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AG Kitchen, A New York-Based, Latin-American Fusion Restaurant in Downtown Silver Spring - Closed


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Since this spot is allegedly opening next week, I figured I would start the thread since I didn't see one. If anyone with mod powers and better sense of board formatting wants to make edits to titles, etc., please feel free.

 

Per Bethesda Magazine, the restaurant will be opening next week at the top of Downtown Silver Spring, in the old Macaroni Grille spot. As a resident who likes to frequent the neighborhood and ethnic joints,  I'm excited for something new and original in the area, especially in such a high-traffic area and with what looks like a beautifully updated space.

 

What I'm most curious about, personally, is how it will do. That area (literally, the "Downtown Silver Spring" complex run by Peterson) is a mix of international/national and local chains, for the most part. Silver Spring is not really a "dining destination" in the same way that many DC neighborhoods are, or in the same way that someone in Montgomery County would be used to more varied options in Bethesda or Rockville. AG Kitchen is the second restaurant with this concept (seems to be Latin-American fusion/comfort food), with the first in Manhattan, and opened by a "celebrity chef" who doesn't have any particular ties to the area. The reviews in New York are mixed, and though the menu is appealing to readers of a site like this, I question how much of the foot traffic to that area used to less challenging options via chain, will take the plunge to try a more complex menu (the menu on the website appears to be the New York menu from September 2014, so I question what specific dishes and price points will be in Silver Spring). I think that initial reviews will have to be strong - to give folks the sense that it is worth taking the plunge on, or even venturing from other parts of the county to try. I'm hoping for the best, as I'd love to see some of the middling options in that space replaced by some more interesting and adventurous restauranteurs.

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I'd question how appealing the menu is, frankly.  It feels like upscale TGI Friday's schlock to me - $12 footlong hot dog, anyone?  And walking by on Thursday night (when they looked open - maybe it was just friends and family?), I was more than a little disheartened to see not one, but two frozen margarita machines sitting behind the bar.

I could obviously be quite wrong, but the first comparison I drew walking by was Rosa Mexicano, down to the tableside guacamole.  Except that Rosa Mexicano at least tries to stay within the realm of Mexican food, whereas AG Kitchen seems to be all over the place.  Latin cuisine! Y'know, Cuban, or Brazilian, or Mexican, or Spanish!  Or a Juicy Lucy?

Sorry to sound so cynical, but in a region with such great Latin cuisine, I just have no desire to ever step foot in a place hawking Latin food for gringos.

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That's fair. I suppose I meant more appealing than many of the chain options in that particular part of Silver Spring - i.e., if the burgers are truly as good as the mix of cuts that the menu implies. But I certainly get your point - it's a menu that may be trying to be too many things. As I said, I'll be curious to see how it does - I think Downtown Silver Spring would even benefit from a Rosa Mexicano quality place (of any genre) that is nothing special, but is consistent and not Red Lobster or Austin Grill. I'd like it to do well and I'd like it to "find itself" but you're right - maybe the coverage and the fact its attached to a name chef and an outpost of a New York restaurant has gotten it coverage and anticipation that it doesn't entirely deserve.

(And of course, I wholly agree - authentic ethnic eats is one of the best things about this area.)

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I'd question how appealing the menu is, frankly.  It feels like upscale TGI Friday's schlock to me - $12 footlong hot dog, anyone?  And walking by on Thursday night (when they looked open - maybe it was just friends and family?), I was more than a little disheartened to see not one, but two frozen margarita machines sitting behind the bar.

I could obviously be quite wrong, but the first comparison I drew walking by was Rosa Mexicano, down to the tableside guacamole.  Except that Rosa Mexicano at least tries to stay within the realm of Mexican food, whereas AG Kitchen seems to be all over the place.  Latin cuisine! Y'know, Cuban, or Brazilian, or Mexican, or Spanish!  Or a Juicy Lucy?

Sorry to sound so cynical, but in a region with such great Latin cuisine, I just have no desire to ever step foot in a place hawking Latin food for gringos.

Exactly my thoughts upon looking at the menu. Basically a bunch of burgers with some fish and meat dishes with various salsa combinations. I was hoping for Topolobampo, or even Frontera, and we got Guy Fieri for Latino food.

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OK, tried it out for Silver Spring Restaurant week and it lived down to expectations, and worse. Food was best described by a friend we saw eating there at the same time, "A Latino version of TGI Fridays." RW deal was pretty good in that the paella was available for RW deal at same price as it goes a la carte.it is definitely NOT worth the $27 they normally charge. It is not paella for one thing. It is rice with seafood on top of it coated with some sort of sauce.

As part of restaurant week we did three full meals for the family, one 2 course and the three course for the paella. For our appetizers we ordered calamari, empanada and ceviche. The calamari could have been any sort of fried item as it was covered with an awful sweet sauce. Felt like I was in an awful Chinese restaurant with the syrupy coating. For the first time ever, we left calamari on the plate. Our kids normally love it and will eat a whole plate on their own. Ceviche was OK, but interestingly had a LOT of juice on the plate, but no way to get any of it. They don't have spoons on the table. If you are going to put that much citrus juice in the dish, don't you want us to drink it with the fish/shrimp, etc? Finally, the empanada was straight forward cheese and spinach, again with a smack you in the face sauce. The one thing I haven't mentioned yet was the fact that it took 45 minutes for the appetizers to come to the table.

The crowning moment of the ineptitude of the dinner was that within five minutes after the appetizers came, the entrees were delivered to the table, so we had six dishes on the table, all pretty much untouched. We didn't even think of sending the entrees back for fear it would be another 45 minutes before they came back out, or they might just take them back and put them under a heat lamp for us, though more likely they would have given them to another table.

Already mentioned the paella, but the other entrees we got were the samba chicken and braised short rib arepa. The samba chicken was dry, because of course they expect you to smother it with the sauces that come with it. The short rib itself was actually pretty good, especially compared to the other entrees, but was on a mushy corn cake that our son actually spit out. I can usually convince him to swallow at least one bite of something he doesn't like, but he refused and I thought he was going to start crying unless I let him spit it out.

We got one dessert and chose the milkshake which looked nothing like the beautiful picture on the viewfinder dessert menu when it came to the table. Tasted OK, but heavier on the milk than the ice cream.

In speaking with our friends afterwards, they had similar experiences with the awful timing , wrong things being brought to their table, and generally long waits. Also not too impressed by the food.

As we were driving to downtown Silver Spring, we passed Urban Butcher, which our son always refers to excitedly as the salami restaurant, and he wanted to go there that night as well. Would have been a much wiser choice.

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