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TapaBar is a Hit for Bethesda, Says Critic

What the critics are saying this week

Greg Powers Photography

Washingtonian’s Ann Limpert gives big props to TapaBar this week, crowning it the "most design-savvy restaurant in Bethesda" in a neighborhood that lacks lots of "really good" restaurants.

Alonso Roche takes a more straightforward approach to Spanish bar snacks than, say, José Andrés, who has a branch of Jaleo a few blocks away. While you won’t find delicacies such as the 48-month Ibérico de Bellota ham or sea urchin that Andrés scores, or any traces ofespuma, Roche specializes in simple, thoughtfully prepared tapas standards.

Albondigas, aka finely ground lamb-and-pork meatballs, "get a lift from mint, arugula, and pine nuts." There are further wins with TapaBar’s "well-balanced" cocktails, and "juicy slices of rare sirloin are paired with a terrifically bright salsa verde." But lack of seasoning is a problem when it comes to a few dishes: the sauté of mushrooms, the quartet of croquetas, and the shrimp in garlic olive oil. [Washingtonian]

Meanwhile, The Washington Post’s Becky Krystal visits Junction Bakery & Bistro, where she discovers it’s more than just about bread.

"It does not limit itself to loaves and pastries....The offerings benefit not only from [head baker and chef Nathan] Hatfield’s excellent loaves, most of which take three days from start to finish, but also his elevated flourishes."

The Roman breakfast sandwich (focaccia, Yukon Gold potatoes, romesco sauce, a fried egg) is just as satisfying as the Country breakfast sandwich, with its flaky cheddar and chive biscuit that acts as the star. The Classic (bacon, scrambled eggs and cheese) was "tricky" to eat, as was the Kim Chee (house-made kimchi on a steam bun with a fried egg, bacon and lime mayo).

She thinks that crusts "are a strength" at Junction, and the croissant dough used makes for "utterly delightful" breakfast pastries. For meatier options like the short rib grilled cheese, the highlight is the roasted garlic sourdough that is "griddled to perfection." [WaPo]

Meanwhile, WaPo’s Tom Sietsema visits D.C.’s newest steakhouse, Ocean Prime, and he doesn’t have amazing things to say about the Ohio-based chain’s latest locale.

While the design of the dining room is in line with expense account-caliber restaurants ("linens on the tables, flattering lighting, a marble bar and expansive booths"), "almost everything about a recent dinner called for rewrite. The wait for wine took until mid-appetizer, and waiters mixed up who ordered what. Crab cakes were "fishy" and desserts were "too sweet."

While the first course of goat cheese ravioli was tasty, it was overpowered by a "butter-heavy sauce" of chicken stock and garlic. The one hit wonder, he thinks, was the "sweet" scallops served over cheesy Parmesan risotto and topped with ribbons of fennel.

As for the meat, "neither the New York strip nor the rib-eye proved particularly beefy or interesting." Sides like creamed spinach "tasted more of vegetable than of dairy — which is good" but the jalapeño potato gratin "lacked zip." [WaPo]

Tyler Cowen isn't as wowed as some other critics in town when it comes to All Purpose. "Overall it is a very good neighborhood Italian restaurant, not to be confused with a top DC restaurant but having its uses nonetheless." [TC]

FROM THE BLOGS: DMV Dining revisits Fish Taco, and BYT is all about Dirty Habit.

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to reflect the right critic for Junction Bistro.

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