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Nicaro in Silver Spring, big disappointment!

Went to Nicaro last weekend hoping to find a local gem as I've recently moved from DC to MD. Wow we were really disappointed. Shared sardine appetizer that was pretty good, for entree had the veal which, while the flavors were pretty good, tasted like second-rate meat. And also had the crab cake, which was awful. I adore crab cakes (and am not horribly picky) and I could not bring myself to finish it. It looked like a softball, was all breading with only a hint of crab. Perhaps my asking for more tartar sauce and lemon wasn't clue enough, but at the end our waitress asked how everything was and i had to say something. I rarely, rarely say anything but that dish should not be on the menu and I felt compelled.

For dessert we shared chocolate bread pudding, which was a good dish in theory but tasted as if it had sat around for a while.

So disappointed... still looking for good local spots. Next time we'll try Jackie's.

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  1. Thanks for the heads up. Maybe they'll shake out by the time they are reviewed by the Post. Hope you've tried Ray's the Classics in Silver Spring and Black's and Persimmon in Bethesda if you are looking for American classics/upscale.

    1. I lust joined chowhound and thought I should reply--we loved Nicaros --finally a decent spot in SS--We've been there twice so far and always with a group and everyone came away happy--I can't quite now pinpoint exactly what we ate but I intend to revisit many, many times. As for Jackies--stay away--the most overrated restaurant thanks to Tom Sietsna's hype when it opened. I have never liked it and lately its gotten so bad that their wait staff often apologizes for the portion size. Their prices have increased. as well

      1. Took the beltway one exit from Bethesda to Georgia Avenenu hoping to avoid the crowds and get a taste of a talented chef's new digs. Probably should have stayed where we were. The place has a little bit of a "hip", "contemporary", "urban" feel. It could also be described as cold and bare. It was certainly LOUD. The dining room half seemed to be filled with middle aged Silver Spring couples who were happy to not have to travel downtown for a birthday or other special night out. They probably should. The bar/lounge/casual half had a good crowd watching sports on TV, having drinks and maybe sharing some plates.

        First, the menu reads beautifully. It is easy to find choices you'd like to try. When they appear at the table, however, you wish you had chosen something else. Fried calamari is dreadful. The worst I've ever had. Tuna tartar was small, salty, and mostly made up of capers. The sweet potato and green sauce accompaniments that the menu mentioned were indeed on the plate, but completely separate from the tartar. A Pipe Dream goat cheese salad suffered the same lack of integration, with a scoop of goat cheese on one side of the plate, and ok dressed greens on the other side of the plate.

        The Rockfish with corn/bacon/asparagus was a winner. My wife's scallops were ok, but again, they took half the plate, and the same greens that accompanied her goat cheese took the other half. Why wouldn't a waiter mention this? I would say my duck was fine, if one-dimensional, but is was really no-dimensional. There was just nothing here that I would ever order again.

        Service was sufficient. I wasn't keen on our waiter, but I can't point to any specifc ommissions. Bottles of red wine were served at a tepid 78 degrees.

        With apps at $7 - 14 and mains at $22 - $28, you are really much better off making the trip downtown, paying a few bucks more, and getting a choice of restaurants with better decor, better service, and better food.

        1. technically, my husband and I fall into the middle-aged category - and we live in SS- although we dine frequently in DC, Bethesda, N. Va, etc. We did dine at Nicaro last night. I found the food to be above average. Our biggest complaint is the bread, which tasted like it just came out of a bag. Starting off a meal with a good bread can really set the tone for the rest of the meal, and this got us off to a shaky start. I had field green salad with feta cheese and pears. I am not a big fan of field greens but nothing else appealed to me and I am a feta-lover. The salad was good-nothing great. My husband had the soup of the day- a cauliflower and cream soup which he said was quite tasty. I had a mixed grill with lamb and lamb sausage. The flavors were good. My husband had a dorado which he was very happy with. Desserts were included as part of our Silver Spring restaurant meal. I had an apple/rhubarb cobbler. He had the cheesecake. Portions were ample and the desserts were above average. I would be far more apt to dine here on a regular basis if the prices were a bit lower. I have to agree with an earlier comment- there are many options in this price range with food that is better. It's a great dining option for Silver Spring (and one of the few non-chain restaurants) but if you have no limitations on geography, I would go elsewhere.

          1. So sorry you were disappointed with Nicaro's -- my husband and I went recently and I really loved it. I had the rockfish mentioned above, which I found amazing. So many restaurants overcook rockfish and this was perfect and moist. I also had the sardine appetizer and adored it. My husband had the scallops and they were also perfectly cooked. I live in Bethesda and find the restaurants there to be so boringly average, with the exception of David Craig and Passage to India. I found Nicaro's food and service to be better than what I get in Bethesda -- prices are lower too!

            1. I am late in responding (April) but I had my one and only dinner at Nicaro in December and it was wonderful. I waited for a friend at the comfortable, lovely bar and the bartender made me a drink to order ... and offered to dump it if it didn't work out (it did). The meal was wonderful - I won't go into a huge amount of detail because the menu has changed since then, but the quality and preparations were top-notch and the service was friendly and skilled. The dining room is very pretty, if a bit dark. I remember the desserts were knock-outs! My only problem with this place is the place. This part of Silver Spring is still a bit funky, and they haven't got a parking lot. We ended up parking a block away, and walking past dark alleyways, shady-looking characters, and just generally having to navigate a rather run-down area was a bit unnerving and not a nice way to end the evening. They did not have valet parking.

              1. I was there in January and thought the food was great. The duck spring roll was to die for and the rabbit w/sausage was top notch. The tuna tartar was delicious but definitely on the small side and I agree that the bread needs serious work but over all I had a great experience. The service was also excellent although I've heard that the front of house guy(andy?) has left so I can't speak to it currently.

                1. I came to the website to see what others were saying about Nicaro because I have to say my wife and I went this past Saturday and were totally underwhelmed. First of all the place was full (a good thing) but was so noisy that even seated at a tiny two-top we could barely hear each other. As for the food, Nicaro is going to have a hard time surviving given the quality to cost ratio. How can a ceaser salad - which was ordinary at best and could have been made with lettuce leaves from pre-packed bag in a supernarket- a squash blossom appetizer (two squash blossoms), a salmon entree (tasty), a soft-shell crab entree - with one crab - a shared dessert, a cup of coffee and one glass of wine come to close to $125 before the tip? I am not someone who thinks restaurants need to be heaping food onto plates in outrageous proportions but this was really disappointing. $26 for one soft shell crab? Nicaro is in trouble because it is way too expensive to be a good local go-to restaurant and to not nearly good enough to be a destination. Also, on a non-food note, the men's room was filthy and frankly disgusting. This place along with Jackie's can only survive on hype for so long.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: DCFresser

                    So how's the food here these days? It seems odd for a restaurant with a 27 food rating in Zagat to have mixed reviews here

                    1. re: MisterBill2

                      We live in the neighborhood and were just there on Friday night.

                      I missed this thread earlier and looking over it, a lot of this doesn't sound like the same restaurant we were at. Nothing we had seemed like it had come out of a bag - this was definitely food that was all hand-made with serious intent. They even had an appetizer of house-made prosciutto, which was fantastic - not too salty, and melt in your mouth. The room was not loud, and the service was perfect.

                      The one complaint that does resonate, though... it was really too expensive. We also spent about $125 with tip for two. For that much, I want the meal to be a little closer to the memorable end of the scale, not just good. The prosciutto was fantastic, the chocolate bread pudding was great, the ice cream that came with my dessert was excellent. The squid ink pasta that was part of my entree was excellent too. The rest of it was only good. I agree that it is too pricey for a neighborhood place but not fantastic enough for a destination.

                      I'm really sorry about this, because I was hoping to like it better. This was our second time there - the last was a few months ago - and maybe I should have taken a clue from the fact that I didn't remember anything specific about that meal.

                      1. re: MisterBill2

                        is this true? Zagat gave it a 27? That is very high for Zagat. I would have given it a 20 based on my last visit which was admittedly months ago now.

                    2. Second time in maybe three months I've been with coworker/s to Nicaro's at lunch. All four of us thought it exceptionally good. Gotta say, when I looked at the reviews here before today's second visit, I was becoming a bit apprehensive about suggesting Nicaro's, I certainly didn't email this page to my lunch companions before we went. Firstly, we have to figure out if we want all-chains-all-the-time, or if we are willing to take a chance and be patient for fine dining. While there is no excuse for a dingy men's room as has been reported here, these places have to mature. They have to have time to work seamlessly. As diners, we should be able to ask up front what a dish consists of and how it is made. Today, one at our table is vegetarian. After showing her a sample menu, hard copy and Nicaro's website's lunch menu, I said, you know what, if you don't see anything you like, I'd bet you can either call ahead and make a request, or ask when we are there for something to be made for you---both of which she did-- both of which were successful. The waiter we had today was very helpful, obviously a ---dare-I-say----seasoned waiter (sorry). When one at our table couldn't decide on an appetizer and decided to forego....the waiter, unasked, brought an empty extra plate. We who ordered beautiful luxury appetizers shared with her---so she had lovely arugula salad and some of my lovely salmon. Thoughtful waiter, pleased patrons. Interesting menu selections. Didn't order cocktails, but the drink menu looked very interesting. I think that we need to educate ourselves a bit as patrons too. I think that my strict vegetarian friend calling ahead, would be part of that process. Calling ahead for a party of five or more and asking for a time range and then actually showing up might be another. I welcome fine dining to Silver Spring. Having lived here since 1968, I can remember when there was only Crisfields, Cap'n Stan's, Eddie Leonard's and the Diner....Welcome Fine Dining. I can work with you.