Monday, July 11, 2011

Mussel Bar, Bethesda MD

I have always had a theory that it is nearly impossible for a restaurant on Bethesda Row to go out of business.  Between the sheer foot traffic, the lack of good restaurant competition, and did I mention the most amazing foot traffic (?!?) you would literally have to be serving rat poison to not make money.

Apparently Levante’s was serving rat poison.  Good riddance. 

Especially because in its place, there is now Mussel Bar.

Mussel Bar is the latest venture of Robert Wiedmaier, whose fancy restaurant Marcel’s is so good I want to see shows at the Kennedy Center just so that I have an excuse to eat there.  He also owns Brasserie Beck, a more casual brasserie serving Belgian cuisine, which can be a little heavy but is also very good.

Compared to Beck, the interior of Mussel Bar (MB) is unpleasant.   Whereas Beck’s vaguely nautical interior reminds you of a chic ocean liner, MB’s dark wood paneling is cold and the acoustics are terrible—don’t go if you want to chat.  Fortunately, I was able to get a seat outside, which means I had the benefit of a quiet conversation and premium Bethesda people watching.

Perhaps you are supposed to order mussels at the Mussel Bar, but what I really wanted was a wood-fired tart/Belgian pizza.  You can get pizzas at another Wiedmaier restaurant, Brabo Tasting Room in Alexandria, but not at Beck.  So I was glad to see it on the menu.

This is a pizza with pork belly, mussel, tomato, and gruyere cheese (see how he managed to get the mussel in there?)  It’s a rich, melt-in-your-mouth, surf and turf pizza with a really nice chewy bread crust.  It’s kind of perfect.

There are only 3 options for dessert:  Crème Brûlée, Chocolate Bread Pudding, and Gelato/Sorbet.  I had an excellent bread pudding at Beck once, so the choice was easy:

As you can see, that is a very large hunk of bread pudding.  While it was good, I sense from the limited offerings that Mussel Bar just isn’t trying very hard with their desserts.  It’s too bad, because the pear tart and chocolate cake at Beck are excellent.  But I suppose with Georgetown Cupcake around the corner they don’t really need to try harder.

Honestly, on Bethesda Row, they hardly have to try at all.

Mussel Bar
7262 Woodmont Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814

(301) 215-7817

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