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Bacchus of Lebanon, Norfolk Avenue in Bethesda - Lebanese Restaurant Originally in South Dupont Circle


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More places you don't hear much about: Cafe Divan, Bombay Club, Agua Ardiente (restaurant or club?), Arucola, Bacchus, La Fourchette.

We had our rehearsal dinner at Bacchus (in Dupont) 2 years ago. It was pretty good; much better, I thought, than Lebanese Taverna. The prices are pretty reasonable so I'd give it a shot.

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We had our rehearsal dinner at Bacchus (in Dupont) 2 years ago.  It was pretty good; much better, I thought, than Lebanese Taverna.  The prices are pretty reasonable so I'd give it a shot.

 
I remember Bacchus as being the go-to place for Middle Eastern in DC in the mid- to late eighties, until the branch of Lebanese Taverna opened up on Connecticut. Now that the latter has faded somewhat by most accounts, maybe Bacchus will experience a resurgence.

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Jefferson Place just lost Bacchus! What gives? When I tried to make discreet enquiries at the sister restaurant in Bethesda the staff were clearly under orders not to give any dirt on what happened downtown. What's next? Do we we have to worry about C.F. Folks?

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Jefferson Place just lost Bacchus! What gives? When I tried to make discreet enquiries at the sister restaurant in Bethesda the staff were clearly under orders not to give any dirt on what happened downtown. What's next? Do we we have to worry about C.F. Folks?

I am willing to bet that it had something to do with rent increases. This assumption is based on the recent boom in construction on Jefferson Place (high end condos, whhheee!) and the closing of the legendary club Red (R.I.P.) for the same reasons.

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i assume the food wasn't as good as it used to be. i experienced the slow descent years ago, and eventually fell out of the habit of eating there. i can only say that i had totally forgotten about this place long before it ceased to exist. it falls into an interesting category: restaurants that either are, or can be mistaken for, the living dead, shells of their former selves. until fairly recently, i would have included bombay club in that category, and apparently would have been wrong.

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i assume the food wasn't as good as it used to be. i experienced the slow descent years ago, and eventually fell out of the habit of eating there. i can only say that i had totally forgotten about this place long before it ceased to exist. it falls into an interesting category: restaurants that either are, or can be mistaken for, the living dead, shells of their former selves. until fairly recently, i would have included bombay club in that category, and apparently would have been wrong.

Bacchus was one of my best friend's favorite restaurants when she lived in DC. Meskerem in Adams Morgan was another. She moved to New Zealand over a decade ago. Last I wrote, I mentioned that Bacchus had closed, and she replied by asking if there were, at least, any Ethiopian restaurants left in DC laugh.gif . At least I could give a positive answer to that one!

I can't remember where we ate last she visited 5 years ago, except for Montmarte, where we had a fabulous meal. I guess we should have hit Bacchus sad.gif

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Going to Bacchus (in Bethesda) for dinner this coming Saturday night. I remember having the best fried smelt at this restaurant years ago. If anyone wants to join us, let us know. If anyone has anything to recommend, let us know. What about the other shrimp, fish, scallop dishes?

It's been a couple of years since my last visit there, so take this with a big grain of salt. I think Bacchus' menu has always worked best on a small-plates basis; this was the first restaurant where I got into the habit of just ordering lots of apps, and foregoing the entrees except for the occasional fatte bel djaj.

The current Bacchus is no longer the Bacchus of my youth, unfortunately. That place used to be lively and bustling through the mid-90s, but since the glitzy makeover it seems to have calmed down a little too much. My last meal there was just okay; the dips were as good as before, but the hot items were all rather lackluster (in one case a real disappointment, as their fatte had always been much more satisfying than Leb Tav's version). Service was very polite but slow. Is it my failing memory, or have the transliterations on the menu changed as well?

Maybe it's time to give them another chance.

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During the week I tried to make a reservation on their website for 7 tonight but it was never confirmed. Luckily we got hungry early so we went at 6:30. The place was already 3/4 full. By 7, it was packed and a few people had to wait for table.

We ordered 6 mezzes:

M'saka'a (lightly fried and baked baby eggplant cooked with fresh garlic, onions, tomatoes, chick peas and spices) - a very tasty dish. I'm not a fan of mushy food and I'm glad the eggplant held its texture here.

Sayadieh (grilled fish filet) - a little smoky but very tender fish, deliciously seasoned. This is the best dish of the night.

Samak Bezre (fried smelts) - a little on the small side (much smaller than I recall) but they're crispy and almost as good as I remembered them to be.

Arayess Lebnan (bread baked with a filling of ground beef) - tasty gut filler.

Shawerma - nice and tender but nothing special.

Maacarona Bacchus - overcooked pasta in supergarlicky tomato sauce....don't bother.

Other things I wanted to try were chicken livers and frog legs. It's nice to see a menu that's somewhat unique. Just takes a little trial and error to find out what's good and what's not.

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My only real issue with Bacchus is the seemingly perpetual understaffing. I know it's the economy, and I know I only hit the pace for lunch but come on.

Had the stuffed grape leaves (delicious) and the schawerma (good, the meat especially so, but the accoutrements were not at the same level) with french fries (which were piping hot and good).

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I ate here last night and was surprised that there isn't already a thread.  This has been a go-to restaurant for my family for years.  Their menu reads like a book, with too many choices to remember.  I don't recall ever getting a dish which was bad (some stand out more in my mind than others).

Went here last night with a middle-eastern friend who is an "expert".  He had never been here and he likes to eat.  We started with an order of hummous, babba ganoush, and fathoush salad.  First a basket of pita came out with a dish of zaatar and olive oil for dipping.  The dips were good solid renditions, could have had more tahni for my tastes.  I preferred the babba ganoush over the hummous. The eggplant added a nice smoky depth to the dip.  The fatoush salad was a nice rendition.  Next came a "spicy lamb sausage" which was ground meat, flattened and grilled--very good.  Kibbeh was next, not the raw version (they were out), but ground lamb surrounded by bulgur deep fried and served with a bit of a thick stewed tomato sauce--the spicing was amazing, you could eat the sauce by itself.  Next an obligatory plate of falafel--very good, served with a dipping bowl of tahini and some pickled turnip (dyed pink) on the side--amazing rendition of the classic (I almost like the tahni here better than the falafel!).  Fried cauliflower, next, followed by what I would call Lebanese jerkey (thin sliced dried beef specked with some sort of spice, salt and olive oil--never had this before, but was awesome.  Next was a stuffed pita with ground lamb (probably the best dish of the night).  Fried smelt--lightly battered and fried crisp with a side of tahini for dipping (a classic, and typically amazing, it was a bit off last night).  Lamb chops (perfectly cooked, very tender and juicy).  Followed by lamb merguez (very good spicing, nice snappy casing.  All of this was topped off with a second helping the stuffed pit.  My two other companions got desert, I got coffee.

This meal sounds huge for three and it was.  I don't often gorge myself like this, but it was a nice treat with good friends.

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Did you order a la carte, or was this some kind of pre-set "feast" from the menu?

A la carte.  Just a fat guy, former fat guy and weight lifter having a Thursday meal.  Probably forgot about something in there.  Yes, a ton of food, kind of makes me blush when looking back at the list.

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Funny that I am the last post in that thread.  I was looking at the dinning guide in Bethesda and didn't see it listed there.  Is the DC location still open?

[No, and what must have happened is that when DC closed, I removed it from Multiple Locations, and neglected to put it in Maryland. Sorry!]

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I went to the Bacchus yesterday for lunch for the first time in probably a decade or more. I was looking for middle eastern in Bethesda and since my old go to Lebanese Taverna closed, we decided to check out this place which I had remembered fondly (apparently they have been open since the late 70s).  The restaurant is still fancy/over the top with lots of columns and a big chandelier in the center. They also now have a huge covered patio - probably doubling the size the restaurant. They are only open for lunch 12-2 and then take a break till dinner. I mention this because we ate at 1 and as we got closer to 2 the waiter asked if we wanted to order more as he wanted to let the kitchen staff go. The other surprise was that it was empty - while we were there for over an hour, we saw one other table for 2 and otherwise we had the place to ourselves (despite several other nearby restaurants with lots of people eating at the same time). This was nice for us in that we got private dining, but a shame for the restaurant and everyone else missing out on what was a really good meal. I'd recommend going and I hope they are busier at dinner time.

Onto the food, our party of 6 enjoyed:

Complimentary large, thin (no pocket really) hot pita and olive oil with lots of zaatar - great for dips and good zaatar. Not my favorite though as I prefer thicker flufflier pita but in my experience lebanese pita tends to be thin.

Hummus - really good (and I have high standards for hummus)

Baba ganoush - also very fresh and good.

White beans - least favorite, I wouldn't get it again as it was pretty bland. Only really miss of the meal

Tabbouleh - very flavorful mostly parsley salad but nicely dressed and served with pieces of romaine lettuce to scoop

Malouf bel zeit - vegetarian rice filled cabbage leaves with mint and cooked with pomegranate molasses. Sleeper hit. 4 small finger sized rolls packed with herby, sweet-sour flavor. Maybe not for everyone, but I loved them

Salmon mechwi - grilled chunks of salmon with grilled veggies and rice. I only tried the veggies which were good, but those who had the salmon really enjoyed it.

Shish Taouk - grilled chicken breast and rice. Heavily spiced chicken with lots of flavor and very tender. It comes with some labneh with mint on the side that was pretty good. I think I would have preferred toum though.

Fetteh Bel Djaj - pulled boneless roast chicken breast on top of fried lightly spiced pieces of pita and covered with garlic yogurt. This didn't look so pretty but was very tasty. I would get it again for sure.

If you are in the area, I would check it out.

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8 hours ago, KeithA said:

I went to the Bacchus yesterday for lunch for the first time in probably a decade or more.

Fetteh Bel Djaj - pulled boneless roast chicken breast on top of fried lightly spiced pieces of pita and covered with garlic yogurt. This didn't look so pretty but was very tasty. I would get it again for sure.

 

Huh, I didn't realize that they were the same place that I used to go down by Dupont! And that dish is one of my favorites!

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We loved this place - it was always empty or had a table available.  The staples were good and there were a few lesser-known dishes that made a really great counterpoint.  The downside is that the wine list has always stunk.

The patio has always been there (and is the superior area to dine) but they closed it in during the pandemic.  Used to be lovely for evening slow meals.

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