Downtown Bethesda is one of those areas where there's almost TOO many choices of restaurants- and unfortunately most of those choices fall into the "good, not great" category. Most of the restaurants you'll find in the area are local chains, which can be good/bad depending on your personal preferences. But don't get me wrong, if you're in the mood for something specific, chances are you'll find it in the area, and it's always v. lively and easy to walk around/window shop in.
One of the new-er restaraunts to pop up is Lebanese Taverna, a DC Metro Middle Eastern chain. The Bethesda outpost is located in the new Bethesda Row section of shops and restaurants. I've been to this location a few times (pre-blog), so eating here with T was the perfect time to re-visit this location and try out a few new items. We decided to split four mezza plates so that we could try a few different items from the fairly lengthy menu.
SHANKLEESH: aged sheep feta blended with paprika rolled in zaatar
The feta rolled in zaatar was flavorful and I thought it was best spread onto the puffy pita bread that is provided to the table. By itself, the thick blocks of feta plus the abundant spices makes for a sort of uncomfortable sensation after a few bites. The tomato and other veggies helped to cut through the thickness and add a different texture to the cheese.
HOMMOS BEL SNAOUBAR: hommos garnished with pine nuts
This hommos was creamy and delicious, especially with the addition of the pine nuts. I could've eaten a huge bowl of this and been totally happy. It was a smooth and rich hommos, unlike some kinds that can be grainy or chunky.
SAMBOUSIK: pastry shells stuffed with meat, almonds, pine nuts, deep fried
I really enjoyed these pastries. I mean, what's not to love, it's a fried meat pie, haha. Sort of like mini empanadas, these came out piping hot and fresh. My only complaint is that the innards by themselves were sort of bland. This was remedied by spreading liberal amounts of the hommos on the pastries.
CHICKEN SHAWARMA: sliced boneless chicken from the rotisserie served with garlic puree
Our last dish was the Chicken Shawarma, and this was probably the only disappointing dish for me. The chicken was dry and the garlic puree only masked the dryness. It was also the least visually appealing dish, as it was literally a pile of chicken pieces - and yes, I can read the description saying it's sliced boneless chicken, but I guess I was expecting something a little less "blah".
T seemed to enjoy all of the dishes that we got, and said that "Lebanese Taverna had a great atmosphere and was a fun chance to try some new cuisines." Overall I enjoyed eating here very much. It definitely helps to go with someone that wants to share small plates, if you are looking to try as many different dishes as you can. The restaurant itself is sleek but warm and inviting- I love the dark wood furniture and walls with the warm lighting and accent pieces. The menu has a ton of different options, which makes it a great place for large parties, or dining with friends that want to try new items. Sure you might get some misses here and there, but hey, there's always your next visit to find another great dish.
Lebanese Taverna- Bethesda
7141 Arlington Road
Bethesda, MD 20814
301.951.8681; also on OpenTable.