Sometimes in life you just need a makeover to brighten things up. Whether it’s a new hairstyle or redecorating a room, there is something fresh and exciting that comes with change. Reality television chronicles restaurant, home, and even body transformations with increasing frequency. Audiences are clearly fascinated.
All too often restaurants that become stale close, rather than trying something new. This is usually a necessity due to finances. But when a restaurant has the opportunity for a makeover, the results can be surprisingly good.
Persimmon in Bethesda is a great example of a successful transformation. After a seven-month closure for renovations, Persimmon reopened in February. Persimmon was a white-tablecloth restaurant that had declined in quality over the years, at least from this diner’s point of view. The economy didn’t help matters, as Persimmon’s prices weren’t exactly economical. Enter the new Persimmon. More casual decor and fare, and lower prices, make it the kind of place you can return to on a regular basis.
Cousin A and my BFF decide on Persimmon as a destination for the three of us to celebrate my birthday. It takes us a moment to get used to the new digs. The decor is simple, with dark wood throughout. Bright pops of color come from whimsical paintings of vegetables on the walls. (Bethesda Magazine provides a peek at the decor.)
We begin our meal with Persimmon’s smoked trout spring rolls with hoisin barbeque and spicy peanut sauces, a holdover from the original menu. They are fried crisp but not greasy, with the slaw providing added crunch, and the sauces giving the rolls a sweet zing.
BFF and I share our entrees, acknowledging that the small plates phenomenon means that a meal without sharing just doesn’t feel right anymore. Cousin A is perfectly happy to keep the sautéed crab cake sandwich to herself. We’re fine with that, as long as she offers us a few of her crispy fries. She does.
Crispy fish soft tacos with spicy slaw, pico de gallo, guacamole, and chipotle sauce served with tortilla chips and salsa are a bit repetitive from the flavors and textures of the trout roll. This isn’t a bad thing, as both dishes are good, but more variety would have been preferable. This is simply an ordering faux pas, or p’ordering as a friend calls it.
We keep things fishy by venturing off the salads and sandwiches section of the menu and heading over to the section simply labelled “fish.” We ooh and ahh over the beautiful presentation of black and white sesame crusted tuna with roasted red pepper, snow peas, bean sprouts, and couscous with sweet chili sauce and chive oil. I wish I hadn’t filled up on the other dishes, as this is the star.
A birthday isn’t complete without dessert, so we share profiteroles with vanilla ice cream and caramel and chocolate dipping sauces. How fortuitous that there are three profiteroles in an order. It’s a just right ending to the meal.
Change is always refreshing, but it’s most beneficial when designed to be long-lasting. Persimmon’s Extreme Makeover brings a new “reality” to Bethesda dining.