17 April 2012

Dine in Style: Easter Dinner No. 2 (of 3) at Mussel Bar Revel

To folks on twitter and facebook, it's no secret that H and I are huge Chef Wiedmaier fans. Huge. It all started when we ended up at Marcel's nearly 8 years ago (we know it was that long ago because Captain Jonathan - hands-down the best waiter we've ever had - checked the system when we returned and he recognized us) to celebrate H's birthday. From that lovely meal to other special occasions (and a few other "just happened to be in the neighborhood" nights), we know that when we want to have an incredible meal and not think about a thing (I will literally let Jonathan pick for me, and recommend you do the same), we go to Marcel's.

So naturally, when The Other Restaurants started opening up (oddly, I think more of young DC knows Chef Wiedmaier now through these places), we were all over that like...well, it's late...and my simile capabilities are gone. We haven't yet made it to Brabo or Brasserie Beck - shame on us - but we've become enamored of Mussel Bar over in Bethesda. Same honest, earnest service, same care in the food, but all in a more casual environment. With beer and mussels.

Confession: Until my the skillet with Mussels Wild Shroom, Pancetta, Parmesan, and Truffle Cream showed up  in front of me on our first visit, I'd never had a mussel. Ever. In fact, until the last few years, I barely touched seafood. Mussels were one of my last fontiers. I figured, "It's got bacon, cream, cheese, and truffle. And wild mushrooms. Even if I don't like the mussels, I'll like the rest."


I'm a mussel fan.

Chef Weidmaier, you had me at Mussel. Fresh as an untouched ocean (yes, they still exist), clean and fresh in contrast to the sinful creamy bacony goodness, I was sold.

I am sold. So much so when H goes there on a "business dinner" without me and calls to tell me he's having our new favorite (recommended by Polly Wiedmaier herself, they're her favorite), the Thai Green Curry mussels, I'm hurt. I'm sad. And I'm ticked that mussels don't do well in takeout.

But on to the real deal for discussion. Clearly, those of you in the DC area should get thee to Mussel Bar. And those of you outside of DC? Give me a buzz when you come to town, and I'll take you. Happily. It should continue, then, that when I got wind in the middle of last winter that the Chef is opening an Atlantic City, NJ outpost at the new Revel resort, I did a Big Huge Happy Dance. Because, you know, we love Jersey, and AC is just up the pike from our place down the shore.

We could hardly wait. Wait. And Wait. Is it April yet?

Finally. The website is up, the facebook page is up. Photos go up, and Revel starts to send promotional emails. We run into Polly on our last visit to Mussel Bar here, and she tells us about the glory that is about to be Mussel Bar Revel.

Yes, I'm talking it up. Because this is how excited we were. Very, very excited.

So after a big Easter Dinner I cooked down the shore, what do we do? We plan on escaping to Revel for the evening. We thanked H's mom profusely for the chance to flee.

Up the turnpike, down the strip.

Van Halen's "Jump" came on the radio when we turned onto Atlantic Avenue.

And then we pulled up under the big moon - the lunar ball, really - hanging above Revel. Stunning from the start. The entry drive is like driving into a sleek, current spaceship. No Star Trek here, people (though the athletic orange valet shirts do harken to the deck of the Starship Enterprise).

I'll spare you the description of the resort itself, save to say it's gorgeous. Plain. Old. Gorgeous.

We weave through the casino to find Mussel Bar Revel. Pretty hostesses greet us and walk us to our table. Pleasantly busy for Easter night still in soft opening. Concert videos - Eagles, I think played, and, well, a motorcycle hung above the bar. I'm assuming it's still hanging.

Cutting to the chase, on to the food.

We saw no reason to order anything other than our favorite, the Thai Green Curry Mussels. And the kale sauteed with fennel seed. And the Kennett Square Mushrooms.

This Kennett Square girl, raised in the Mushroom Capital of the World, where there is, honest-to-goodness a Mushroom Festival with a Mushroom Queen, was super excited. No, I never entered the pageant.

Oh. The beer, you ask? Well, I went with the house "special," an ale brewed just for Chef Wiedmaier,  by Brouwerij de Musketiers, Belgium, Antigoon. I'm a beer lover. 100%. And this, my beer-loving friends, is one of the Best Beers I Ever Had. Full, rich, complex flavors - yes, I'm describing a beer. Gorgeous. It also has a really cool name and legend: the name was inspired by, Druon Antigoon, a mythical giant who lived in Antwerp. Guardian of a bridge on the river Scheldt, Antigoon exacted a toll from those crossing the river. For those who refused, he severed one of their hands and threw it into the river. Antigoon was eventually slain by a young Roman soldier named Brabo, who cut off the giant's own hand and flung it into the river. A statue of Brabo currently stands comemerating his heroism in Antwerp.

Yes I just spent a whole paragraph on a beer. H wanted Schneider Weisse. It was on the menu, and our waiter nicely checked (not everything was in yet). H was excited that they had it. Apparently it's rare. H, though, isn't convinced it was the Schneider Weisse he knows. But it was tasty and he had a second beer he can't remember - a Belgian ale - that he enjoyed.

So the food.

It's not exactly the same as Bethesda.

And that, my mussel-loving or mussel-soon-to-be-loving friends, is a good things. The Thai curry in AC? There's crunchy sprinkling of roasted peanuts, along with a much stronger basil presence (which I happen to love) than in Bethesda. It also had more kick - a clean but full heat we both welcomed. This is not to say that the green curry inside the beltway isn't as good, but rather they're distinctly different dishes, which we both appreciated. I might not be a restaurant expert, but I'd say that it's a smart chef who takes the chance to change things in a new market.

The frites were good, as always, and served with a trio of mayonnaise that had even this mayo-detesting lady dipping: chipotle, dijon, and a tartar-sauce-like version that had a lovely, clean tang. My hometown mushroom fricassee? Yum. Just yum. Woodsy goodness. The only little downer was that our kale was overseasoned - too much salt, and I, the fennel fanatic, would've liked more, well, fennel.

We even splurged, points-wise (yes I tracked every bit), on dessert. H had a fresh, warm, raspberry souffle. Just the smell of it was ridiculous. I had ice cream. Per our waiter's recommendation, I went for the speculaas ice cream. Uh huh. 2 scoops of that, and one of lemon. Eyes rolled back, people. Spicy cookie + citrus? Perfect.

The staff was honest and earnest, just like "at home," and both H and I were thoroughly impressed that there were no hiccups on day 4. With this crew, on opening night? Well,...

Thanks, Mussel Bar Revel facebook page and Mrs. Wiedmaier, for the pictures!

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