While there’s certainly something for everyone, it comes across as a bit of a mishmash, which is only complicated by the two menus—a bar menu and a somewhat longer one with entrées. No matter where you sit, you get both, even though many items overlap.
I’d be happy just ordering buttermilk biscuits and a bowl of the New England clam chowder, thick with clams and potatoes, and sprinkled with chives and bits of bacon. A clover-green swirl of basil, chive and parsley oil creates a colorful finish, and adds flavor and interest to the creamy base.
Asian dishes shine here, such as a terrific rice bowl, a riff on Korean bibimbap, served in a sizzling granite bowl, with sticky rice, sautéed greens, shredded carrots, bean sprouts, mushrooms, zucchini and a fried egg, plus tofu, chicken, salmon or sirloin—I loved the silky salmon. Similarly, the Togarashi Tuna, rare tuna fanned atop a rectangle of crisp-edged, griddled sushi rice, offers contrasting textures and assertive flavors, as does the Duo of Tuna and Salmon Tartare, with its cubes of just-right spiced raw fish and crunchy taro chips.
Left: A riff on Korean bibimbap, the rice bowl is a sizzling mix of sticky rice, vegetables and a protein. Right: Togarashi Tuna offers contrasting textures and assertive flavors. Photo by Michael Ventura
Other dishes suffered from too many ingredients. The avocado toast with burrata had potential, with its avocado spread and creamy cheese sitting atop rugged seven-grain bread. But the whole thing was covered by an avalanche of shaved and grated Parmesan, making it a cheesy mess. Or take the Bethesda Burger, an overcooked patty plopped on a pretzel bun with Old Bay mayonnaise, lettuce, bacon, pepper jack cheese, and a substantial wedge of avocado filled with crabmeat. Not only was the sum not as great as its many parts, but the behemoth’s height made it difficult to eat.
The “signature favorite” dish, Chicken Parmigiana, sounded intriguing, but turned out to be another gargantuan oddity. A two-pound flattened double chicken breast covered with tomato sauce and cheese and cut into slices, it’s a pizza impersonator. The novelty wears off after a couple bites, however, and then it’s just boring. Ditto for the prime skirt steak that lacked a compelling char.
Conversely, Met Bethesda’s bar menu is far from dull—among the many offerings, you can create your own martini, Bellini, mojito, iced tea, lemonade or spritzer with a choice of 16 flavorings. The three drinks I tried were well balanced, not too sweet and just boozy enough.
Despite shortcomings, Met Bethesda is a relaxing place to grab a bite. After a lychee martini, you’ll be ready to tackle the mall.