2011 Spring Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, May 15, 2011
It always feels like springtime beneath the rafters of this second-floor dining room whose name flags its Silver Spring address. A lemon grass palette helps. So do big windows that draw in streams of light. That spa-like music? I'll take it, along with a Manhattan that comes with a choice of four fruit bitters (try fig), or a martini that zaps the tongue with lime and ginger.
The chef (and co-owner) is Pedro Matamoros, formerly of the late Nicaro nearby and the beloved Tabard Inn in Dupont Circle, which is known for its fine ingredients and clever compositions. After a bumpy start, 8407 Kitchen Bar has emerged as one of the most diverting places to sip and sup in Montgomery County.
You may have an ocean of calamari under your belt, but Matamoros makes the appetizer, which he sheaths in a light buttermilk batter, seem like something new. The snack is tender, crisp - and irresistible after a dunk in zesty salsa verde. His arugula salad plays sharp (blue cheese) off juicy (apple) off crunch (nuts), and his crab cake is a role model.
Bedded on a confetti of Brussels sprouts and gussied up with dime-size carrots and rich duck ham, the crab cake also sports a foamy cap of Old Bay essence that melts into the seafood shortly after it lands on the table. Roast chicken is notable most for its crisp skin and helpmates: buttery whipped potatoes contrasted by pleasantly bitter greens and a gastrique whispering of lavender.
The chef's earlier tendency toward oversweetening is, I'm pleased to report, nowhere in evidence. Cue the chocolate "cloud" that brings tiramisu to mind. That and other dishes are delivered by well-meaning, if sometimes overly nonchalant, servers.
If you like wine, visit on a Monday night. That's when 8407 Kitchen Bar offers a choice of nearly 50 half-price bottles. A 2008 Penner-Ash pinot noir, smelling of cherries and tasting of spices and vanilla, goes down easier when it's $44 rather than $88.