Tavira, Portugese and Mediterranean in Chevy Chase, MD
Saturday night my wife and I decided (well I decided, she went along) we wanted to try a Portugese restaurant since we honeymooned in Portugal many years ago. I had seen Tom Sietsema's mention of it in his chat and decided to give it a try.
First, it is difficult to find. It is in an office building at 8401 Connecticut Ave. You have to go into the building then down a very nice spiral stairs to get to the restaurant (apparently there is a way to get there from the underground garage, but at 8pm on Saturday night, you couldn't get into the garage)
It is a quite pretty place, and it was not at all busy when we went. We were warmly greated and shown to our choice of table.
The server brought us menus, a wine list, and then offered to recite a long list of specials, none of which were on the menu. Fresh, hot, crusty bread and water arrived immediately.
We ordered from the specials. My wife had an appetizer of roasted Spanish peppers stuffed with crab meat. I ordered the grilled calimari with lemon and olive oil. Both were good, but not outstanding. The peppers had a smokey taste that was very interesting and pleasent, but the crab stuffing was a little soft. The lula (squid) was grilled perfectly, but just a tiny bit chewy. The flavor however, was excellent and reminded me very much of Portugal.
For our entrees we ordered fish. I had the tuna steak with white wine and herbs, my wife the sea bass. My tuna was cooked rare, just as ordered, not a bit overdone like so many tuna steaks are. The sea bass was excellent, but you had to be careful because it had some bones. The sauce for both was very good.
The wine list was adequate, and had several Portugese, Spanish, and Chilian wines as well as the usual suspects. Unfortunately since this is Montgomery County, there was little that was really interesting. One complaint, while the list was reasonably long, there were no vintage dates listed. This is a major no no in my book. I started to order a Quintas de Melgaço Alvarinho vino verde but the server suggested that I might enjoy a Adega Condes de Albarei Albariño that he could provide for the same price. I figured what the heck and said OK. He brought out a 2005. It was not bad for what is essentially an inexpensive Spanish white wine. Some pear and herbs, a little acidic, but not too much so. It was enjoyable but nothing memorable. Unfortunately, since it is MoCo, it cost more than it should, but I have learned to live with that in the county. Even so, the wine list is not dauntingly expensive, just highly marked up by the county at the wholesale level. There are plenty, in fact the marority, of wines at less than $40. While it certainly wouldn't excite the wine nuts (like me), it is more than adequate for the restaruant and the normal diner, especially considering that it is MoCo.
After dinner I ordered the orange bread pudding to share with my wife and a glass of a 1994 Presidential Port. The port was excellent, but then 1994 was a great year for port. The bottle was brought to our table and opened there, something I did not expect when buying from a by the glass list. When we were finishing our coffee, the wine server returned with our check and poured another glass of port, saying that our server was agast that I had shared the glass with my wife instead of getting one for her (by then the wine was going to her head, but she sure did like the port). They did not charge for the second glass of port.
All in all, it was a very nice meal. Service was very friendly, very efficient, and quite entertaining. The food was quite good, if not quite as good as I remembered from Portugal (but that was 22 years ago and I was on my honeymoon after all) The wine was good if not spectacular, and the Port was delicious. The damages (meal, wine, tax, and a very good tip was about $170.) We will certainly go back again when we are in the mood for Portugese food. Up to now we had been going to Nova Europa, but enjoyed Tavira much more.
Finally, after 7 years of living in the area, I gave Tavira a try last weekend, and I'm kicking myself that I let it go that long -- it was really an excellent meal. Nice to have a Portugese option (hell, any option) in Chevy Chase.
We had a 6 o'clock reservation, three adults and two kids (ages 4 and 8). The waitstaff sized us up quickly (b/c of the small children in a fairly upscale restaurant, though thankfully they were well behaved...) and had our three appetizers out to the table very quickly. The clams cooked in wine with pork and onions (that broth was wonderful), garlicly shrimp (excellent as well) and a sausage appetizer also off the menu that was okay. We took some red wine recommendations from the staff, which were great. Two of us split the Paella, which was very nice. Also a sea bass special, which was great. Desserts included possibly the best flan I've ever had, a great poached pear and nice chocolate mousse.
We'll definitely be back.
i agree w/ everyone...i think Tavira is definitely a hidden suburban treasure. I have never gotten anything i didn't like, and the problem is usually selecting what to order!! The waiters usually steer us toward Spanish wines (bottle) rather than Portuguese once they figure out we know wine. One fun thing to do if you are driving is go to Grapeseed for some wine first and then cruise on over to Tavira for dinner. Reminds me we haven't been in a while...need to remedy that!
I've been to Tavira often. Either you were very perceptive, or very lucky, because you ordered perfectly. I am always pleased with my meal there if I never pick up the menu, and especially if I order fish from the long list of specials. And while the location may be a turn-off for you (and I'll admit the decor is severely lacking), the free underground parking steps from the hostess desk is a welcome relief from the Bethesda madness on a cold rainy night.
I wasn't turned off by the decor, just that it was hard to find the restaurant, especially since I couldn't figure out how to get into the garage at night. I had been warned to stick to the specials, and thus did not try the pork with clams, etc. Of course, the couple of times I've been to Portugal, I've always eaten lots and lots of seafood, so I figured that was the way to go here.