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Best of Bethesda: Dining
Romantic hideaways, authentic ethnic spots, kid-friendly fare— Bethesda's dining scene has something for every occasion By Cynthia Hacinli, Ann Limpert, Rina Rapuano
Bistro Provence's patio is a lovely date spot. Photograph by Scott Suchman.
Comments () | Published September 7, 2010

DATE NIGHT

Bistro Provence
Longtime chef Yannick Cam has traded truffles and foie gras for ratatouille and roast chicken. His new Bethesda bistro is a far cry from his plush downtown DC restaurant, Le Paradou, which closed last year. But Cam’s take on casual means that a generous, beautifully cooked appetizer of lobster is served not with Sauternes butter but on a bed of green lentils, tiny clams are stuffed with onion confit and walnuts, and asparagus is blanketed in a lush, eggy custard. Service has been erratic—friendly and attentive on less crowded weeknights, maddeningly slow on packed Saturdays. 4933 Fairmont Ave.; 301-656-7373. Entrées $19.50 to $29.

Black’s Bar & Kitchen
Jeff and Barbara Black’s sleek restaurant might be the perfect place for a blind date. You can share a quick flatbread in the bamboo-toned bar and then, if all is going well, settle in for a longer dinner. The menu poaches from many cuisines, so on the same table you might find warm cornbread with honey butter, saffron-scented seafood stew, and mussels swimming in Thai coconut broth. And if things are going really well? Stick around for the late-night happy hour—Thursday 10 to 11, Friday and Saturday 11 to midnight—when you can get two oysters for the price of one; the same deal is from 4 to 7 on weekdays. 7750 Woodmont Ave.; 301-652-6278. Entrées $24 to $32.

Faryab Afghan
When you want to make eyes at your significant other, head to this white-walled space where Afghan textiles and rugs hang like art. Vegetables are the culinary stars, with plates such as buranee badejan (meltingly tender eggplant stew), kadu (sweet pumpkin with yogurt and meat sauce), and sabsi (puréed spinach with onion and garlic). Kofta kebab (spiced ground beef) and qabili palau (a heap of rice studded with chunks of lamb, currants, and shredded carrot) are the best of the meat dishes. But silky ravioli filled with scallions (aushak) or meat (mantu) and finished with swipes of tomato and yogurt are the hands-down winners of them all. 4917 Cordell Ave.; 301-951-3484. Entrées $15 to $22.

Grapeseed
Bethesda’s oldest wine bar may have a West Coast vibe, but chef/owner Jeff Heineman’s seasonal menus get inspiration from all over the globe. Recent plates have included sweet roast piquillo peppers stuffed with goat cheese, earthy fried chicken livers, spicy shrimp stew, and filet gilded with oxtail ragoût. The wine list is several hundred strong, with many ways to imbibe: by the bottle, glass, sip, or flight. In warm weather, when the floor-to-ceiling windows are open and an atmospheric breeze ripples through the small space, you might think you’re in Napa. 4865 Cordell Ave.; 301-986-9592. Entrées $24 to $35.

Jaleo
Experience superstar chef José Andrés’s take on tapas in this color-washed dining room. In recent years, Andrés has upped the luxe factor with delicacies such as Ibérico ham—there are three to try—and rarefied plates such as fried egg with caviar and rustic paella with Ibérico de Bellota pork ribs. But the Spanish-born chef pays homage to standards, too, including pan con tomate (toasted bread rubbed with fresh tomato), gambas ajillo (garlicky shrimp), and tortilla—in Spain it refers to a classic potato-egg omelet. A bit of Andrés’s Minibar flash is also on display with such innovations as rice with duck confit, duck breast, and foie gras cream. 7271 Woodmont Ave.; 301-913-0003. Tapas $6.50 to $12.

Mussel Bar
Robert Wiedmaier’s new beer-and-mussel house has the dark wood, tin ceiling, and conversational din of a Brussels drinking hall. The food nods to Belgium, but it’s also globally hip: pizza-like wood-fired tarts with crisp crusts; spicy Berkshire pork cooked doner kebab style and tucked into flatbread with pickled cucumbers and onions; a stellar lobster roll sprinkled with Old Bay. Big pots of mussels are perfect for sharing, and fries come with house-made mayo for dipping. The no-reservations policy can mean long waits. 7262 Woodmont Ave.; 301-215-7817. Entrées $15 to $28.

Nest Café
This 1½-year-old wine bar has lengthy waits most nights. The appeal? An architecturally avant garde space with wood and corrugated metal, a deck and dining room at once sceney and cozy, a smart wine-and-beer list, wallet-friendly tabs, and, if you order wisely, well-turned-out food. The rave-worthy cheeseburger is a mash-up of ground brisket and short ribs on a flour-dusted house-made bun. Equally delicious is a basket of fried calamari with crunchy artichoke leaves to share. Pastas and desserts aren’t where this kitchen’s energy is, but the chocolate-chip bread pudding with vanilla ice cream goes down sweet and smooth. 4921 Bethesda Ave.; 301-718-6378. Entrées $9.95 to $21.95.

Persimmon
Miniature lobster rolls, dead ringers for that Maine classic, are reason enough to slip into this romantic hideaway. Served on buttery toasted rolls, they’re fat with chunks of tail meat and come with a side of crunchy house-made Old Bay potato chips. Other plates to seek out: fennel-and-arugula salad, sautéed rockfish with roasted corn, and a trio of fresh-fruit sorbets. Add a background hum just right for conversation and a smart wine list—the restaurant won a Wine Spectator award—and you have a dining room with eater appeal. 7003 Wisconsin Ave.; 301-654-9860. Entrées $25 to $32.

Redwood
Feel like grazing? Head to this slate-and-redwood dining room, where you can cobble together a shareable meal of cheeses, terrines, and Parmesan-dusted flatbreads served with a variety of dips (we like the slightly sweet sheep’s-milk ricotta). The menu of more substantial fare changes often, but recent hits have been a duck-filled bánh mì and a grilled New York strip with white beans, broccolini, and garlicky salsa. 7121 Bethesda La.; 301-656-5515. Entrées $14 to $32.

Next >>  Bethesda's best family-friendly restaurants

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