Table Talk: Inside O'Donnell's Market
Plus, finding the best bubble milk tea
Customers can shop at O’Donnell’s Market in Potomac, choosing from the array of seafood, meats and pastries in the glass display cases, or dine in at the market’s granite bar. Photo by Goran Kosanovic
NEW MARKET, OLD FAVORITES
O’Donnell’s restaurants began in Washington, D.C., in 1922 and were Montgomery County institutions beginning in 1956. Three years ago, Bill Edelblut, the grandson of the business’s founder, closed the last of them and retired. But retirement didn’t suit him, so in December the Bethesda resident opened O’Donnell’s Market off Seven Locks Road in Potomac.
The aroma of rum buns, a specialty of the restaurants, strikes you when you walk in the door. A display case with pristine fish and seafood—super-fresh organic salmon, red snapper and garnet-colored tuna—inspires instant ideas for dinner. The market houses a bakery, an abundantly stocked salad bar, cases of prepared foods and high-quality meat, such as Bell & Evans chicken and Aspen Ridge beef. In the back is an attractive granite bar for wine tastings and in-house dining from a menu that features O’Donnell’s classics, such as seafood bisque and salmon BLT.
I took home a rich dip made with crabmeat, cream cheese and butter; an oven-ready pan with two, five-ounce signature crab cakes long on lumps and short on filler; perfectly cooked and peeled giant shrimp with a zesty cocktail sauce; bright green broccoli rabe sautéed with roasted garlic; and some totally decadent cauliflower mac ’n’ cheese. That resulted in a blissful dinner and easy cleanup—a win-win for any household.
1073 Seven Locks Road, Potomac, 301-251-6355, www.odonnellsmarket.com.
FOOD FIND: LAVANDE PATISSERIE
BACKGROUND: Andrew Liang and his mother, Julie Yi, both Gaithersburg residents, opened Lavande Patisserie in November on North Washington Street, near Rockville Town Square. The clean, bright, modern bakery sells all the French favorites, including pain au chocolat, canelés and one of the best almond croissants to be had—buttery, chock full of almond paste and delightfully caramelized. That they serve Compass Coffee indicates that high quality is the order of the day. Four composed sandwiches are also available.
THE CHEF: Romain Cornu, 25, who emigrated from France five years ago and now lives in Rockville, is the pastry chef and maître chocolatier.
THE GOODS: Cornu’s work, evidenced by the stunning pastries lined up in display cases, is clearly top-notch, but the standouts here are the éclairs. They are long and thin, neatly piped with a star-tip and well crisped. He slices off the top third of each, fills them generously and decorates them lavishly. Ingredients are the very best, including flour imported from France, Valrhona 64-percent cocoa content Manjari chocolate and Sicilian pistachios.
TASTE TEST: The chocolate truffle éclair ($4.95), filled with chocolate mascarpone and topped with chocolate mascarpone rosettes, chocolate truffles and chocolate shavings, is a boatful of pleasure—rich but not too sweet. Another winner, teeming with verdant pistachio mascarpone and strawberry yuzu filling, is crowned with fresh raspberries, tiny piped meringue swirls and a dusting of raspberry powder ($4.95).
WHERE TO BUY: Lavande Patisserie, 275 N. Washington St., Rockville, 301-424-6100, www.lavandepatisserie.com.
The craze for bubble milk tea—the sweetened iced tea and tapioca beverage created in Taiwan in the ’80s—hasn’t exactly hit Starbucks proportions in the United States, but you’d never know it if you explore on and just off Rockville Pike.
Basic bubble tea is black or green tea, condensed milk and ice shaken vigorously and poured over large, purple-black tapioca beads known as boba. Possible add-ons include flavorings (think honeydew, coconut, coffee), jellies and pudding. A small bubble milk tea will run in the $4 range.
SnowBots’ bubble teas, honeydew green milk tea with strawberry jelly (left)and mango yogurt with honey boba. Photo by Goran Kosanovic.
Here are six places, from south to north, where we dipped a wide-mouthed straw in:
A large chalkboard colorfully lists the wide range of options at this hip, contemporary shop where high-quality ingredients (organic matcha powder; sugar imported from Hokkaido, Japan; fruit purées for flavorings) result in extra-creamy bubble teas.
1701 Rockville Pike, Rockville, 301-770-3593, snowbotsdc.com.
Bubble Tea Café
The chocolate bubble tea was almost chai-like because the black tea was, nicely, the forward flavor. Nice balance of sweetness, ice and boba, which are smaller than you find at other places. Fifteen straightforward flavors; few topping options. 130 Rollins Ave., Rockville, 301-770-1688.
Asia Taste Tapioca Jumbo Jumbo Café
Twenty flavoring choices and three topping options, shaken by hand. Coconut bubble milk tea was watery, with annoying bits of melted ice floating on top. 15192 N. Frederick Road, Rockville, 301-738-9798. Another location, Jumbo Jumbo Café Bubble Express, is at 765 Rockville Pike (Ritchie Center), Rockville, 301-545-1708.
Ki No Spoon
This is really a Japanese ramen joint, so the bubble tea—made out of sight in the kitchen—seems like an afterthought.
The milk tea had too much ice, too few boba and was way too sweet. 891 Rockville Pike (Wintergreen Plaza), Rockville, 301-296-6212.
Ten Ren Tea
This store specializes in tea and ginseng products, so it’s not surprising that the high-quality green or black tea used in the bubble teas shines through, even when flavored with passion fruit and chock full of boba. 825 Rockville Pike (Wintergreen Plaza), Rockville, 301-838-8680, www.tenren.com.
Kung Fu Tea
Part of an international chain, this Rockville spot is ultra bright, fun and offers lots of choices, including customizing the amount of sweetness and ice. Winter melon green tea has an intense tea flavor, isn’t overly sweet and is good to the last boba.
275 N. Washington St., Rockville, 240-630-0900, www.kfteausa.com.
DON'T MISS THIS
SnowBots says it is the first spot in Maryland to offer snow cream—a combination of shaved ice and ice cream made from a whole-milk base, where a large frozen disk (with flavors such as strawberry, mango or taro) is shaved into a mound of creamy, fine, cotton-candy-like crystals. Choose from 20 toppings (brownies, Fruity Pebbles, mochi, jellies) and drizzles (caramel, condensed milk). The roasted black-sesame snow cream with Oreos and lychee jellies was a super-fun taste sensation.
COMINGS & GOINGS
Emma Perez, owner of the popular La Limeña Peruvian (and partially Cuban) restaurant in the Ritchie Center on Rockville Pike, announced plans to open a similar but larger outpost in the former Potomac Grill space, also on the Pike.
Among notable closings, Parva Cocina & Tequila Bar on Bethesda’s Woodmont Avenue was shuttered in January.
At Chevy Chase Pavilion, Aggio, the upscale Italian restaurant by chef Bryan Voltaggio inside the American eatery Range, closed in December.
So did the Asian-Filipino restaurant Urban Heights, which chef Robert Wiedmaier and his RW Restaurant Group opened on Norfolk Avenue in Bethesda in April 2015. Tommy Joe’s owner Alan Pohoryles is moving his Montgomery Lane sports bar to the space, partnering with the RW Restaurant Group on the project.
Beloved restaurateur Jackie Greenbaum announced in January that she would close Jackie’s in Silver Spring in March, after an 11-year run. Its adjacent bar, Sidebar, will also close.