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Bethesda Barbecue Company (Formerly Newton's Table), in the Former Rock Creek Space - Chef Dennis Friedman of Bezu Switches To Barbecue Concept - Closed


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Closing on New Year's Eve and keeping their name (via GoG):

According to The List foodie site, former Bezu chef Dennis Friedman has bought out Bethesda's Rock Creek restaurant space, and will reopen the restaurant as Newton's Table. The space will undergo a complete makeover and become a contemporary American restaurant with an Asian flair, embracing the farm-to-table movement as much as possible.

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Interesting no one has posted on this yet--they've been open about a week.

We went this weekend for dinner. Per the norm, too early to fairly critique service or operations so just some facts and a comment or two on venue, menu design, value and marketing. We didn't meet the chef/owner but had a brief conversation with Robert, the GM on the way out who talked with us some about sources and future plans.

We walked in without reservations and, after some brief consultations considering how busy they'd be based on first week experience, lots of online buzz, etc, we were shown to a table. Around 6:30pm, there were only a few tables occupied.

The space has been largely redecorated from the Rock Creek days. Blue plush chairs, similar layout to dining room as before, a bit darker with subdued lighting.

The marketing and menu (photos attached-sorry a bit blurry but thought maybe still helpful since their site isn't yet live) really emphasize local, sustainable, organic, etc. In fact, there's a box maybe 4" square on the menu devoted to this assertion. I'd like to see them get a bit more specific. What specific sources and why? Anything specific supporting the "unique" claim since so many other restaurants make similar claims making this almost cliche`d? Maybe a different philosophy related to local sourcing? The more restaurants that really center their menus on local/organic/sustainable the better but specifics are how to differentiate and really communicate the walk behind the talk. Ideally, management and staff could answer questions about this. Even better might be to share the sources online or on menu since it's the big emphasis.

One other menu design comment. IMO, Newton leans a bit more expensively than maybe best given the portion sizes. The entree average is closer to $30 than to $25 but there are a few different options at lower prices like the burger, a roast chicken option, etc.

We had:

- A smoked trout appetizer ($14). In fairness, this is more a very good salad with lighter but savory champaigne vinaigrette dressing, blueberries, grapefruit, prosciutto and a few small pieces of trout than something more trout-centric befitting its name but we enjoyed it. At $14, a bit more trout would have been nice.

- Newton burger ($16). One of the better values on the menu. Came with hand cut thin fries and a Lyon seeded bun, aioli and some tomato confit. The grass-fed beef itself is sourced from a VA farm cooperative according to Robert. This was very tasty and our favorite item of the night. Not quite Palena or Ray's but definitely in the conversation. Will get this again for sure.

- Blackened wild Alaskan (king) salmon with a tomato corn ragout ($28). Salmon was okay and, as Robert explained, early season yields less fatty so less flavorful fish. Assuming so, maybe something to defer putting on menu until later in the season when closer to peaking given the price and quality emphasis? Spots like Craigie-on-Main in Cambridge/Boston made names for themselves by not just sourcing locally but by also really emphasizing a consistent 'height-of-season' filter (i.e., tomatoes only in summer/early fall) to ensure consistent eye and mouth-popping quality. Ragout was nice but would have liked more of it.

- Glass of Mark West pinot ($11)

We left just after 8 or 8:15pm with the restaurant about 2/3 full.

All in, Newton is a nice addition to the still too-mediocre Bethesda dining scene and, adjusting for the fact that this is just their first week, there is significant potential and we'll definitely be back in a few weeks. They have many interesting plans like a big expansion of the beers on offer to include 6-10 interesting micro/international/local brews and no doubt regular changes/updates on menu to reflect whatever's freshest and best. Wishing them much luck and success!

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Mark West pinot costs less than $10 a bottle wholesale. $11 a glass is hardly a bargain.

Yes--big agreement there. I don't think I implied anywhere the place was a bargain but also realize you didn't directly say I did. Was trying to limit criticism to factual stuff (inclusive of the pricing seeming to be high on some but not all items) since they're the new kid on the block. But, yeah, paying more for a glass than a bottle would normally cost absolutely, positively isn't a bargain. I don't know wholesale (or retail for that matter) wine pricing well enough on marks I don't normally buy to have realized that one was probably one of the worst values I could have chosen. Lesson learned.

Curious if you'd say the wines are like I thought the food on pricing? Namely, tended to be expensive but with some items more reasonably priced if one chooses carefully. Wine menu attached here (with apologies again that, while legible, it's blurry).

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I'm not defending the wine prices, but you all know why restauranteurs don't open in Montgomery County. Dealing with The County is a sonofabitch. You all also know the deal with new restaurants, the 1-year closure statistics, et al. Although I HATE it, that market supports a $10 glass of Mark West.

Yes, the quality of restaurants in Bethesda has taken a dive, and not recently - 10 years ago. But this is a good one; after a lot of ... well, eating, and consideration, I think what appeals to me is that I am hugely picky about Asian cooking and French food, and Chef Dennis is good at both of them. The only other time I've seen this is at a Chinese restaurant in Strasbourg. I'm pretty sure they were the only Chinese people in eastern France*, and the chef was Parisian-trained.

There's a good Happy Hour, 4-7pm weekdays, selection of cocktails for $7 and beers for $5, and Gunnar (the bartender) is worth a sit at the bar. We enjoyed both of their work while they were at Bezu in Potomac; I feel they haven't missed a step.

Things to get: salt-and-pepper shrimp; "Surf-N-Turf" (lobster tempura, filet tips, English pea risotto), Wagyu age-gyoza (flash fried).

Maybe pass: Fuzu noodles. Too much soy for me - but I'm salt sensitive. Other than that, it was a pretty good dish.

Happy Holidays!

* - besides me, but I was a tourist.

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To me it's not the cost of Mark West Pinot, but how does a fine dining restaurant dare serve Mark West. There are so many better wines that wholesale for under $10 a bottle that are available, even in Montgomery county, that you can put on your list. They either don't think their clientele will know the difference or they don't care.

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To me it's not the cost of Mark West Pinot, but how does a fine dining restaurant dare serve Mark West. There are so many better wines that wholesale for under $10 a bottle that are available, even in Montgomery county, that you can put on your list. They either don't think their clientele will know the difference or they don't care.

I couldn't say whether that was true, but this article seems to make a lot of sense to me.

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/articles/640/pain-in-the-glass

Don't know the wholesale price, but MoCo charges $13 for Mark West Pinot at retail. (F***ers.)

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I have not been here. But, my very good friend who is sitting next to me right now, and who I trust from a culinary perspective, says that it is not worth going to. There are much worse places and it isn't going to kill you if you are asked to go there by a friend/colleague, but you have better choices in that area.

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We stopped in here on Saturday night with some friends and really enjoyed it.  The burnt ends are really good as was the brisket and pulled pork.  The have 3 different sauces in bottles on the table that were very good.  They are still working out some of the kinks and did not have the full menu up and running yet and they still have not completed the interior remodeling.

Few minor quibbles - the wings were not very good, small (bottle only) beer selections and everything seemed overpriced to me.  Bottles of Flying Dog for $9.  Service was quick and friendly.

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We stopped in here on Saturday night with some friends and really enjoyed it.  The burnt ends are really good as was the brisket and pulled pork.  The have 3 different sauces in bottles on the table that were very good.  They are still working out some of the kinks and did not have the full menu up and running yet and they still have not completed the interior remodeling.

Few minor quibbles - the wings were not very good, small (bottle only) beer selections and everything seemed overpriced to me.  Bottles of Flying Dog for $9.  Service was quick and friendly.

I would go there to try the burnt ends alone at the very least.

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Tried BBC this week with some friends. It was disappointing knowing what this chef is capable of. We had a large-enough group to try all the meats and a bunch of sides. Before detailing anything, important to state a few disclosures:

- We enjoyed some things at Newton's Table (the previous concept by the same chef/owner here) and remember the burger as a definite standout for its flavor, char, size and temperature. Maybe that's available here but we stuck with BBQ items so can't say.
- Totally respect Chef's background, including CIA training
- As always, this is based on just one visit, might have been too soon after opening and might have been an off night with a new chef/line cook/pitmaster, short staffing, one-off supplier or other problem(s), etc. Nothing like that was obvious to us but can't be sure.

One in our group thought the place "lacked soul." I think he meant the decor, which hasn't really changed since it was Newton's Table save some porcine artwork now adorning the walls. Personally, I don't care so much about that and have much empathy for trying to minimize the cost of the changeover. For me, it's all about the food. A subset of what we all tried at our table:

Mains:

Ribs: These were dry, stringy and just way too lean.
Brisket: A bit better than the ribs but also seemed like it had been under a heat lamp too long. Drier and less rich than good brisket should be. Also, served more like chopped/pulled beef but may be just my preference that brisket be served in thick slices
Pulled Pork: Best of the three meats with some moisture but not well seasoned

Sides:

Biscuit: decent; guessing these may be made in house
Collards: maybe the best thing we had but the standard version you'd expect at any good BBQ joint
Mac & Cheese: This was silly. Priced as a premium side (aka "Big Spender" side at $4, versus $2 for baked beans, collards, etc), the portion was smaller than all the other sides and was just shells with a weak/thin, one-note, cheese sauce. Pricing aside, just so basic as to come close to boxed.


Service was fine. Servers were friendly and available though the place wasn't busy. Prices are all reasonable for the type of cuisine if the quality improved.

We have good debates here about BBQ and how DC spots like Wagshal's new "Back Alley Pitmasters," DCity Smokehouse, Andrew Evans @ Union Market, Hill Country, Urban, KBQ v 2.0, Fat Pete's in Cleveland Park and Rocklands all rate. Again, just based on the one--and very possibly insufficient-visit, this isn't (yet??) in the same ballpark as any of those. We didn't complain or speak to a manager but, in retrospect, should have. Just wasn't so viable given the character of our group. May be good enough for the local market. I'm not sure. But, absent a few credible good reports of real progress, I probably won't go back.

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