Food

Take a Look Inside the Asian and Island-Inspired Urban Heights

Tropical cocktails, a Tuna Bar, and plenty of outdoor space from chef Robert Wiedmaier.
Take a Look Inside the Asian and Island-Inspired Urban Heights
Urban Heights opens in Bethesda with Asian fare, island-style cocktails and plenty of outdoor space. Photography by Andrew Propp.

The biggest outdoor dining and drinking space in Bethesda opens Thursday, just in time for summer. Urban Heights, the first Asian restaurant from chef Robert Wiedmaier, debuts in the former Roof Bethesda space. The launch comes on the heels of Villain & Saint, Wiedmaier’s live music venue that served its first meal last week. While the latter brings ribs and rock n’ roll to the scene, Urban Heights mixes Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino influences over two floors, outfitted with a spacious patio and roof deck.

Guests access the window-walled dining room via a bamboo-lined elevator.

Filipino spring rolls, adobo sliders

Chef Cliff Wharton helms the kitchen, and creates dishes influenced by his Filipino family and years as chef de cuisine at TenPenh. Small plates in the $4 to $9 range make up a large portion of the lunch and dinner menus, with classics from the Philippines like crispy lumpia spring rolls alongside less traditional items such as chicken adobo sliders (“My mom would probably cringe at that,” Wharton says of his riff). Guests don’t have to graze, with entrees such as pork belly bánh mì sandwiches at lunch, and whole crispy fish with cucumber salad and tamarind dipping sauce in the evening.

Chef Cliff Wharton makes dishes inspired by his Filipino family, like these chicken adobo sliders.

Tastes from a Tuna Bar

Some restaurants have a raw bar. Urban Heights claims its own version devoted to Wagyu of the Sea. A slab of sushi-grade tuna on ice greets guests at the front of the restaurant, ready to be diced into Hawaiian-style poke, sliced for sashimi with jalapeño-citrus vinaigrette, and wrapped with nori for a crunch tempura-like roll.

Cocktails take inspiration from the islands, like the sake-spiked Rising Sun (left) with lychee liqueur and diced pineapple, or the gin Szechuan sour (right).

Sake punch in the sunshine

The restaurant goes for a transporting island affect, starting with the entrance; guests access the eatery through a bamboo-lined elevator. Two outdoor areas make ideal spots for sipping in the sunshine: an entry-level dining patio set for 40, and a slightly larger roof deck above. Drinkers can pick between Asian draft beers and tropical cocktails like a sake-spiked rum punch or kumquat mojito.

Chef Cliff Wharton (right) with general manager Garth Hamilton; the roof deck bar.

Rooftop pig roasts, Asian-style brunch

Wharton plans to roll out brunch in a few weeks, with dishes like a crab cake Benedict with chili hollandaise. Once summer hits, the rooftop will be the place for Filipino-style pig roasts. In the meantime, head up for happy hour between 3 and 7.

Urban Heights. 7940 Norfolk Ave., Bethesda. Open for lunch, Monday through Friday, 11:30 to 2:30; Dinner, Sunday through Thursday, 5 to 10, Friday and Saturday 5 to 11. Roof deck open Monday through Sunday, 3 to close. Brunch (coming soon), Saturday and Sunday, 11 to 2:30.

Crispy lumpia spring rolls, a traditional Filipino dish.
Bulgogi-style steak salad with chili-lime dressing (right), served outdoors or in the dining room.

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Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.