Long before I began to blog, whenever we go out to dinner with friends, the majority of the time I pick the restaurant. I certainly consult whomever we are going out with, but most of our friends are happy to say “you choose.” This is primarily because no one else devotes as much time as I do to researching restaurants. I rely on multiple resources, including reviews in the Washington Post and Washingtonian, Zagat ratings, opinions on Chowhound.com, various blogs, and recommendations from friends. I have a pretty good track record, if I do say so myself. But I’m always just a little bit nervous when I go out with a group to a place I’ve never been.
On Saturday night our party of eight headed to the new Bistro LaZeez in Bethesda. Bistro LaZeez is a Mediterranean grill. According to their website, the goal is “to offer healthy and freshly grilled delectable meals in an inviting and warm setting.” Tom Sietsema wrote a positive review in his First Bite column and some friends gave it high marks. I was feeling pretty confident that we were about to embark on a good meal. Since I knew this wasn’t going to be a high-end meal, it also takes some of the pressure off.
We walked into the small, but pleasant looking restaurant and everyone agreed it had a nice vibe. I hadn’t quite thought through the fact that three people in our party didn’t eat non-Kosher meat and therefore would be looking at vegetarian options. That’s not usually a problem at a Middle Eastern restaurant. At Bistro LaZeez, however, the only entrée option was falafel. Of course there was a variety of vegetarian appetizers, sides, and salads, but I felt that I had made a faux pas by not checking the menu more carefully.
The meal started off well enough. The meat eaters had grilled chicken wings to start, which had a nice flavor. The fava bean appetizer was also well received, although I didn’t try it. The grilled pita was a nice touch.
For entrees, four people ordered the BLZ sampler which featured four appetizers, and one person had falafel. The remaining entrees were a chicken shawarma for me, a chicken kabob and The Europa which included grilled beef and chicken.
Here’s where things began to go downhill. Food delivery was completely uneven. Some people were served dishes, while others waited for unreasonable stretches of time for their food
The BLZ samplers were generally flavorless- potatoes were mealy and underseasoned. Tabbouli was mostly parsley with just a sprinkling of other ingredients. Felafel balls were dry, and hummous was nothing special. One friend remarked that the hummous atGiantwas better.
My chicken shawarma was a disappointment. The thin grilled bread wasn’t bad, but the contents of the shawarma were completely unremarkable. There was nothing that made it stand out, nothing that tasted unique or interesting. Nothing. My husband and I ordered a Cornucopia Salad to share. It had fruit and blue cheese with a raspberry vinegar dressing. The dressing was too tart and the salad so ordinary, I took one bite and handed it back to my husband.
The two people that ordered chicken fared the best. They both liked their meals. Since Bistro LaZeez is stressing the quality of its grilled meat, it’s comforting to know that they were successful on that front. But shouldn’t a Mediterranean bistro also offer high-quality mezze?
My constant question to my dining companions these days is “how would you rate your meal on a scale of one to five?” I use their scores as a barometer and then take everything into consideration for my final score.
Café LaZeez’s ratings ranged from a 1 for the BLZ samplers to a 4 for The Europa. The two people who enjoyed their meals best admitted that the reasonable price played a factor in their higher ratings.
I was definitely deflated at the end of the meal. My friends assured me that I had earned plenty of stock from previous meals, so my reputation would remain unsullied. A phone call received during the mostly dismal meal lifted my spirits a bit. A recommendation for Agora in DC was a big success. Whew!
Bad meals to happen to good people. Sometimes bad meals happen at decent restaurants.
If you’re a vegetarian, skip Café Lazeez. If you eat chicken, you may want to check it out. If you like it let me know, so I can console myself just a little.
Tasting Table Review Here’s another review that I just found, touting the sauce which accompanied our wings. Clearly most of us p’ordered (although most out of necessity).
My rating (on a 1-5 scale): 2