Update 11/16/12: Robert Wiedmaier tells us that Wildwood Kitchen is set to debut for dinner tonight at 5. You’ll find seasonal cocktails like a cranberry caipirinha, cheese and charcuterie boards, and dishes along the lines of grilled Maine scallops with eggplant jam, roast chicken over mushroom purée, and hanger steak with garlicky kale (see the full menu).
Chef Robert Wiedmaier isn’t typically one to go small. His Washington empire includes the fine-dining institution Marcel’s as well as large-scale, bustling spots like Brasserie Beck and Mussel Bar (not to mention the sprawling Atlantic City outpost of his Belgian-style bivalvery).
But you won’t find more than 55 seats at Wildwood Kitchen, his latest project in Bethesda’s Wildwood Shopping Center. The chef-restaurateur shares a peek at what you can expect in the former Jean-Michel-owned space, slated to open around November 17. Wiedmaier is hesitant to label Wildwood a Mediterranean restaurant, though the menu boasts strong influences from 23 countries surrounding the sea. If anything, the overall theme seems to be a return to a more casual—and what he calls “old-school”—approach. “When I first got into doing restaurants, we just cooked and served food,” he says. “Through the years, all these other things came into play.”
You won’t find online reservations, televisions, or elaborate computer systems in general. Hosts take calls and pencil parties into a reservation book. The menu includes eight appetizers and entrées, with an emphasis on cooking Mediterranean-style, using oils instead of cream or butter. Lunch could be a seared tuna sandwich with caper aïoli, or any of a number of salads, tartines, or paillards. Evening plates run bolder in flavor but with the same lightness in mind. Think grilled fresh sardines over ratatouille, pan-seared scallops with fennel confit, or a Border Springs Farm lamb T-bone marinated in garlic and rosemary, then charcoal grilled and drizzled with balsamic reduction. A 15-seat bar serves up wines and cocktails such as signature vodka-based concoction with grapefruit, tarragon, and Prosecco.
So what’s next for the toque? Wiedmaier says he’s also working on second area Mussel Bar in Ballston, with a similar menu but a slightly sleeker look than the Bethesda location.
Regular hours are Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday 11 to 11, Friday and Saturday 11 AM to 11:30 PM. Closed Monday.