100 Best Restaurants 2008: Grapeseed Bistro

No. 51: Grapeseed Bistro

Cuisine: A wine-friendly menu that takes its inspiration from an eclectic array of sources—the Mediterranean, New England, California, even summer camp.

Mood: The newly redesigned restaurant can accommodate twice as many diners as before in an airy, softly lit space decked out with wine barrels and a stone-arched room lined with wine racks. The effect is like walking off a Bethesda street into the trendiest boîte in Healdsburg.

Best for: Wine lovers looking to relive their Northern California vacations, groups seeking some privacy.

Best dishes: The menu changes regularly, but recent highlights have included cornmeal-crusted fried oysters in a bacon beurre blanc; goat-cheese-stuffed piquillo peppers with romesco sauce; grilled tuna with a decadent wedge of prosciutto-laced bread pudding; roast pork loin with apples and rapini; chocolate roulade with coffee ice cream; “s’mores,” a fudgy brownie topped with house-made marshmallow and browned under the broiler.

Insider tips: Groups of up to ten should ask if the cozy Cellar Room is available. Diners looking to view the action can seek out the six stools at the small bar along the open kitchen. Booths for two in the backroom offer privacy for couples. The wine list, one of Montgomery County’s best, is strongest in the “other” category of quirky blends and unusual wines.

Service: ••½

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.