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Feb 19, 2008 05:18 AM

Bice - Bethesda

I think the official opening is today. We were there Saturday night for dinner, and although they filled half the tables, my guess is that many of those were friends.

The room is very attractive. By far the nicest dining room in Mont Co. There is a large bar/lounge area on the East/West Hwy side that is sure to bring in the afterwork crowd that has previously suffered at the Hyatt and Ruth Chris. They also offer two private dining rooms, with windows to the south, that hold I think 35 and 45 that will be very popular. Linens, silver, crystal are all first rate.

The staff has been mostly garnered from other Bethesda restaurants, but seem also to have received some additional training in fine dining. The front of the house is probably Bice Corporate, complete with Italian suits and accompanying accents.

The menu is long with something for everyone, including an extensive list of salads, starters, pizzas, pastas, mains, and a final curious page of grilled steaks. Much of the pasta is homemade. The wine list, as management immediately noted, is severely limited right now and will need a lot of work in the coming months. Food prices are exceptionally cheap, with salads $8 - $12 and the most expensive pasta, with lobster, coming in at I think $19. Watch for those to creep up quickly. The most expensive dish on the menu was a seafood stew at $29.

I'll refrain from commenting on the cooking, as I understand they are still getting their feet under them. Frankly, I suspect many of us will be so pleased with the quality of the setting that we will be happy to find a few dishes on the long list of offerings to satisfy us.

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  1. Thanks for the report. I think they will do well if they keep prices in line. The Old Homestead (formerly in that space) was way too expensive for average food. They made the Morton's across the street seem like a bargain. We will try.

    1 Reply
    1. re: keithdcil

      We went last thursday right from the office. The place has a nice upscale feel which I like when I am wearing a tie. The tomato bread was right out of the oven and really good. Will go back for the Osso Buco (sp). The pastas looked good.

    2. I saw the sign pointing to parking this weekend and wondered what was up. Actualy, what I really remembered was Bice's long-ago DC operation -- didn't that end shortly after the manager and maitre'd got in a fist fight?

      In any event, I am most interested in food quality. Unfortunately, you refrain from commentary. Can I get you to reconsider?

      4 Replies
      1. re: Bonz

        I also remember the downtown Bice, currently home to Le Paradou, another verrry expensive venue. I'm surprised that Bethesda's prices are so cheap. Different concept, same name?

        1. re: nickdanger

          I think it is becoming a wide spread practice for restaurants to open with very low prices and raise them significantly over the first year or two. I would expect that Bice, with dozens of restaurants worldwide, is very familiar with the ins-and-outs of opening a new place. Look for prices to be double what they are today, more in line with what they charge at other Bices in other US cities, in 24 months,

          1. re: nickdanger

            that downtown bice (current location of le paradou) was run by the guy who now has cafe milano in georgetown and sette bello in arlington. mr. franco nuchese, i believe is his name.

        2. I also went here on Saturday. Very nice surroundings and friendly service. The food was good, it reminded me of Centro in Bethesda. Same good quality Italian food. I had the lobster pasta and a salad. My husband had a steak and mashed potatoes. The mashed potatoes were creamy and herb flavored, delicious. The prices did not strike me as cheap, again similar to Centro.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Suemelk

            It was not cheap. There were 47 dollar steaks and most of the entrees were 25 and up.

          2. A return visit on Sunday night saw great improvement in the kitchen. Starters, including a beef carpaccio with arugula and a salmon carpaccio with micro-greens and poached calamari with both perfectly presented, and no longer suffering the bone chilling cold they had weeks ago. Butternut squash crepes on a creamy leek sauce was also outstanding. All of these dishes, however, could have been half the size and half the price.

            Mains included a picture perfect osso buco that tasted as good as it looked. A beautifully tender steak grilled perfectly, and a seared tuna dish that actually tasted of fish. Unfortunately, three pastas at the table, one in a spicy tomato sauce, one with mushrooms, and one a special of filled tortolonni were the three weakest dishes on the table, none tasting fresh or savory.

            Highlights from our previous visit were the fontina and prosciutto pizza, and the seafood stew on a lobter-bisque type sauce.

            I'm a little torn by Bice. I love the formality of the dining room and the staff. I like the long menu. That said, I realize that because of their location and the demographics of Bethesda, their best chance of survival is to make the dining-room a bit more casual, the restuarant a little more kid friendly, the wine list more approachable, and to pay more attention to the salads, the pizzas and the pastas that will cast a wider net than the $16 salmon carpaccio starter, the $32 osso buco, and the $80 per bottle super tuscan house wine.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Pappy

              we went there on Saturday night. It was very OK. the place is nice but is definitely a lot more formal then i anticipated. being that we are young looking and perhaps a little underdressed our service wasnt spectacular. The weird thing was we placed our order and litteraly 30 seconds later our appetizer was brought out. My wife wanted to send it back, but i just said screw it because we were starving! It was a fritto misto plate with shrimp, calamari, zucchini and mushrooms. not bad, but also not something you cant get at any other italian place for much cheaper. for dinner i had the lobster fettucine and my wife had a crab and mascarpone raviloli special. both were pretty good, but the weird thing was they seemed to be in identical sauces but mine was listed on the menu as a "lobster Bisque" and hers as a "pink vodka creme sauce"??? It is not the type of place i would go frequently, but i might consider it again on a special occasion when someone else is paying.