tried to walk into the wrong door, but the door on the side was obviously the right door if you looked carefully.
We were greeted warmly by a hostess who asked if we had a reservation. We didn’t and she said it didn’t make a difference, they had plenty of seats. She spoke the truth — there was only one other couple at the restaurant. She led us to a small table for two in a narrow hallway. We must have hesitated because she said we could sit at a bigger table in the main room since there was the space. We chose to sit at a four seater in the main room near the window. The hostess said that some people liked sitting in that smaller area because it was romantic. I later learned, by looking at photos of the restaurant, it is called “lovers lane“.
I was again concerned that I’d made the wrong choice of restaurants. It was a Friday night and there were large crowds of folks in Bethesda. The restaurant was in a central location and there were only four people eating in it at 6:30 at night.
The server was even more friendly than the hostess and answered questions and made requested suggestions with a lighthearted and seemingly genuine tone. I ordered a glass of pinot noir and Dean ordered nut brown ale (Newcastle, not Samuel Smith’s). When the drinks came we ordered our meal. Dean ordered a seasonal soup sampler and a seared scallop entree. I ordered a mesculn salad and filet mignon.
My wine was very good, but a little warm. I don’t like chilled red wine, but this should have been a little cooler. Dean must have liked his ale because he drank it and ordered another.
Our first course came out quickly. The soups: a kind of chicken, a spicy tomato and cream of asparagus were delicious. I’m not a big soup person, but I could have made a meal of any one of the soups and been very happy. My salad, which had spring greens, red onions and roma tomatoes with a balsamic dressing was perfect. There was just the right amount of dressing on the salad and the greens were very fresh and crisp. I could have done without the onions, but they were pretty good as well — not too overpowering as red onions sometimes are. I thought, at first, they were shallots.
The wait staff was very attentive to us and when we’d finished our salad and soup our entrees were ready. My filet was very tasty. It was served along side delicious mashed potatoes that probably had garlic in them. They’d been mashed with their red skins — my favorite way of making (and eating) mashed potatoes! I also got a serving of sauteed zucchini slices. They were perfectly cooked – crisp enough to yield a bit when chewing, but cooked enough so they were not bitter. The flavor was delicious.
Dean liked his scallops a lot. I’m not a big fan of scallops, but these were good. He also got an order of risotto which was heavenly. His vegetable was braised apples and fennel – interesting and also good.
The restaurant describes itself as “New American” and I suppose that is the kind of food it serves, but the atmosphere is more down-to-earth than what I think of as New American. The portions were hearty, but not overly so. The staff was warm and friendly — something I don’t associate with downtown Bethesda restaurants or New American restaurants either.
My only disappointment of the evening was that Chef Tony didn’t visit with us. He said, in his blog, that he liked to visit each table. I was looking forward to that.
I wonder how this restaurant will make out in this very transient area. Restaurants come and go almost as much as the folks who visit them. Tony seems so pleased to have his own restaurant and the food is fantastic. The prices are somewhat reasonable, a bit on the high side, but it’s Bethesda after all.
At one point during the evening a large party walked into the restaurant and was seated in the back room. I overheard someone ask them if they thought it looked different from [didn’t hear the name they said]. About 20 minutes later the entire group left the restaurant. Speculation among the employees was that they’d made reservations at a restaurant but thought it was a different restaurant than it really was. I thought it was rude of them to leave, but this is Bethesda, after all.
We’ll go back to Visions. It’s nice to feel comfortable instead of feeling like a fish out of water like I usually feel at restaurants in this town. And the food! Heavenly.