The soft muffling of after work conversations welcomed me as I stepped into Barrel + Crow. The surrounding brick and intentionally placed potted plants made everything homey as if I was going over to a friend’s house for a late and intimate dinner. The restaurant is especially deceptive in size as I looked beyond the hostess desk and was surprised to find that the B+C was bigger and deeper than I imagined. An event of over 24 could easily fit, with at least 80 fitting comfortably in this nook of a restaurant.
There was no chance to take off my coat when I was approached by the staff asking if they could hang my coat in their closet, a noticeable nod to their impeccable service. Coats hung and appetites hungry, the smell of fresh seafood and something salty was in the works. I sat down on the comfortable sofa bench and studied the spread for the evening.
Barrel + Crow pride themselves in their vast selection of wines and craft beers, but instead of leaning into our usual suspects (French Bordeaux), we asked the waiter, Kevin, for his Pinot Noir recommendations. A quick sip from his acclaimed Chehalem and we knew that the wine was delicious, velvety smooth and by far an excellent selection. We knew that we were in for a pleasant experience!
The complimentary bread at the table was too hard for us to enjoy but we did get a taste of the accompanying herbed butter (which was fantastic!). We decided to mix things up a bit and order the Duck Fat Rosemary French Fries first. Your fries won’t last long as not only were they flavorsome, but there was notably no greasy consistency to the fries, and the rosemary was light and playful: only a dash of fat and herbs for these fancy fries!
Chef Pedro Matamoros is well-known for his contemporary twist on regional cuisine. He worked in the DC area including restaurants like 8407 Kitchen & Bar. His take on food with unconventional but approachable tastes is reflected throughout the menu. Knowing his original take on food, I ordered his Seared Scallops with a sunflower shoots salad and blood orange butter gastrique. It was evident that Matamoros didn’t want to overwhelm the scallops and chose a light-hearted but sweet sauce that would highlight the main attraction but give the sunflower shoots a shining ovation as well.
My husband – a meat man – ordered the grilled steak with shallots, all dazzled with a red wine reduction sauce. Oh that sauce! The steak was seared and cut into thin, small rectangular strips just enough to reveal the medium-rare view of the meat. The red wine reduction sauce tasted slightly of herbs with a quick tang of sweetness – a clever antagonistic pairing for this tender steak.
The dessert options were impressive! You will spend some crucial time deciding between one dessert or – two! I recommend the gingerbread cake with the rum whipped cream. Yes, you read that right – rum whipped cream.
It was glorious.
It’s been awhile since I had gingerbread cake, but the decision was confirmed after reading that it would include a spiced pear compote and rum whipped cream. The gingerbread itself was heavy, both in flavor and texture. You received the power of the ginger but it wasn’t overwhelming to the taste buds. The cream itself didn’t taste a lot like rum. It was a hint – a tad tease to let you know that ‘rum was here.’ It was utterly delightful and a nod to Chef Matamoros’ clear conviction for spicing up his dishes. This was truly one of them.
Barrel + Crow has a dish for everyone. Choosing a meal will be the hardest part of your experience as there were crab cakes, butternut squash ravioli and pan roasted moulard duck to capture your fancy. B+C promises to excite your palate offering twists to familiar dishes. Their original take on comfort foods – like the Amish chicken and waffles with collards and bacon, green tomatoes with chow chow, spiced shrimp and grits with caramelized leeks – will surprise and delight you!
Barrel + Crow
4867 Cordell Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814
Atmosphere: Modern, high-end American
Recommended Dishes: Lamb Bolognese, Duck Fat Rosemary Fries, Spiced Shrimp & Grits
Open: Dinner: Monday to Thursday, 5-10PM; Friday and Saturday, 5-11PM; Sunday, 5-9PM
Lunch: Monday to Friday, 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM
Brunch: Saturday and Sunday, 11 AM – 2:30 PM
*Bar is open daily til close
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