Brightwood Bistro

American, Bistro
$$$$ ($15-$24)
Brightwood Bistro photo
(James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)
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Editorial Review

Washington diners often complain of a lack of good neighborhood joints. Brightwood Bistro aims to be part of the solution.

The restaurant replaced the short-lived Meridian in August. The ambitious bistro is a venture of five friends, all of whom grew up in the Brightwood neighborhood. "We've lived in this area our whole lives and we've never had a nice sit-down restaurant. You had to go to Georgetown or downtown," says Daymon Anderson, general manager and co-owner. "So when the opportunity presented itself to us, we jumped on it."

The space looks much as it did before. The room is attractive, with a palette of soft blues and greens. Banquettes line one wall, and modern drum lights provide a flattering glow. What was missing on our early visit was customers. Only a handful of tables were full, though Anderson says the restaurant is starting to attract a lively happy-hour crowd, especially on Tuesdays, when drinks and appetizers are half-price.

As word gets out, the food, expertly prepared and reasonably priced, should draw in the crowds. Chef and co-owner Michael Walters has cooked locally at Citronelle, Galileo and Jaleo. His menu is an easy mix of international comfort food, including shrimp noodle soup and shrimp and grits.

Walters puts his fine-dining touches on even the simplest dishes. We started with a chopped salad: a lightly dressed mix of fresh greens, radishes and olives. It's the kind of salad you try to make at home but can never quite equal. We moved on to roast chicken and a burger. The chicken was a marvel: crisp skin, juicy meat on the breast and leg and, at $16, a very good deal. (Walters sears it skin side down, roasts it in the oven, then finishes it on the stove with lemon, vegetables and butter.) The burger, a blend of sirloin and top round on a homemade bun, could easily become a diner's weekday staple.

Service is still shaky, if well intentioned. Our overeager waiter had to repeat our order to us several times to make sure he got it right, then checked in at least four times to make sure we were happy.

It was a bit much. But it showed how Brightwood is making every effort to get the neighborhood restaurant right.

Entrees, $16 to $26.

-- Jane Black (First Bite, Sept. 24, 2008)