Congratulations, Melina, for being one of Tom Sietsema’s 7 favorite places to eat

From The Washington Post

When he was looking for a chef for his modern Greek restaurant in North Bethesda, Dimitri Moshovitis, a founder of the fast-casual Cava chain, knew exactly who he wanted: Aris Tsekouras, whose koulouri, or sesame sourdough, reminded the restaurateur of the bread of his youth. “So much love into something so simple,” recalls Moshovitis.

Bread turns out to be just one of the chef’s talents at Melina, named for Moshovitis’s 12-year-old daughter. His beef tartare and grilled octopus are special, too. The former is raw beef shot through with minced pickled cabbage, pickled mustard seeds and cured lemon — ingredients associated with Greece’s traditional stuffed cabbage. The latter, brightened with a parsley puree, comes with an elusive floral note: vanilla, which the chef adds as a contrast to the salinity of the octopus. The chef thinks outside the forum with a skewer of grilled portobello mushrooms on smoked graviera cream — a meat-free souvlaki prettied up with grated cured egg yolk and newly rethought with farro and hazelnuts.

The meal that transports me to Sunday in Athens is the lamb neck. Plied with roasted red peppers, the feast is served in the folds of parchment paper with pinches of nutty kefalograviera cheese and trailed by side dishes including fried potato and pickled onions. The idea is to make your own gyros with the help of the accompanying oregano-freckled sourdough pita.

A lot of thought has gone into the restaurant, dressed with faux olive trees, roomy booths with mirrors at eye level and theater-length white curtains in the floor-to-ceiling windows. Kudos to whoever thought to stock the restrooms with changing tables — black ones, to match the walls.

905 Rose Ave., North Bethesda, Md. 301-818-9090. melinagreek.com. Open for indoor dining. Entrees, $20 to $44.

Aldi’s almost here

From Store Reporter

Next Thursday (Feb. 24th) is opening day for our newest Aldi supermarket, next door to HomeGoods at White Flint Plaza. Aldi, which is poised to become the nation’s third-largest grocery chain, has long been known for its low prices and no-frills atmosphere. But in recent years, the German company has stepped up its image with better produce, a vast array of organics, and high-quality private-label brands. Aldi also has an army of super-fans who stalk its treasure-hunt aisles for limited-edition finds: crockpots, rain boots, picnic blankets, exercise bikes, furniture and other random products at crazy-cheap prices.

Construction Moving Fast at Upcoming 16-Story Building in Pike & Rose

From the MoCo Show

915 Meeting Street will be a 16-story, state-of-the-art, LEED Gold-targeted building featuring 9,600 square feet of ground floor retail, approximately 25,000-square-foot flexible floor plates and 700 dedicated parking spaces. The building, designed by Gensler, will incorporate a vibrant architectural design that includes numerous amenities, such as a rooftop conference center with collaborative common areas, WiredScore-targeted connectivity, a fitness center, and resource-efficient sustainable and wellness features.

Located in the Pike & Rose neighborhood of North Bethesda, 915 Meeting Street will sit within the transit-oriented, LEED Gold-certified neighborhood of Pike & Rose and its more than 400,000 square feet of retail, services, dining, and entertainment offerings. The new construction comes following the success of Pike & Rose’s 300,000 square feet of existing office product, which includes tenants such as Bank of America, JLL, Industrious, OneDigital and Federal Realty’s corporate headquarters.

915 Meeting Street broke ground in late 2021 and has made significant progress. The building is 40% pre-leased to Choice Hotels, who plans to relocate approximately 400 corporate employees from its current headquarters beginning in December of 2023. Bernie McCarthy, executive managing director, and Danny Sheridan, managing director at JLL represented Federal Realty, and Steve London, vice chairman at Savills represented Choice Hotels. 

“It’s been gratifying to see Pike & Rose become an established neighborhood and the real estate of choice for multiple uses,” said Don Wood, chief executive officer for Federal Realty. “The continued demand for office at our mixed-use developments, coming from world-class companies like Splunk and NetApp at Santana, Partners Healthcare and PUMA at Assembly, and now Choice at Pike & Rose, validates our track record of delivering a high-quality product that capitalizes on the highly amenitized environments we have created.

California-based seafood restaurant coming to Pike & Rose in North Bethesda

From Bethesda Beat

Hello Betty, a seafood restaurant that started in California, said Monday that it is coming to Pike & Rose development this spring.

Hello Betty serves conservas, or Spanish tinned seafood, as well as various types of small plates and entrees cooked in an open flame oven, according to a press release. Items include fire-roasted blue crabs, fish and chips, and peel-and-eat shrimp.

Chef Derek Simcik, the director of culinary operations for parent company Sage Restaurant Concepts, plans to offer a regionally inspired menu, according to the press release. The majority of items will be “sustainably sourced and influenced by the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay.”

The North Bethesda location, at 940 Rose Ave., will be 3,000 square feet and include a private dining room, a patio and a bar made out of a boat. The bar portion is expected to open in the summer, according to the press release.

Black History Month at Josiah Henson Museum

You’re invited to join the Josiah Henson Museum and Park for two free virtual programs in honor of Black History Month.  

Cooking with History – Saturday, February 12 @ 1pm

Join us on February 12, 2022 from 1-2:30 pm for a virtual discussion and celebration of traditional African American cooking. The program will feature a 1-hour panel and Q/A with archaeologist Dr. Kelley Fanto Deets, Director of Education, Programming, and Visitor Engagement at Stratford Hall; Professor Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson, Associate Professor and Chair of African Studies at the University of Maryland; and Chef Therese Nelson founder of Black Culinary History.

Panelists will discuss the lives of enslaved cooks, the impact of racial systems on foodways, and ongoing efforts to engage with African American culinary heritage.  Register at http://apm.activecommunities.com/montgomerycounty/Activity_Search/139360

Meeting of the Minds – Saturday, February 26 @ 11am

We celebrate the paralleled legacies and experience of our Maryland Black History titans, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Reverend Josiah Henson. On February 26, 2022 join the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, and the Josiah Henson Museum and Park for a virtual conversation by first person re-enactors about the life of these leaders. All born in southern Maryland, there individuals have shaped and impacted the course of history while displaying bravery that continues to inspire generations.

The re-enactors will shed light on their contributions while shedding light on where their paths have crossed throughout their lives. Following the discussion, there will be a fifteen minute Q/A segment. Register at http://apm.activecommunities.com/montgomerycounty/Activity_Search/139361

Take a romantic getaway

Need to Know

  • Promotional Code: LVU What’s this?
  • Valid Stay Dates: February 4, 2022 – March 1, 2022

Description

Enjoy a romantic getaway to the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel for two.

  • Love is in the air and savings are in your future. Take a break with a couple’s escape. Relax, reconnect and feel the romance.
  • Package includes:
  • Overnight Accommodations
  • Complimentary Wi-FI and Overnight Parking
  • $50 Food and Beverage credit to use in the Corby Kitchen for a sweetheart dinner or couples cocktails
  • Bottle of Champagne or Sparkling non-alcoholic beverage upon arrival
  • 2 pm late Checkout available based on availability

A few selections at Pike & Rose from the Best of Bethesda

Best New Place for Game Time

Sports & Social

We can’t decide if it’s the ginormous screen or the Skee-Ball that makes Sports & Social the best addition to the local sports bar scene. An 18-foot screen—so big it feels like a Jumbotron that’s been transplanted from a sports stadium—anchors the nearly 7,700-square-foot space at Pike & Rose in North Bethesda. Don’t worry if it’s not showing the game you want to watch. Just glance at another of the 20-plus screens around the chic space (they’re all controlled from a DJ-esque station overlooking the main area of the venue). Between games, you can play some yourself: arcade basketball, foosball, Big Buck Hunter Reloaded, a table version of shuffleboard.

Though it’s part of a national chain, the Pike & Rose outpost, which opened in September, includes a lineup of Maryland brews, an outdoor “crush” bar that serves fruity cocktails, and a menu with a crabcake sandwich and a pretzel with crab dip. The other locations, some based in casinos, feature online sports betting through FanDuel. That might soon be another way to game at the Pike & Rose spot—at press time, legalized sports betting in Maryland was about to be officially on the books.

Sports & Social, 11800 Grand Park Ave. (Pike & Rose), North Bethesda, 240-747-3006, sportsandsocialbethesda.com

Photo by Erick Gibson

Food Hall Showstoppers

Little Miner Taco at The Block

The birria de res quesotacos platter (quesadilla + taco = quesotaco) at Little Miner Taco, which opened at The Block in July 2020, is a thing of beauty. Three deep-fried corn tortillas ($17) are griddled with loads of Jack cheese and birria de res, braised beef flavored with guajillo chiles, cloves and juniper berries. The tortillas are folded into tacos, topped with salsa roja, chopped scallions and cilantro, and served with lime wedges, pickled red onions and a cup of beef braising broth (consommé) for dunking and drinking. (Birria de res tacos not sold separately.)

Little Miner Taco at The Block, 967 Rose Ave. (Pike & Rose), North Bethesda, 240-600-1980, littleminertaco.com

Kyoto Matcha at The Block

The display case at Kyoto Matcha is an art exhibit of exquisite confections—many of them matcha based—meant to provoke impulse buying and photo posting. Resisting them is futile. We are intrigued by the 22-layer crepe cake slices ($9), especially the bright green matcha variety and the neon purple ube offering, but the brown sugar boba milk cap cake blows us away. It’s a round of delicate sponge cake bathed in silken white milk foam, mounded with purple boba and drizzled with brown sugar syrup, plenty for two to share ($12).

Kyoto Matcha at The Block, 967 Rose Ave. (Pike & Rose), North Bethesda, kyotomatcha.us

Melina, from the team behind the fast-casual Cava, is already one of Montgomery County’s best

Image courtesy of The Washington Post

From The Washington Post, December 21, 2021 at 8:00 a.m. EST

By Tom Sietsema, Food critic

Unrated during the pandemic

Aris Tsekouras never had to audition for the top cooking slot at the new Melina in North Bethesda. His bread, which he promoted on Instagram, did the job for him. One taste of the chef’s koulouri, or sesame sourdough, was sufficient proof of talent for the restaurateur who ended up hiring him at the modern Greek establishment.

“So much love into something simple,” says Dimitri Moshovitis, among the founders of Cava, the Mediterranean fast-casual brand. “This is the guy I want to run this restaurant.”

Melina joins Julii, an upscale French-Mediterranean restaurant, also from the Cava creators, in the high-end Pike & Rose complex. The fresh face borrows the name of Moshovitis’s 12-year-old daughter and honors the influence of matriarchs in the owners’ business, says Moshovitis, whose co-founders include Ted Xenohristos and Ike Grigoropoulos. Created in 2011, Cava has grown to more than 150 stores. Introduced in November, Melina is already one of the best restaurants to alight in Montgomery County in recent memory.

You can taste what I mean by asking for the tuna tataki. Slices of raw tuna are nothing new, but they seem novel when they’re fanned over a base of crumbled cauliflower jump-started with pickled mustard seeds, enlivened with lemon dressing and ringed with shimmering chive oil. A quick encounter with a blow torch gives the tuna a rosy complexion.

Raise your hand if you’ve seen beef tartare on a menu. Is that a sea of hands going up? No appetizer has had more exposure during the pandemic, partly because it’s a smart use of meat trimmings when restaurants are trying to be as frugal as possible. Melina rewards takers with raw beef shot through with minced pickled cabbage, pickled mustard seeds, cured lemon — ingredients associated with Greece’s beloved stuffed cabbage, but topped off here with a crisp rice cracker.

Octopus makes almost as many appearances on restaurant menus as beef tartare. The version at Melina is Greek to the extent the grilled seafood arrives with balsamic vinegar and fava bean puree, along with luscious caramelized onions. The elusive floral note wafting from the dish, which is brightened with a parsley emulsion enriched with the octopus-braising liquid, turns out to be vanilla, which the chef adds as contrast to the salinity of the centerpiece.

Read the rest of this stupendous review at https://www.washingtonpost.com/food/2021/12/10/melina-restaurant-review/

Melina. 905 Rose Ave., North Bethesda. 301-818-9090. melinagreek.com. Open for indoor dining 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Prices: Mezze $12 to $20, main courses $20 to $44. Sound check: 70 decibels/Conversation is easy. Accessibility: No barriers at entrance; ADA-compliant restrooms.

Two closings at Pike & Rose

From  STORE REPORTER

Pike & Rose gift shop checks out

Gift shop Olive & Loom will close its doors in the next few weeks after nearly three years at Pike & Rose. Owner Ferzan Jaeger says she’s moving the business to Kensington, where it will share space with her candle-making company Kin & Care

Goodbye Taylor Gourmet… again

This week we also bid adieu to Taylor Gourmet at Pike & Rose, a restaurant that’s been cursed with some truly terrible timing. This location opened in May 2018 and closed just four months later, after its parent company went out of business (more here). The restaurant reopened under new ownership in October 2019, just a few months before the start of the pandemic.