My husband and I sit down for a mid-week dinner at 8407 Kitchen Bar in Silver Spring. We are waiting for friends to arrive and he eagerly picks up the menu and says “so what’s the deal? Restaurant Week? Groupon? Living Social? ” “No,” I say. “It’s just a regular dinner out. No discount.” There are a lot of deals out there lately, and we have been able to tick off restaurants on my to do list, and still benefit from some savings. I feel a twinge of guilt, thinking about the stack of restaurant deal coupons sitting in a folder in my car. It only lasts for a second though, as I have put off going to 8407 Kitchen Bar for too long. It is time.
I’ve had recommendations for 8407 from some reputable sources including Top Chef’s Carla Hall, who named the restaurant immediately when I asked her where she likes to dine. The Daily Dish owners Zena Polin and Jerry Pollinger also name 8407 when we talk about the best local restaurants. Then there are the accolades from my “foodie”/vegetarian son who has dined at 8407 on a few occasions.
So why the procrastination? It isn’t like me at all. Executive Chef Pedro Matamoros was the chef/owner of the now-defunct Nicaro in Silver Spring. While I was a supporter of the eclectic menu and the locally-sourced ingredients, I wasn’t a fan of the high prices. I just didn’t think the quality warranted the price tag. So I wasn’t all that excited when Matamoros opened 8407 Kitchen Bar.
But it comes to mind when I try to come up with a spot to go with some friends before summer winds down. And for once, I was relishing the thought of not trudging downtown on a weeknight.
The location on 8407 Ramsey Avenue is not ideal. There’s not much foot traffic around. There is a huge Metro parking lot around the corner, taxis lining the street waiting for Metro riders, and lots of construction nearby. But once you enter the building, the unsightly surroundings are forgotten. As you enter 8407 Kitchen Bar, there is a bar on the first floor. It doesn’t really register for me in terms of the decor. The dining room upstairs makes an impression. The room is spacious and it has an urban feel. Exposed brick walls and wood beam ceilings give the room warmth. There are some interesting half-circle booths on one side of the room, which I am eager to try on my next visit.
The cocktail menu is intriguing. The server notices that we are debating between wine and cocktails and encourages us to try a cocktail as it’s the last week for the summer selections. That’s depressing! Three of us take her advice. I order the Jalisco Summer which is strawberry infused milagro silver tequila, thai basil, lime, and aged balsamic. It’s an interesting combination, not too sweet and a touch tart. It’s a little too much of a “serious” cocktail for my liking. My friend has something called Betty’s Pear with Sloop Betty Vodka, pear cognac, campari, and Gruet sparkling, which has some unique flavors which aren’t bad but not necessarily to my liking.
We begin with wonderful breads, including one with sundried tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and herbs. When we remark to our server how good they are, she smiles and tell us that they come from her father, who owns Upper Crust Bakery. Nice!
I have the soup of the day, which is carrot ginger drizzled with beet coulis. Carrot ginger soup is part of my repertoire when I make Friday night dinners. This one bests mine only because of the beet coulis. It adds a nice layer of flavor that I’ll have to try in my home-cooked version sometime.
My friend has beets and Cherry Glen goat cheese with local greens, pistachios, pistachio oil and grapefruit. It is a struggle for me not to order this, as I am such a fan of beets and goat cheese. I do have a bite and again the addition of a single ingredient (this time grapefruit) takes a standard dish to another level.
The duck confit spring rolls are also tasty. I especially like the sweet chili dipping sauce.
My husband opts for a beautiful Path Valley Heirloom Tomato salad, with marinated buffalo mozarella.
My friend and I both decide to have Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon which is served with jasmine rice, gingered swiss chard, and yuzu-sake glaze. The Asian flavors are sweet with just a hint of spice. It is a fairly simple dish but it is well prepared, although my friend finds her swiss chard a little chewy and is dismayed at her portion of mushrooms. I have to admit that there are a few more mushrooms on my plate compared to hers.
My husband has house-made gnocchi with roasted wild mushrooms and parmesan coulis. The flavors and textures of the pillowy gnocchi, earthy mushrooms, and smooth coulis are a dynamite trio.
The final entree at our table is pesto crusted halibut with summer squash caponata, and roasted porcini-basil vinaigrette. Kudos for the flavor, particularly the crispy skin on the fish.
We share two desserts. The chocolate cloud is certainly good but we decide it is not destination-worthy.
My husband decides the ginger cheesecake with peach compote and spiced pecan is worth another visit. He loves the dense and creamy texture, and the subtle flavor of ginger.
I wasn’t really in a dessert mood, which is too bad now that I see the photos. I would like a bite of the cheesecake right about now.
Our server has noticed us taking pictures and asks if I am going to be blogging the dinner. “Maybe,” I reply, trying but not succeeding to be evasive. “How will I find it? I want to see what you write about me,” she says. I wish I had written down her name, because she is absolutely delightful. She hears us talking about Italy and chimes in because she has recently returned from two years of study there. We appreciate her restaurant recommendations!
The thing that kept me from going back to Nicaro is that I never thought the food justified the cost. I was expecting the same of 8407 Kitchen Bar, which means it kept getting pushed back on my priority list. I am pleasantly surprised. While the prices are in the same range as Nicaro (starters around $10 and entrees around $25), the execution is done just right. This leaves me feeling as if I’ve had a value meal even though there is no discount in sight. That’s a good deal!
8407 Kitchen Bar, 8407 Ramsey Avenue, Silver Spring, MD
My rating (on a 1-5 scale): 4.3
Washington Post, 2011 Spring Dining Guide Review