Sometimes, eating cheap can be a drag. Sure, all sorts of tasty items can be found that fit under my ‘cheap eats’ budget, but there are some occasions (such as a date) that deserve a bit of a splurge. Well, a wonderful website called livingsocial.com has helped me dine like a prince but pay like a pauper. On this occasion, I redeemed a $40 (paid only $20) dinner voucher for Mussel Bar in Bethesda.
As our date-night approached, I read some reviews of the place and noticed some less than stellar remarks about the food and service. From my experience, they must have heard the complaints loud and clear. The noise level, service, and food were all stellar.
Parking was a bit of a bother, but we expected as much in downtown Bethesda at the awakening of the night life crowd. We arrived, put our names on the wait list, then wedged ourselves in at the bar. Ms. Classy got a seat and I had to stand for a bit until another stool came available. We browed their beer selections and decided to try some of their beers on tap. Due to my deep appreciation of funny sounding words, I immediately ordered a Kasteel Donker. This extremely dark ale weighs in at 11% alcohol content. I expected a full body with a strong, bitter flavor but it was surprisingly sweet. Ms. Classy ordered the Kasteel Rouge. The alcohol content is slightly less than the Donker, 8%, but we both agreed this strong cherry flavored drink was our favorite of the two.
A few sips into our drinks, we were summoned to our tables. The menu isn’t exceedingly long (the beer menu had many more options) but it was still difficult to be decisive. We were considering two orders of mussels until we peeked at our neighbors’ tables. The orders were quite large, so we decided on one. To start, we ordered a cream of mushroom soup with bacon topped with truffle oil and crème fraiche. The starter was a special so it’s not on the menu, though it should be. Thick, creamy mushroom goodness with delightful bits of flavorful, smoky bacon filled our mouths. I made a mental effort to pace myself and slowly enjoy every spoonful.
Then came the highlight of the night, the tasty, tasty mussels. After extensive discussion, we decided on the Spicy Thai mussels. They placed the large cast iron skillet between us and we barely had the patience to snap a couple photos of those plump, inviting, wide-open mussels. The pleasing curry aroma tickled our nostrils as we shoveled the shells on to our plates. Dinner conversation came to a halt as we alternated between plucking plump mussels from their shells or dipping warm, fresh bread into the tasty Thai curry sauce. The side of frites was suitable, but that’s not what sticks out in my memory when recalling this wonderful dinner. As I've mentioned before, I've read some unflattering reviews about this establishment and I experienced none of the issues raised. We were approached several times with offers to refill our bread, even after all of our shells were shucked and we were sitting back, finishing our drinks, and basking in the afterglow of an amazing meal.
Will we return? Most definitely. I know it would be wishful thinking to say I'll wait for when they run another deal through livingsocial.com or another discount website since Mussel Bar is definitely on the pricey end of our dining spectrum. However, it will be on the short list of places we will consider when we really want to treat ourselves to a nice dinner out instead of a cheap dinner out.
-Mr. Cheap Eats