Restaurant Review: Mark Bucher's Community

Restaurant Review: Mark Bucher's Community

The diner concept in Woodmont Triangle needs tweaking

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A server makes his way to me holding a wide, shallow bowl of soup with a softball-size matzo ball. He’s doing his best to keep the liquid—golden chicken broth flecked with noodles and neatly diced carrots, celery and onions—from sloshing and spilling as he sets it down in front of me. The $14 soup—impressive in appearance and, it turns out, flavor—is meant for two. I’m given a large spoon and two bowls, but soon discover the serving bowl is too shallow to ladle soup out of it. And that it would have made more sense to offer two smaller (and more tender) orbs than one ginormous one.

A giant matzo ball is intended for sharing in soup-for-two. 

The soup is a metaphor for what ails Community, the eatery that opened in December in Woodmont Triangle’s swanky new 7770 Norfolk luxury apartment building—things look good on the outside, and sometimes taste good, but haven’t been thought through. Another example: A lunchtime Reuben comes towering with excellent corned beef, sauerkraut and a cloak of melted Swiss cheese atop a slice of toasted rye bread slathered with Thousand Island dressing, and with four toasted rye triangles on the side. The sandwich ($24) is meant for two but who wants to deconstruct that messy morass and reconstruct their own sandwiches? 

A Reuben meant for two requires diners to assemble their own sandwiches. 

I had high hopes for Community. Its owner, Mark Bucher, is an experienced restaurateur who founded and sold the BGR burger chain and co-owns Medium Rare, a steak frites restaurant with two outposts in Washington, D.C., and a third that debuted in March next door to Community. He has a nose for trends and seemed a natural to cash in on the restaurant industry’s current diner revival and offer a more upscale version of the traditional, and much beloved, Tastee Diner just across the street.

But Bucher gives highfalutin airs and prices to diner food, which is supposed to be guileless. And do families with children want to eat dinner in a nightclub-dim room with a disco ball whirling away? Take away the smoke and mirrors—a vapid puff pastry lobster version of Pop-Tarts is served in a clunky retro toaster; wan creamed spinach arrives in a coffee mug; prime rib comes from a tableside cart—and what you have is a mediocre bistro, not a diner.

Server Claire Russell is shown with the restaurant’s lobster version of Pop-Tarts. The pastries are brought to the table in a toaster. 

Chef Todd Harrington of the now-defunct Central Michel Richard restaurant in Las Vegas helped Bucher develop the menu and recipes for Community, but now only a kitchen manager oversees daily operations rather than a chef. That might explain the execution problems the restaurant has.

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