The Washington Post

Mix Bar and Grille: Pocket-friendly in Potomac

Braised beef short ribs with mashed potatoes doesn’t live up to its billing as “Chinese,” but no matter: It’s a must-order. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

When he announced plans this past summer to shutter the French-themed Bezu in Potomac, co-owner Eddie Benaim said its replacement, Mix Bar and Grille, would be Bezu’s opposite.

“I wanted to get away from fine dining,” says the restaurateur.

Patrons of the original concept won’t recognize its successor. Gone from the setting are the orange accents and Jerusalem stone. Missing from the menu are mussel soup and roast duck. “Eddie, they gave me the half-price menu!” Benaim says one of his regulars joked shortly after Mix Bar and Grille rolled out this month. At Bezu, the highest-priced main course was $38; here, the most a diner can spend on an entree is $26, for pesto-crusted lamb chops.

“We want people to come in more than once every two weeks,” says Benaim, who hired Pedro Matamoros to helm the kitchen. The name might ring a bell; the chef worked at Golden Flame and 8407 Kitchen Bar, both in Silver Spring, in the past year.

The assembly on a recent Monday night at Mix Bar and Grille suggested it was Saturday: The place was packed. The narrow interior plays up a futuristic palette of white (banquettes, walls) and blue (lighting) and includes so many flat-screen TVs, one could be forgiven for confusing Mix with a sports bar.

The menu brims with crowd-pleasers. They include Caesar salad and a peppery tuna tartare veined with avocado to start, and grilled calamari and a cheeseburger among the hot selections. Grilled pita accompanies hummus that tastes store-bought, and although I like the idea of lightly breaded trout that’s pan-fried to a golden crispness, the dry fish needs every drop of lemon from the wedge on the plate. From Mix’s new gas-fired brick oven come flatbreads in five flavors; a mix of sauteed mushrooms, black olives and a carpet of mozzarella makes a decent pie for sharing.

Not counting dessert, the best of the lot is braised beef short ribs on a bed of mashed potatoes, although the slightly sweet meat didn’t taste “Chinese,” as advertised.

If you like creme brulee, get it here; the custard is a classic.

In the transition from Bezu to Mix, the dining room lost nearly 18 seats, which sounds like a detriment until Benaim says his casual concept has resulted in a faster turnover of tables. No one, it turns out, lingers for two hours over charcuterie or spare ribs.

9812 Falls Road, Potomac. 301-299-3000. Dinner entrees, $10 to $26.

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.
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