Tag Archives: Restaurant

Frankly…the best pizza I’ve ever tasted!

We try to go out for dinner once a week or so. Sometimes more often, sometimes less often. Last night was our planned night out and Dean suggested a new restaurant he’d read about in the Washington Post. A restaurant in Kensington. We rarely go to Kensington for dinner — in fact the only restaurant in that area we’ve eaten at is one of Black’s eateries: Black Market Bistro.

Dean warned me that the restaurant he’d read about served only pizza. That was fine, I like pizza. We could not find the restaurant right away, so drove around a bit found parking (free!! — Kensington is NOT Bethesda) and followed Dean’s iPhone directions to the restaurant. We’d driven right past it but didn’t see Frankly…Pizza! on the awning until we were a few yards away. We walked past about 8 tables of patrons enjoying the warm spring evening, eating pizza outside, under the awning, and headed indoors to be seated. We would have preferred to eat outdoors, but got a nice table inside the eclectically decorated, but pizza themed, restaurant. At first it seemed very loud, but either we got used to it or the noise quickly died down.

Our waiter was energetic and friendly and suggested we choose a pizza each. Dean wavered between a clam pizza or a sausage pizza, settling on the sausage pizza. I chose the clam. They also served house made sodas, wine and beer on tap. I chose a NZ sauvignon blanc and Dean chose an IPA. Dean ordered an arugula salad, which was delicious, but I was keeping my appetite for my pizza.

My pizza was delicious. I think it is the best pizza I have ever eaten. The crust was perfect — thinish but puffed up at the edges — and wonderfully chewy. The toppings, mozzarella Romano, garlic and olive oil were amazing. Together the crust and toppings were heavenly. Dean’s pizza tasted more like a regular pizza. Good, but not as good as mine.

I can’t wait to go back to Frankly…Pizza. I will definitely take my daughter who thinks the only restaurant that can make a decent white pizza is Pines of Rome. She is so wrong.

Dinner and a Walk

The Dinner

Friday night the kids were busy with their various activities — Clare to the mall with a friend and Andrew had a Rugby game, so Dean and I took the opportunity to go out to dinner.

We’d gotten our latest (last?) Bethesda Magazine in the mail a few days before and read a couple reviews of local restaurants. Visions was mentioned, as was Dean’s favorite restaurant — Black’s Bar & Kitchen (formerly Black’s). The magazine also held a $10 off coupon that could be used at a number of restaurants in the area during May. We looked at the list and decided to go with a restaurant we’d not eaten at before, Trattoria Sorrento. Besides we were both in the mood for Italian.

We were given a choice of sitting in a light and lively area of the restaurant or a darker and more formal area. We chose the lighter area mostly because the host told us there was a party of 40 or so expected in the formal dining room.

We immediately felt at home in the restaurant. It was obvious the folks sitting just behind our table were either part of the family or good friends of the owners. Another couple dining near us seemed to be either regulars or good friends of our waiter because of the familiarity they exhibited towards one another.

The waiter was very friendly — not in an over-the-top and fake way, but just down-home family friendly. He told us about the specials, took our drink order after explaining that the woman sitting behind us was Sunday’s entertainment. On Sundays the restaurant hosts Opera Night and the guests are treated to an opera singer or two while they dine. We’re not opera fans, but I’m sure the folks who are enjoy the performance.

For dinner I chose sea bass which was prepared with a kind of puttenesca sauce. I don’t recall the actual name of the dish. Dean ordered veal ravioli. Prior to our entrées we shared a Caesar salad which was good. Nothing special, just a normal Caesar salad.

My entrée was delicious. The sauce was perfect — not too salty. The fish was very good, mild and flaky, but not dried out. My only complaint was a fishy taste once, that might just have been some skin. Unfortunately it ruined the rest of the meal and I gave my dinner to Dean, but I’d actually eaten enough by then.

Dean’s dish, according to him — I don’t eat veal — was not so good. He thought the filling was too salty and the dough on the ravioli overcooked. He ate most of it, but left three small ravioli — unusual for him. He was content to finish my fish, though — so my fishy tasting bite was a good deal for him.

We shared a bottle of Meridian Pinor Noir. It was fine, and priced pretty good at $26.

We’ll probably return to Trattoria Sorrento at some time, but probably not soon. We’ve got a lot of other restaurants to try in Bethesda, and even feeling a part of the family isn’t enough pull for an unsatisfactory dinner.

The Walk

rhododendronsnowball treeAfter dinner we went to McGrillis Gardens for a walk at dusk. The rhododendrons were in bloom as well as a bush* with snowball shaped flowers. As we neared the back fence Dean claimed to hear spring peepers on the other side of the fence, near the newly built McMansions and after disagreeing with him at first, I finally conceded that he was right.

I heard my first Rufous-sided Towhee of the year (FOY in birding jargon). At least I thought that is what I heard, but it turned out to be an Eastern Towhee. See, some silly bird committee decided to re-name this bird from an interesting and descriptive sounding moniker to a boring and nondescript one.

All-in-all, it was a pleasant evening. It’s nice to get out once in a while. Of course I could eat out several times a week, but with college looming we need to be a little more frugal. Eating in Bethesda — heck, just living in Bethesda, is not inexpensive. Having a free and open area to wander around in after dinner is a treat that we don’t take advantage of often enough.

*speaking of Bush, his sister lives around there somewhere…according to AARP Magazine and my Aunt Ginny’s Internet sleuthing.

Review: Visions Restaurant

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!)

Outside VisionsThe 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.

This may very well be the filetThe 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.

I thnk these are the scallopsDean 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.

Lilit – my favorite restaurant

A few years ago a new restaurant opened up near us. I didn’t notice right away because nothing changed about the building — it was a mom & pop beer & wine store that I went to once, but avoided because it was dark and seedy looking inside. At some point they added a small dining area and served food, but it just didn’t appeal to me.

Then a couple of signs appeared on the front window. One declared they served the “Best Crab Cakes in Bethesda” and the other advertised free broadband wifi. Now that caught my attention. I saw that the name of the restaurant changed from “Something Something Beer and Wine” to “Lilit“. Dean also noticed the change and suggested we stop in sometime.

Around the time we noticed the changes, our friends David and Alison told us they’d been going to an Armenian restaurant within walking distance of their home. After a couple of minutes discussion we realized they were talking about Lilit. They said the food was good and the wine prices reasonable, but the best thing about the establishment was the owners. The owners were very friendly and knew David and Alison on sight and always seemed delighted that they stopped in.

Now, this may not be special to you — especially if you don’t live in the Bethesda area, but this is really unusual around here. Most dining establishments around here are so busy that they don’t have time to remember regulars, (although we are not regulars anywhere in Bethesda, except maybe Pines of Rome — and they are not very friendly there).

The first time I dined at Lilit, I was with my friends Alison and Janet. We’d just seen a film and wanted a meal afterwards. We looked at the restaurants in downtown Bethesda, but there were no seats to be had on a Saturday evening, so Alison suggested Lilit. I’d been wanting to go ever since she mentioned it, so I said yes.

We were greeted warmly by a young man who told us to sit where we wanted to. It was rather late, and the hours of operation stated they were closing in an hour, so the dining room was empty, except for us. I chose a bottle of wine from the wine rack, the young man opened it while we waited for our food which we’d ordered at the counter.

I ordered the crab cake, Janet had the eggplant parmigiana sub, I don’t recall what Alison had, but she liked it. We all liked our food. The crab cake was the best I’d had in Bethesda. The prices were very reasonable – the wine cost the same as it would have cost at the local wine store — they don’t mark it up like most restaurants do.

Because I liked the restaurant so much, I encouraged Dean to go soon after I went with Janet and Alison. We both had the crab cakes, and Dean agreed that they were the best he’d had. That time there was a different person behind the counter, but he was just as friendly as the young man earlier.

For a while, I often went for take-out and was greeted warmly each time. Then the ownership changed – from the older man to the young man who served me the first time. He made some changes, like creating a web site for the restaurant. He also has periodic wine tastings and sends out newsletters about once a month.

Now when I stop in, the owner, Davinder, greets me warmly and, if he hasn’t seen me in a while, remarks on that. The food continues to be delicious and reasonable. The wine, is always good and if we don’t finish a bottle we can take it home with us. The best part continues to be the friendliness of the staff.

I am trying to work my way though the menu — and have sampled many of the sandwiches, but I always go back to the crab cakes. They are very good. They also have a gelato machine and make it fresh often. It’s very good — and if I can believe their claims, better for me than ice cream!

Tonight we stopped in for dinner. I had the crab cake platter and a new addition to their menu – daal soup. It was delicious and filling. Dean liked it too, and Davinder pretty much told me how it was made.  I’ll try to make it sometime, but if they continue to carry it, I might just stop in Lilit for a bowl now and then instead.

While Dean likes the restaurant, he’s not as entranced as I am, but the only specific comment he’s had is that he wishes they offered regular bread, and not just gluten free. Clare doesn’t like the bread, and none of the few vegetarian options are things she likes much. (she did not like the daal soup when I brought a bowl home for her to try). They do have a sandwich with fresh mozzarella and roasted peppers that she tried, which she said was ok. The peppers should have been roasted a bit more for her taste though. However, Clare is rather picky about her food.

We were a little worried that Lilit might not survive, given its location (far from the main section of Bethesda) and the fact that it was not filling up evenings, but recently we’ve seen all tables filled on the weekends. Last night we had to briefly wait for a table; and other folks, who came in later, had to wait longer for tables. So, we’re confident that if they continue to fill up at night and on weekends, they will survive. Hope the owner doesn’t burn out though. Except for one time when his friend took over for him, he’s always been there when I’ve stopped by.

Grapeseed

It is Restaurant Week in Bethesda. I didn’t know it existed until reading a blog post about it and then getting a reminder about it in an email from Bethesda Urban Partnership. A good deal – a 3 course meal for $30. (not including wine).

I looked around at restaurants I wanted to visit – we had to do it tonight because I have a meeting tomorrow and Dean’s gone for the rest of the week. I’ve wanted to go to Grapseed for a long time, but didn’t expect them to have any seats left at the time we wanted to go. I chose Visions because I’d just found out about it, and corresponded with one of the chefs. (I complained about their pop-up on their home page.)

When Dean got home we talked about where we wanted to eat. I told him about Visions, but said I’d like to go to Grapeseed if they had a spot. Dean called and we got a reservation at Grapeseed at the “chef’s table”.

fire.jpgThe chef’s table, in case you didn’t know, is a bar overlooking the kitchen. It is probably the last to go because it isn’t very romantic, but it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed watching the chefs cook. And it was warm, by all that fire.

Our meal was delicious. The wine was wonderful. The chefs were entertaining. The bill wasn’t bad, considering this is probably the best restaurant in Bethesda. Although if you add the parking ticket to the top of the bill, it was kind of expensive.