Sometimes I will visit a restaurant, enjoy a meal, begin writing a blog post, and then lose the motivation to finish it. This happened twice this year after visiting 8407 Kitchen Bar in Silver Spring. I had every intention of updating my original post about the restaurant, written in August 2011. But on one visit the restaurant was between executive chefs, and on the second I didn’t have much to say. So I moved on to writing about new restaurants, leaving behind my unfinished thoughts. Every now and again I thought about finishing what I’d started.
Despite my inability to complete a coherent post, 8407 has always been one of my preferred dining destinations in Silver Spring. It has a comfortable and cool vibe, and an “artisanal American” menu that has appeal but isn’t fussy or over-thought. When I learn that Chef Justin Bittner of Bar Pilar is taking over the kitchen, I anticipate that the restaurant is about to move to the next level. Bar Pilar gained a fine reputation during Bittner’s tenure, and his skills are a good fit for 8407. According to the website, Justin brings you his farm-to-table expertise and his passion for perfecting small plate offerings. His approach to American artisanal cuisine is imbued with classic influences from the French countryside.
This new development results in my third visit to 8407 this year. Will I be inspired to catapult my notes off of my Ipad and into published cyberspace? I invite four friends to join me on my quest.
We begin our meal with Caesar salad, roasted beets and Path Valley greens with feta, and a selection of artisanal cheeses. The choice ingredients make for a promising start, and we eagerly anticipate the main event. A glance at the menu reflects enticing updates from Chef Bittner. My friends are divided between rockfish and salmon, but I covet the seared pork loin. I hesitate, feeling self-conscious about eating pork among a group that includes kosher-keepers.
My mind wanders back to a recent online exchange on www.donrockwell.com. I had inquired whether Chef Bittner has begun cooking at 8407, since it isn’t noted on the restaurant’s website. Chef Bittner himself responds: “If you look closely at the menu you’ll see a shit ton of pork which should have been a hint.”
The words “a shit ton of pork” are dancing in my head. He’s a pork guy, so how can I resist? The server’s enthusiastic guidance, along with the encouragement of my friends, convinces me to go with the pork. I have no regrets.
It’s a double whammy, with a generously portioned slices of tender pork loin, along with crumbled spicy smoky chorizo swimming in a sweet potato hash. This is a phenomenal dish, further enhanced by tender brussels sprouts and sweet carrots. I love every bite, and savor the leftovers that I carry to work in a brown paper sack the next day.
The fish dishes are presented beautifully, and cooked to perfection. A few of my companions have been with me on previous visits here, and left with a “like it but don’t necessarily love it” opinion. This time there is unanimous agreement about wanting to return with spouses.
The rockfish is covered in fried almonds, and nested on sweet succotash. I am not an almond-lover, but I can appreciate the appeal of the dish.
Grilled Faroe Island salmon with celeriac-cauiflower puree, baby eggplant, and capers has a smoky richness. The eggplant is eliciting choruses of OMGs. I tear myself away from the pork loin to taste a bite, and I have to agree with the expressions of approval.
Pastry chef Rita Garruba has created an enticing menu of desserts at 8407. We share a chocolate peanut butter tart with curry vanilla ice cream, peanut brittle, and raspberry sauce. Am I left wanting more? A few bites are enough for now, but I make a mental note to leave more room for dessert on a future visit.
My third visit to 8407 Kitchen Bar has broken my stalemate, and motivated me to sing the praises of the restaurant and the chef. You could say that Chef Justin Bittner has succeeded in putting words in my mouth.
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