Dining: Comfort undergoing refinement at The Daily Dish
House-made macaroni and cheese and pulled pork barbecue on the same menu as seared diver sea scallops and mussels in saffron cream? The Daily Dish is not undergoing an identity crisis; instead, it is building on established strengths.
Formerly the location of the Red Dog Café, the chef and owners of The Daily Dish are conserving the integrity and popularity of many of the menu items that originally drew a casual crowd to Red Dog, while at the same time developing an upscale fine dining repertoire that is seasonally inspired and as often as possible, locally sourced. The familiar casual fare is rendered better than just competently, and the innovations are promising.
Massive plump, sweet diver sea scallops are expertly seared and then cooked perfectly, until just translucent in the very center, yet the cordon of reduced balsamic vinegar and swoosh of cauliflower puree is bitter in a way that distracts rather than compliments the delicious scallops. Conversely, the garnish on the plate of mussels is over-the-top delicious, a rich pale yellow saffron cream tossed with diced applewood smoked bacon, slivers of red onion, fresh peas and leaves of baby arugula. While all this is indeed sumptuously delicious, the mussels themselves are slightly overcooked and dry. The execution is just a measure behind the refinement of the vision.
Not everything at The Daily Dish is complex or refined. The salad of baby greens consists of leafy greens that are crunchy, fluffy and bitter in a way that far exceeds anything that comes in a cellophane bag. Clearly these leaves were grown in honest soil and served soon after they were harvested. The salad is dressed with dried cranberries, creamy local goat cheese, toasted pecans and a gentle dressing of olive oil and vinegar.
Focaccia is thick with a nice dense chew, and has just the right glaze of olive oil and herbs. Pizzas are built to order on top of well-made dough that crisps nicely in a wood-fired oven. There's no need to request extra cheese; these pizzas are pretty cheesy to start. Patrons can compete in a Pizza of the Month contest.
Ripirghi, which is Italian for "fold-over," is a distinctive riff on the sandwich idiom and a hold-over from the Red Dog days with some tasty updates. A large pita-like bread is literally folded over a variety of tasty fillings, from vegan mezze to fresh grilled salmon. Connoisseurs of pork barbecue will be satisfied by the house pulled pork that is dressed in a tangy sauce with a civil amount of spice, and served as a ripirghi. This bodes well for a return trip to sample the house baby back ribs.
Crab cakes are made with real crab not some cheap exotic variant and moderate amounts of filler or binder. They appear on the menu in an appetizer portion, a luxurious dinner portion and occasionally as a trio of "sliders" or mini crab cake sandwiches dressed with a luscious tarragon flavored remoulade. A trio of crab cake sliders to go is thoughtfully packed on their side on salad greens so that they do not topple in transit.
An attractive dinner entrée for vegetarians is a choice of any four vegetable side dishes. One is the Chermoula carrot salad, a nest of shoestring cut carrots tossed with plenty of cumin and lemon. The couscous paella is a lunch entrée of interest.
Ice cream is sourced from Montgomery County's own Moorenkos and is available in a variety of flavors; blueberry is a quirky and delicious favorite.
The Daily Dish will attract not only the gourmand in search of the next sensation; it will keep the loyalty of neighborhood grazers looking for an appetizer and a glass of sangria while browsing on the house WiFi. Children age 12 and younger eat free on Mondays when accompanied by a paying adult, and the place is definitely kid friendly with a thoughtful children's menu of veggies as well as familiar starches and proteins. In the dining room, table service is polished, knowledgeable and professional.
As The Daily Dish evolves and the kitchen keeps pace with its vision, they may have to change the name of Grubb Road to Fine Dining Road.
The Daily Dish
8301 A Grubb Road, Silver Spring
Hours: Monday-Wednesday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; Thursday, 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 8:30 a.m. pastries), 9 a.m. brunch, open to 9 p.m.
Style of cuisine: Seasonally inspired, locally sourced American
Prices: Appetizers $5-$12; lunch entree $9-$15; dinner entree $14-$24
Credit cards: All major cards
Brian Patterson is a Chef/Instructor at L'Academie de Cuisine, but neither knows nor has ever taught a class with The Daily Dish's L'Academie-trained Executive Chef Michael Chretien.