2011 Spring Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Three redwood-size spring rolls packed with smoked trout and shredded vegetables lean on a mountain of slaw circled by overlapping rivers of hoisin and peanut sauces that are so sweet they border on dessert topping. Persimmon bills the diorama as an appetizer. My pal across the table of this storefront American restaurant sees it as a problem: "America's waistline, right there!"
Restaurants are known for their generosity, but I wish the abundance here in Chevy Chase were accompanied by more finesse on the barge - er, plate. After those spring rolls, I have zero room for my entree, and not just because it, too, looks like a landscape constructed by a child with access to a walk-in cooler and some squeeze bottles. Three squat plateaus of dense pork tenderloin on a thick moat of rosemary polenta ringed by a tar-colored dried fruit sauce overload the palate, too. My buddy's eyes pop when his entree, a special of seared red snapper, is set down. A raft of crisp fish teeters on a field of broccoli rabe and mushrooms that might be better if there were less to take in. Creamy mustard sauce does help the dish along.
To get the best from this upscale mom-and-pop bistro, which recently spawned Wild Tomato in Cabin John, start with something from Persimmon's wine list (bottles are half-price on Thursdays) and consider ordering a first course as both your starter and entree. The best might be the lobster rolls - yes, plural - which introduce lightly creamy chunks of seafood to pillowy toasted buns and show up with a sleeve of spicy house-made potato chips. Close your eyes, and you could be at the seashore. The pecan pie easily serves two, but it's a respectable finish.
The waiters who navigate this spare yellow box are great advocates for the menu, which runs from wasabi-crusted oysters to pecan-dusted barbecued rack of lamb. "Really," one cheerleader told me, "you can't go wrong." The dishes we returned to the kitchen with mere dents in them suggest otherwise.