The personality of a place always tries to grab our attention, but it's the food that has to deliver, and the newly opened Bond 45 (149 Waterfront St., National Harbor, Md.) tries really hard to please.
Drinks arrived quickly, including a sparkling Prosecco NV Villa Jolanda (Veneto) IT. Then it was on to the waiter’s favorite Raspberry Mojito, and his over-the-top raving about the drink was not without merit. Made with Bacardi Rum, mint, fresh lime juice, raspberry puree and simple syrup, for $12 the drink was colorful without being saccharinely sweet.
The menu presented an overwhelming amount of choice -- the Antipasto Bar appetizer list alone covered the entire left-hand side with a daunting selection of seafood, cured meats, veggies and cheeses.
A remarkable surprise is the entirely open kitchen -- literally. The kitchen is in the dead center of the restaurant and one has to walk through it in order to get to the bulk of the seating, which displays bowls of the vivid vegetable antipasto.
The calamari salad ended up a bit chewy and boring... and plated sans lettuce. The calamari itself was the "salad," which wasn't quite what we were expecting. Lightly tossed with some vinaigrette, even a splash of lemon couldn’t flavor it up. Meh.
Maybe we're being too tough on the calamari, but that’s only because the Artichokes Alla Giudea and the Imported Italian Cheese Plate were unusual and terrific. The cheese plate included Peccorino, Fortiana and Gorgonzola, yet what made the dish stand out were the sides of Amarena cherries and apricot compote, plus the swoon-worthy truffle honey.
The artichokes landed fried, Roman Jewish style, meaning they came whole and braised with a hint of oil. Neither salty nor greasy, it was a perfect vegetable plate -- and this from someone who doesn’t like vegetables!
The steaks are what most diners rave about at Bond 45. So of course we got fish -- we like to be difficult! The Maryland Jumbo Crab Steak was singularly the best crab entry we've had in D.C. An enormous portion (for $35, we would certainly hope so), gently flavored with butter, rosemary and thyme, then served on a crisp bread bed, with a vivid splash of mild salsa verde on top and sides of a fried tomato slice and some basic arugula, the bright plating was a pleasant compliment to the tasty food.
Our sole complaint with the restaurant is the poor dessert menu. So we can’t spell what we had for dessert (OK, fine -- profiteroles), but it doesn’t matter because we won't order it again. The dessert resembled four mini parfaits yet managed to be both doughy and salty, icy and warm -- what profiteroles are supposed to be, but even with a generous drizzle of chocolate, the chocolate was more bitter than pleasant.
But we're guessing this lapse in menu has more to do with the fact that most people never get around to dessert, so perhaps Bond 45 hasn’t really had to try.
So the next time you are in the hunt for a good, filling restaurant, consider putting Bond 45 in the running, just use your sweet tastebuds for the free jelly beans, crispy dark chocolate bites and powdered sugar wontons by the hostess desk instead of anything the waiter might offer you.