Smart restaurants learn to give customers what they want. Just look at Addie’s in Potomac, which recently revamped its menu after listening to fans of the original outpost of the same name in Rockville.
“People were crying for the old bistro on the Pike,” a bungalow-style dining room that went dark in 2013, says Dane Sewlall. He’s the executive chef of the American dining destination owned by veteran restaurateur Jeff Black, along with BlackSalt and Pearl Dive Oyster Palace in the District.
The elaborate hot-and-cold seafood towers that Addie’s rolled out when it re-emerged a year and a half ago? They’re history. The platters of whole fish and ribs for two? They’ve gone the way of “The Americans” as well. Sewlall, 39, says he doesn’t regret any of his ambitious efforts, although the “fluff” occupied plenty of his time in the kitchen.
These days, he’s playing it more straightforward, mostly with main courses that summon the good old days in Rockville. A trio of crisp scallops and soft beech mushrooms glide to the table on a satisfying orzo risotto circled in an emerald herbed oil, while glossy beef short ribs count grilled broccolini and a loaded baked potato as plate mates. The pleasing, crisp-skinned potato makes me wonder why more places don’t offer the simple comfort.
Accompaniments sometimes threaten to upstage centerpieces. As much as I appreciate thick slices of hanger steak perked up with chimichurri, the entree’s lacy fried onion strings and sauteed greens find their way onto my fork even faster. Salmon paved with ground dill and Japanese bread crumbs is satisfying, but no more interesting than the crisp spaghetti squash-potato cakes they teeter on, or their moat of horseradish-spiked creamed leeks. The kitchen makes it easy to fill up on vegetables. Cauliflower, a side dish, is sprinkled with sliced almonds and shocked with harissa vinaigrette.
The kitchen can still be heavy-handed — pumpkin ravioli nearly drowns in its pecan brown butter — but over-accessorizing is mostly a problem of the past.
A constant on the menu at Addie’s, then and now: Prince Edward Island steamed mussels, for which the best base is a housemade green curry, zapped with pickled ginger and smoothed with butter, lots of it. The broth practically begs to be mopped up with bread, which gives me the chance to share that Addie’s popular biscuits survived the menu transition. They’re served as before, slathered with lard and tucked in a bright yellow wax paper bag imprinted with a school bus. (Desserts run sweet, busy and flat-tasting. Feel free to eat a second biscuit, then.)
Sewlall has also tinkered with the bar menu. Mini-burgers, empanadas and Korean-flavored ribs sound like good ways to sponge cocktails.
Named for the owner’s Arkansas grandmother, whose handsome portrait graces the bar, Addie’s appearance hasn’t changed. Seats in the sunny yellow “family” room and the richer, blessedly quieter wine room are outfitted with expansive windows that let diners observe the dance of cooks, and cooks monitor the reaction of customers.
My hunch is that Sewlall is catching more smiles than not.
12435 Park Potomac Ave., Potomac, Md. 301-340-0081. addiesrestaurant.com. Entrees, $16 to $31.