Official Friend of DCWD Madison had just come back from abroad and was headed back out to a place where good food is hard to find (as in like, impossible). So with that in mind, we set up a list of places where we needed to go before she disappeared across the oceans. The first on the docket: a place with great mussels and beer. So off we went to Robert Wiedmaier's new place: Mussel Bar.
I guess I have to lead off with a quote from Madison: "a classy unpretentious environment... it's like this restaurant was made for me." Which is true. Mussel Bar is both trendy but laidback, with features that make it both a brasserie and a bar. Wine bottles are everywhere: on racks above the bar, on shelves, even on a weird inverted rack that hangs above the seats by the light fixtures. And just so that the wine doesn't feel lonely, there's a giant beer fridge along the back wall, which makes you lust for the suds almost immediately.
Anyway, back to the classic, modern decor. As you enter, you see the oval-shaped bar, central to the room when you walk in, and which is both big but limited in its seating. Like almost all hip restaurants these days, there are chalkboard special menus and a decided orange glow to the place, accentuated by the beige walls and wood paneling on the walls by the booths. Candle lanterns sit on the edge of the booths, which make up one wall of the dining area; the rest of the seating is simple straight-line wooden furniture, two- and four-tops. A sizable buzz is in the air and several flat-screen TVs play U2 overhead.
So to recap, a cleaned up traditional bar with brasserie stylings. The midpoint between Granville Moore's and brother restaurant Brasserie Beck.
Madison and I are known mussels fiends. But for a split second, we put that aside to sample a salad, splitting an arugala and goat cheese dish with egg, shaved baby beets, and a sherry vinaigrette. A lot about this dish was a surprise: the beets weren't of the roasted variety (I actually thought they were radishes), and the egg added very little of anything. It was fairly forgettable.
Then again, it is called Mussel Bar after all. So Madison and I ordered two pots: the Wild Shroom (pancetta, parmesan, truffle cream) and the Red Indonesian Curry (with peanut essence). First things first, right? The mussels were steamed perfectly, and that put them up there with all of the other mussels places. The flavors? I thought that the Wild Shroom was actually a little restrained given all of the strong components that were in it, which stood in stark contrast to the Red Indonesian Curry, which was so warm and patently spicy but not overwhelmingly so and definitely Southeast Asian... very nice.
As Madison said, if this restaurant were in the city, we'd be there all the time.
Food Rating: *** 1/2 (out of 5)
Date Rating: 3 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Casual
Bar Rating: Suits Scene to Hipster Hangout
Cost: $$ (out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing: On this rainy day, head over to the Bethesda Row Cinema and escape the showers.