Not Quite Show Stoppers
Met Bethesda, City Perch Kitchen + Bar earn mixed reviews
Using Yard’s pastry background as a bellwether, the best parts of the meal are the beginning and the end. Start by filling up with the bread board, $10 for four items. My two favorites were the cayenne and Parmesan popover, its airy texture perfect for spreading the smoky sundried tomato butter; and the definitively sage biscuit served with a subtle maple bourbon pecan butter. The array also comes with not-too-sweet cornbread (I’d nix the icing of goat cheese) and Chinese butter buns.
Up-front carb loading also means you can skip the small-plate starters; none of the three I tried were worth ordering again. They would be the super-salty scallops; mini brioche-crusted crab cakes that were a lot of money for little flavor (three for $18); and house-made ricotta cheese served with honey-glazed acorn squash, a sweet and mushy mismatch.
As for entrées, three of the six I sampled were commendable. The free-range roasted Amish chicken wore a super crisp skin and arrived with a universally moist interior (even the white meat). I’d also give a thumbs-up to the short ribs, a spot-on comforting execution with its deep, rich brown sauce; and to the bison rib eye, a hefty hunk of cooked-to-order meat.
By contrast, the porchetta (rolled and stuffed pork) was roasted to grandmotherly dryness, the black sea bass came unevenly cooked and insufficiently seasoned, and the citrus shrimp tasted mealy. A sauce can be ordered to accompany the main courses, but the ones I tried lacked character themselves, providing little rescue.
Desserts make for a surprisingly upbeat ending. Try the baked Alaska pie, with its treasure of pumpkin gelato hidden underneath torched tufts of meringue. Kudos for the combination of toasty meringue, silky gelato and gingerbread crust. The dramatic orange cream puff brulée looks like a symbol of good and evil; the dessert comes with a knife stabbed through the middle of the pastry, and a delicate nest of spun sugar on top.
Refreshing and totally addictive, it tastes like a glamorous and super-rich Creamsicle. The banana soufflé, which had an appealing-enough flavor, was unfortunately undercooked.
No doubt about it, this is one stunning restaurant. With rustic wood, autumnal colors and an inviting lounge with cork wall coverings made to look like tree bark, City Perch resembles an exclusive lodge. Perhaps in time, the bar and kitchen will catch up to the décor.
Carole Sugarman is the magazine’s food editor. To comment on this review, email firstname.lastname@example.org. All photos by Michael Ventura.