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Taste Gastropub (Formerly Taste Mezze), Pub Food in Olney - Chef Lenerd Robinson on Georgia Ave. and Route 108 - Closed


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My wife and I decided to try this place since it is nearby and we generally like small plates when dining. Several first impressions. First, Olney needs more places of this level, i.e., non chain, not geared to the beer crowd. Second, the place could use some carpet to hold down the decibel leve.

We ordered six items.

ARTICHOKE BRUSCHETTA - Grilled baby artichokes, pesto bruschetta topped with pecorino. I enjoyed it, my wife thought the pesto was a bit strong. It came as one bruschetta with two stem on baby artichoke halves. Fairly good flavor, nice mound of salad with pecorino on the side.

CANNELLINI WHITE BEANS with Fresh mixed herb pesto and migas. Very tasty, not over cooked, nice herbs.

FALAFEL with fresh herbs and tahini. 5 nicely sized falafel. They had good flavor but were somewhat creamy inside. My wife thought them a bit undercooked, I liked them a lot. I'd have liked a little more tahini to go with them however,

CALAMARI FRITTO served with gazpacho sauce. Nicely fried, light touch with the batter. The gazpacho sauce was slightly spicy/peppery. However, the whole dish was oversalted, a problem several of the dishes had.

The next two were specials for the evening.

SHRIMP WITH GRITS - the shrimp was way overcooked, and the sauce while very flavorful, with nice chunks of sausage, was again, somewhat salty. The chef sent out a second serving upon us telling the waitress the shrimp were overcooked (Hey, she asked) and while they were better, they were still a little chewy and salty.

GRILLED WHITE TUNA over a risotto topped with some very tasty onion relish. Again, a heavy hand with the salt however.

Dessert was baklava and coffee. Very nice, not overly swimming in honey.

Service was excellent. Our server was very nice, very efficient, and helpful.

We didn't have drinks, as I'm a wine guy (geek actually)and the wine list was not at all interesting to me. It was however, fairly inexpensive by the bottle, not so much by the glass. Several Greek wines on the list. Prices ranged from $22 to $45 by the bottle, with most under $30 or so. They have a lot of"signature" drinks, after all it is a lounge as well as a restaurant (which might have been part of the noise problem) and they looked good if that is your thing.

Bottom line, I would hope they learn to get a much lighter hand with the salt, because Olney needs some restaurants of this level.

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Had a decent meal at Taste last night, Saturday, but the bottom line was it was too noisy for my date and I to enjoy. Not a spare table in the house, the concrete floor, sound reflective glass paneling between the bar and the room, and live music over the top of it all did us in.

The food was very good. Standouts were the wilted spinach salad, the "Taste" beet salad (with cuminized walnuts a plus, but measly beets a minus), the Taste steak, beautifully cooked with lemon potatoes.

Service was excellent; we asked to be moved because of the noise (which barely helped) but the request was dealt with promptly and with smiles. Server carefully went over the menu to suggest items for one of us that is lactose intolerant, though the kitchen then proceed to put a pesto garnish (with parmesan) over most of the items.

But the noise had us leaving before dessert or coffee. My iPhone app, for what it was worth, was indicating an average dB of about 80, spiking every few seconds into the 90's. We literally could not converse over the two-top.

We saw friends there that told us how much the loved the place, and obviously many other folks were enjoying the lively scene. We do want to go back, but will pick an off weekday for a second try.

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My son and I decided to try Taste Mezze after not having been there in over a year. In a word, the food was excellent. The salt problems I noted in my review of June 2011 were not evident. We ordered 5 items:

dip sampler - roasted eggplant, sweet, spicy, lots of complex flavors; a very good hummus; tzatziki, very good; spicy feta, excellent

braised lamb sliders - served on small pita rounds open face with tomato, feta and tzatziki. One of my son's favorite dishes of the evening

artichoke, roasted pepper, and whipped goat cheese flatbread - very good flavors, served with a very nice small salad.

falafel with roasted garlic mousse - wonderful. Light and crispy, with a creamy center. Just the right amount of herbs, and the garlic mousse was the perfect foil. Both my sone and I thought this was one of the stars of the evening.

grilled pork belly, apple glaze, and spicy slaw - my favorite of the evening. The porkbelly was perfectly cooked, tender with a crispy exterior, and the slaw was to die for. My favorite dish of the evening.

The owner came by to talk to us and we had a long discussion about the area, how things have gone for him this year, and the need for him to get the new corkage permit. He sent out a couple of things for us to try:

stuffed eggplant with a ricotta/feta mix - wonderfully done, crispy exterior breading, perfect blend of cheeses, and a very fresh, well seasoned tomato sauce. I love eggplant and this was done very well.

greek style green beans and greek lemon potatoes - the beans were excellent, and the potatoes had a very subtle but noticeable lemon flavor. We enjoyed them very much.

There is a wine list, that while is nothing special, is inexpensive, very drinkable, and well matched to the food. Service was excellent and friendly.

The only complaint I have is that it is still loud, but that is to be expected in the space as it is set up. They specialize in martinis, something I don't drink, and there is a nice bar along one side of the restaurant that was getting some good business.

I'm pleased that the issues I had with them when the first opened appear to have been fixed. Olney needs more good restaurants and this appears to be well on its way to filling a much needed hole in dining in this part of the county.

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My wife, son, and I have been back to Taste twice in the last couple of months.  Both times the service was slow, the room very loud, and the food just ok.  Some things were very good, but some where just OK.  I don't think we will make it a point of returning, but might drop in if we have no where else to go and are hungry.

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There's now a place at the same address called Taste Gastropub. Unclear as to whether the chef/owner/theme/etc. have changed, or just the name.

Anyone have intel?

It's a rebranding with the same owners.

It's a damned shame when an ethnic Greek can't serve his own cuisine to people who only want cheeseburgers and Coors Light.

And I so desperately want to refer to the chef as "Truck," but shouldn't. Chef, can you come on here and do so? :)

leonard_truck_robinson.jpg Leonard "Truck" Robinson's NBA and ABA Stats

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Holy cow, this can't be the same restaurant that others reviewed above. If it's the same owners, they must have gotten rid of the chef for a cafeteria cook.

Some friends of ours who enjoyed this in the past invited us to join them for dinner last night. Service was very nice, but food was almost uniformly a disaster.

4 cocktails at the table. The bartender delivered them herself; "I hope you guys like these because I made the recipes up myself" Um, no, you didn't, plus I'm not sure you actually added the bourbon to my drink, which tasted like Kool Aid.

CALAMARI ($9, flash fried, rice flour or sticky) was tender, but absolutely tasteless, and drenched in what was supposed to be a "sticky, spicy" sauce according to the server, but I think was just corn syrup. No hint of spice at all. And served with a ramekin of what was supposed to be a remoulade of some kind (I guess that was intended if you only ordered the rice flour version), though it had no taste, and certainly didn't go with the corn syrup.

The ROASTED BEET SALAD ($9, red, yellow & candy striped beets, whipped ricotta, honey vinaigrette, hazelnuts, pickled onions) had tasteless beets, whipped something that didn't taste like ricotta, no noticeable vinaigrette, one hazelnut, and baby onions straight from the bartender's jar.

CLOVE HONEY GLAZED PORK SHANK ($20, heirloom zipper peas, rainbow chard and apple demi glace) had no discernible clove or apple or honey glaze, was overcooked and bland, and someone forgot to wash the chard before they cooked it. Needed salt. Brunoise-cut potatoes instead of the peas, which was possibly the best thing we ate last night.

BOLOGNESE PASTA ($17, description missing from website) featured noodles that were overcooked by a solid 10 minutes, and a bolognese that can be bested by the one in my local grocery store. Again, missing any hint of salt or any other seasoning.

Other dishes around the table included the WILD MUSHROOM RISOTTO WITH SCALLOPS ($26, roasted mushrooms, parmasean butter, & mushroom tea) - gummy and the scallops dry and tasteless and needed salt, and PUMPKIN GNOCCHI ($15, toasted hazelnuts, sage, brown butter & white truffle fondue) which were actually pumpkin ravioli and had no taste of pumpkin, hazelnut, sage, or truffle, and needed salt.

We couldn't bring ourselves to give them a chance on dessert.

Don't go, but if you must, ask for the salt shaker at the beginning of the meal.

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In the spirit of completeness Don values so much :) , I will point out that the space occupied by the former Taste is now Sardi's Fusion, a Peruvian fusion restaurant.  (Is Peruvian fusion the new big thing?)

The official opening was apparently yesterday and the soft opening was on the 3rd (?).  The address is 3418 Olney Laytonsville Road.

The chef at Sardi's is José Luis Herrera, who was previously the chef at the Peruvian Embassy.

How do I know all this, you might ask?  I know this because the chef did a demonstration at the Folklife Festival on Sunday.  Very pretty food!  The translator must not be from this area because she had great difficulty recalling the name of the town where the restaurant is located.  So, I started digging around and found that it's at the location of the former Taste Mezze/Gastropub.

Given that the chef was trying to gain some visibility for his restaurant by doing the demo (the quinoa/avocado/crab dishes looked particularly interesting) and the information about it was not really getting across too well, I figured I'd write this as a public service.  The food was demonstration only.  We weren't allowed to sample it :huh: .

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