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New Orleans Bistro, Bethesda - Closed.

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We had brunch at New Orleans Bistro this past Sunday. We had a somewhat mixed experience, though I am willing to temper my review since it was Mother's Day...

I'll start with the food, and get to the service snafus afterwards. My Chicken and Sausage Gumbo was good - rich and smoky - but with an odd sweet note that I couldn't quite place. My 9-year-old was happy to clear the bowl when I left a few bites. My wife had the Crab Bisque, which she liked, but I thought was a bit thin and light on crab (spoiled by Landrum's bisque, I guess). Bread brought out to the table was a somewhat dry jalapeno cornbread, and an overcooked biscuit. Maybe these would be better on a non-holiday?

For mains, I had Eggs Sardou (Two poached eggs on artichoke bottoms and creamed spinach topped with hollandaise sauce). This was fabulous. The yolks were perfectly runny when pierced, and the mix with the perfectly cooked artichoke, barely creamed spinach, and rich hollandaise was a fat-filled cholesterol-laden delight. My wife had Shrimp and Cheese Grits (Shrimp sautéed with tasso, mushrooms, green onion and Creole spices, served with Monterey Jack and parmesan cheese grits.) Another real winner. I thought the grits were a little too smooth (I like some grit in my grits), but the shrimp were great, and the flavors worked well together. Very generous portions. The 7-year-old ordered some chicken strip thing from the kids' menu, which she was fine with. The 9-year-old ordered "Fried Fish Filet with French Fries" also from the kids menu, which thankfully wasn't frozen fishsticks, but a good-sized piece of fried catfish. This was excellent - I had a taste, and I'd order it myself.

For dessert, the kids had ice cream, my wife had Bread Pudding with Maple Bourbon Sauce (which she inhaled), and I had an order of very good Beignets.

From a food perspective, I would definitely go back, especially to investigate the dinner menu. Total bill, before tax and tip but including non-alcoholic drinks, was a pretty reasonable $64.

Our server, who seemed very nice, should not be waiting tables in this restaurant.

  • She didn't know the menu at all - we had to prompt her to ask the questions she should ask when there were options on menu choices.
  • Either she pissed off her busser, or waiters have to bus their own tables, because plates were not cleared until we asked her to, and water and drinks also took several requests to refill.
  • When the breads came out, she brought us a small pat of butter (large enough for one piece of bread, and there were 8 on the table) for 4 of us to share. When we asked for more butter, we got a second small pat.
  • Meals came out in a reasonable time, but nobody checked on the table between the appetizers arrival and the entrees arrival.
  • The coffee was served lukewarm, and the infrequent refills came out colder each time. When I asked whether they were having problems with the coffee warmer, she took my cup back to the kitchen, and it was returned hot, but it was pretty clear that the mug had been microwaved in it's absence.
  • The kids desserts were brought out, without being asked what they wanted or whether they were ready, a full 15 minutes before our desserts, and before the entree plates had been cleared. They also really would have liked chocolate, which was listed on the menu, though vanilla showed up.
  • She didn't know that the kids were supposed to get drinks and ice cream with their meals, so I had to have the check corrected at the end. I say "don't know" rather than "forgot" because that was what she said when I asked for the correction.
  • When I pointed out the correction, and handed her a credit card, I expected her to make the correction and run the card. She made the correction, brought back the envelope with my credit card, but only with the corrected check. Ten minutes later she returned to run the credit card, and then returned it ten minutes later without a pen.

Even though it was Mother's Day, they didn't seem especially slammed, though it was certainly busy. One thing that stuck out - the words "sorry" never escaped her lips, just excuses, when she did acknowledge some of the problems. It wasn't a complete disaster, the problems didn't really add up a lot until the end, and we were having a very pleasant conversation, so I didn't say anything to the manager, but I left a <15% tip for the first time in a very long time.

But again, I would definitely go back to explore the menu more, and make sure to get a different server.

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