I grew up in Bethesda during the latter half of the 80s and early part of the 90s and can remember when it was a relatively quiet suburb of DC with a modest downtown area that contained a limited selection of restaurants and no bars (as far as I can remember). So it is funny to me now when I walk down Bethesda Row or the more recent Bethesda Lane and see a bustling city that seems to be growing at breakneck pace and Redwood Restaurant and Bar is one of the venues that is representative of the next evolution in Bethesda’s nightlife. Cut It is a venue that has invested a great deal of money to create a stylish and contemporary ambiance.
Cost – $$$
Service – A-
The place was packed and they couldn’t get me a table but they were still pretty cool on the phone. After I arrived they went through the effort of finding me a space at the bar where I was comfortable dining and throughout the meal, the bartender was consistently attentive and we didn’t have to wait longer than a minute if we needed anything. What’s more, when they found out that I wasn’t crazy about the crab dip they ended up comping it, which you don’t often see in fine or semi-fine dining establishments.
Food – C+
The current menu is the product of Chef Drew Trautmann, the former Executive Chef at Sonoma Restaurant and Redwood’s Chef de Cuisine Miguel Pizarroso. I have to say that out of all the facets of our experience, the food itself was the weakest. As I mentioned previously, the crab dip was really disappointing. The texture was dry and the flavor was a bit too mature. Considering the location of the restaurant (in Maryland) this is one dish that seems a tragedy to get wrong. The entrées were an improvement. The braised beef short rib was incredibly tender but I found the sauce to be a bit overwhelming (which seems surprising given Kitko’s background). Similarly, the duck confit was heavily salted and tasted a bit over-bearing over time although initially was pretty impressive. What’s more, the presentation was pretty lame. They basically served both entrées in bowls where all the various ingredients seemed dumped together. Note – when the spring menu comes out they will be directing the menu towards an even lower price point and more of a comfort food focus so it will definitely be interesting to see how that impacts the food component of the experience.
Design – A-
Not surprisingly given its moniker, Redwood’s interior contains richly stained hardwood ceilings and floors with large windows that face out onto Bethesda Lane. Without question, this is the strength of the restaurant. It has a slick, modern feel that must appeal to all the aging baby boomers in Bethesda because it means they don’t have to drive down into DC to enjoy a contemporary dining experience.
Feel – B
Redwood is drawing serious crowds currently. It was completely packed when we were there, which is saying a lot given the ample size of the restaurant. My suspicion is that the combination of design aesthetic, location (on the freshly cobbled Bethesda Lane), and lack of competition are probably driving the crowds into Redwood. The crowd is definitely more mature and homogeneously white than what you might see at similarly themes restaurants in DC. I enjoyed my experience at the restaurant and think it is a solid offering but now that I’ve dined there, I’d probably choose the nearby Rock Creek Restaurant, which has a better culinary product, if I were in Bethesda and seeking a semi-fine dining experience.
Redwood Restaurant and Bar is located at 7121 Bethesda Lane. They can be reached at (301) 656-5155 and reservations are definitely recommended.
What’s the Buzz:
June 24, 2008 – Redwood Restaurant and bar (Pleasures of the Table) – Meet Jared Rager. He, and his partner Eli Hengst, are opening Redwood Restaurant and Bar in the new development in Bethesda. They join Le Pan Quotidien from New York and Dolcezza from Georgetown in the development. Full article…