July-August 2019 | Food & Drink

Smooth Terrain

Our critic checks out Anthropologie's garden café in Bethesda

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Another way to go for something easily shareable is to order the entrée-size “fresh garden legumes”—blanched sugar snap peas and wax beans with cucumbers, Fresno peppers, arugula, fried leeks and yogurt dressing that, thanks to the addition of tamarind, has a nice acidic tang.

For entrées, the harvest bowl ($20)—an abundance of fresh vegetables dressed with tahini vinaigrette—is piled onto piping hot quinoa, along with three falafel balls. I add extras—avocado ($3) and crispy-skinned salmon fillet ($6)—which brings its total to $29.

 

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Green chickpea hummus with asparagus, carrots and flatbread crackers. Photo by Deb Lindsey.

 

On another visit, I order poached salmon with charred fava beans, fiddlehead ferns and pea purée. It’s a lovely ode to spring, but the fish is overcooked (despite my requesting it medium rare) and needs salt. Many of the dishes at Terrain could stand more salt and bumped up flavor—more heat, more acid or more herbs and spice. My taste buds are enlivened, though, by the zesty peanut sauce and snappy daikon radish slaw that accompany a vegetarian entrée of two crispy coconut rice cakes, sautéed sugar snap peas and grilled bok choy.

Burger aficionados will be impressed by Terrain’s thick, juicy dry-aged beef burger with cheddar cheese, balsamic onion jam and a heap of double-fried house-made french fries. (Note: The slice of cheese is so skimpy you hardly notice it, so ask for extra if you care.)

 

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Burrata toast with black garlic spread. Photo by Deb Lindsey.

 

But there are duds at Terrain. Kale salad with asparagus is billed as a Caesar, but I detect no anchovy in its stodgy dressing, and the kale is unpleasantly tough. Roasted chicken breast (served with farro overseasoned with cardamom) is shriveled, its visually obvious dryness confirmed when I try to chew and swallow it.

Dessert lovers will be happy at Terrain. A sampler ($19) includes three wonderful, full-size desserts: a “terrarium” of layered dark chocolate mousse and milk chocolate ganache topped with squares of chocolate cake and matcha tea cookie crumbles that resemble moss; chai pumpkin Bundt cake with whipped cream and candied pumpkin seeds; and a three-layer chocolate and peanut butter mousse cake with candied peanuts. (The three desserts à la carte would cost $31, so you save $12.)

Terrain Cafe isn’t your garden variety health food restaurant. Vegetables are prepared particularly well here and the restaurant offers interesting dishes that are good for you without seeming like diet food. That means you can save up the fatty food guilt and trade it in for overspending guilt when you go on a shopping spree at Anthropologie after dinner. Something tells me that’s not a coincidence.

David Hagedorn is the restaurant critic for Bethesda Magazine.