Bistro LaZeez (Full Review)

Bright Mediterranean Flavors in Bethesda

It’s not easy for a home cook, no matter how good, to turn an avocation into an occupation and open a restaurant. When recipes are supersized, they often don’t translate, and timing dishes is a learned skill. But Reda Asaad, owner of the seven-month-old Bistro LaZeez, is beating the odds.

The 30-seat dining room is modern and simple; it has charcoal-gray wallpaper with large images of gold ginkgo leaves. Beaded chandeliers wrapped in translucent black linen add a touch of elegance.

Asaad assembled his menu from the home barbecues he throws for friends. Especially popular is his grilled chicken, swabbed with a sauce that’s strong on garlic and lemon and deserving of applause. That signature condiment is best on the three-piece platter (wing, thigh, drumstick), and the white-meat kebab isn’t far behind.

He also brought to the restaurant his techniques for grilling beef and lamb, but those kebabs have tended to be chewy. An exception is the excellent beef kofta, a garlicky ground-meat patty shaped around a skewer.

Appetizers are inconsistent. Some—such as smoky baba ghanoush; sumac-spiked, crispy falafel; and tangy yogurt spread—have been rewarding. But fava beans looked as if they came out of a can, and coriander-rubbed potatoes fell apart with one prod of a fork.

Shawarma sandwiches—a new endeavor for Asaad—aren’t stellar; tough strips of beef and chicken get lost among the vegetables and tahini. In some ways, this isn’t a surprise: The standouts are the dishes Asaad has cooked at dinner parties. And when home cooks prepare food for a crowd, a rule of thumb is to follow recipes they’ve made many, many times.

This article appears in the February 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.

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