Food

What to Expect at These Three New Bethesda Restaurants: Passionfish, Shanghai Bao Kitchen, Silver

new bethesda restaurants
Ponzu-marinated tuna tartare with avocado at Silver. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Silver

7150 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda; 301-652-9780
“Heart of a diner, style of a brasserie” is the tagline for this upscale spinoff of the Silver Diner chain. In many ways, the Art Deco–style dining room is a dressed-up version of its 13 area siblings. It serves many of the same riffs on nostalgia plates from morning through late night, but with finer table settings, well-made cocktails, and slightly higher prices. As at the diners, many ingredients are local and there’s a nice range of healthy dishes. Classics such as huevos rancheros and luxuriously rich chicken pot pie are made heartier, and more delicious, with an abundance of seasonal vegetables, while burgers pack plenty of grass-fed-beefy flavor (try the Italian-style Mulberry Street, with prosciutto, pesto, and pickled vegetables). The kitchen also succeeds with trendier plates, like crispy Brussels sprouts and Korean tacos. That’s not to say all efforts are rewarding—a crabcake doesn’t need sunflower seeds on top. Still you can eat well at Silver, which is all a classic brasserie—or diner—aspires to. Moderate.

new bethesda restaurants
Shrimp dumplings at Shanghai Bao Kitchen. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Shanghai Bao Kitchen

7101 Democracy Blvd., Bethesda; 301-365-8866

Ivan Liang—who owns Bob’s Shanghai 66, one of the best Chinese restaurants in Rockville—rips a sheet from the José Andrés playbook at this storefront in Westfield Montgomery mall’s freshly revamped food court. If you’ve been to Andrés’s Beefsteak in DC, those bottles of Spindrift soda and baskets plunging a rainbow of veggies into boiling water will look mighty familiar. You can customize your own bowl—garlic rice, salad greens, or cool rice noodles provide the base—with an array of sauces (we like the scallion and tangy ginger creations), produce, crunchy add-ons (crisp shallots, crushed peanuts), and dumplings. But the results tend to be messy and heavy. We’d skip straight to the puffy bao—filled with carrot, cabbage, and mushroom or black-pepper beef—or the dumplings, which can be ordered in sets of five or ten. They include milky-white, translucent bundles of shrimp and pan-fried half moons of ground chicken. You can choose a sauce for those, too—garlic-soy all the way. Inexpensive.

new bethesda restaurants
Mussels with limoncello at PassionFish. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

PassionFish

7187 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda; 301-358-6116

In 1998, Jeff Tunks lit up the downtown restaurant scene with his seafood-focused DC Coast. That restaurant closed late last year, and while Tunks has wisely ditched its gaudy mermaid statue, his latest arrival has power-boosted Bethesda’s restaurant landscape in similar ways. PassionFish, which has a twin in Reston, sits at the base of a million-dollar-a-unit condo building. Tunks’s longtime deputy, Chris Clime, oversees both kitchens, and the strengths of the Virginia location—an impressive raw bar, impeccable sourcing, and a menu that, for all its eclecticism, gets a lot right—extends here, too. We couldn’t stop munching on a basket of fried Ipswich clams, a plate of Kung Pao–style calamari, and a classic lump-filled crabcake. (The one misfire among the starters: a soggily dressed wedge salad.) Maki are creative—if sometimes overdressed with accoutrements—and snugly rolled. Then there’s the Chinese-smoked lobster, which was the most popular dish at DC Coast. It’s just as terrific here as it was in its late-’90s heyday. Expensive.

This article appears in our March 2016 issue of Washingtonian.

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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 Logan Circle.

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.