Smooth Terrain

Smooth Terrain

Our critic checks out Anthropologie's garden café in Bethesda

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A dessert sampler at Terrain Cafe comes with three full-size desserts (clockwise from top): chocolate and peanut butter mousse cake; a “terrarium” of layered dark chocolate mousse and milk chocolate ganache; and chai pumpkin Bundt cake. Photo by Deb Lindsey.

 

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The restaurant seats 64 inside and is decorated with ferns and succulents. Photo by Deb Lindsey.

“Welcome to the zeitgeist,” I tell myself at Bethesda Row’s Terrain Cafe as I drink my dill-laced bloody mary out of a mason jar, snack on avocado toast and dab my mouth with a striped dish towellike bistro napkin. The restaurant is teeming with ferns and succulents and outfitted with unvarnished knotty pine planks, concrete floors, large picture windows, exposed ductwork and rusted shabby chic grillwork. A smile crosses my face because, as a baby boomer, everything old is new again—this “now” concept is a redo of 1970s fern bars and garden restaurants, with riesling and toast standing in for Chablis and quiche. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, because at this all-day restaurant meant to evoke a greenhouse, the food and drink are quite good.

Terrain Cafe is part of Anthropologie, a Philadelphia-based chain with more than 200 locations that feature women’s clothing and home décor. Seven Anthropologie stores have Terrain garden centers in them; five of those have cafés attached to them. You can access Bethesda’s Terrain Cafe through the store or directly from Woodmont Avenue.

The 1,900-square-foot café, which seats 64 inside and 22 outside, opened in September. Its chef de cuisine is Kevin Ettenson, whose résumé includes stints at Mad Fox Brewing Company in Falls Church, Arcuri Eat + Drink and Sonoma Restaurant in Washington, D.C., and, most recently, Red’s Table in Reston.

Terrain’s menu starts with snacks, boards and toasts, so it’s easy to order something to go with cocktails if you like to put off entrée decision-making. A very boozy version of a Moscow mule with Tito’s vodka, elderflower, turmeric and ginger beer hits the spot, as does an Aperol spritzer made with mango peach kombucha from the Baltimore-based company Wild Kombucha.

 

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Lamb kofta (meatballs). Photo by Deb Lindsey.

 

Croquettes of coarsely mashed English peas and goat cheese are two crispy, falafel-like fried patties served with batons of roasted purple carrots and a creamy black pepper sauce. They are easy to share if you can resist scarfing them down yourself. Lamb kofta (meatballs) spiced with cinnamon and perched atop a salad of dilly cucumber, feta and yogurt are finished with tahini sauce, chili oil droplets and microgreens—a nice balance of herbs and heat. The avocado toast—the bread smeared with red pepper, garlic and almond purée and topped with fanned avocado slices; sweet, spicy pickled peppers; and chopped chives—is a winner if you survive the $15 sticker shock. Another toast—two thick slices slathered with black garlic purée and two balls of high-quality, ultra-creamy Lioni-brand burrata sprinkled with lava sea salt—could only be improved by a drizzle of olive oil.

A swath of bright green chickpea hummus, spread on a cutting board and offered with blanched asparagus and purple, orange and yellow carrots, is colorful and tasty and has the added bonus of being fairly low in carbs and fat even if you sneak in some of the accompanying flatbread crackers. (Continued on next page.)

Terrain Cafe

Overall Rating: B+

4801 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda; 240-345-9492; shopterrain.com

Favorite Dishes: Green chickpea hummus; lamb kofta (meatballs); harvest bowl with avocado; burrata toast; dessert sampler with chocolate “terrarium,” chai pumpkin Bundt cake and chocolate and peanut butter mousse cake

Prices:Appetizers: $8 to $15; entrées: $18 to $26; desserts: $9 to $13

Libations: The cleverly curated beverage selections include Ceremony Coffee Roasters drinks and seasonal café drinks (think iced matcha vanilla latte); many Paromi-brand teas (blueberry hibiscus, spicy turmeric chai); nonalcoholic beverages (elderflower rose lemonade, Wild Kombucha mango peach, spritzers); smashing cocktails (gin and tonic laced with crème de violette); craft beers (Atlas, Dogfish Head); and a wine list with five sparkling, eight red and eight white selections all offered by the glass ($8 to $16) and bottle ($32 to $64).

Service: Always pleasant and attentive, though sometimes spotty (I had to flag down the manager for a check on one visit, while I watched our server smoke a cigarette outside.)

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