First I'd like to thank everyone who helped me with restaurant suggestions. We didn't make it to many of the places that were mentioned, but that doesn't mean we didn't value every contribution. In fact we liked the general area so much we've decided to put Silver Spring it on our list of places to go for quick weekends away and have saved all of your restaurant suggestions for later trips to the area. We figure between dining choices and the proximity to DC we can find tons of stuff to do in the area whenever we venture down.
On our drive down from Delaware we left about when I expected we would, give or take a few minutes and my calculations were right that even with what I thought was incredibly good traffic we never would have made R&R Taqueria anywhere near in time to eat. I still want to try it, just to say I've tried it but its going to have to wait for another trip. We made an honest attempt to eat at Samos Restaurant in Baltimore, but when we arrived just before 8pm we realized it simply wasn't going to happen. The restaurant was supposed to close at 9pm, and forget the inability to park there were people waiting outside the restaurant to get in. Not to mention when you looked in the windows all you could see was people standing waiting to be seated, they were packed right up to the door. Reluctantly we decided even if we could have found parking we were not going to be seated in time to eat.
After a few quick minutes of discussion we decided to press on to Silver Spring and eat there. The drive wasn't bad and we found ourselves outside Ray's The Classics by just before 9pm. This was going to be our pre-concert meal but we figured it might be a bit heavy before the metal concert so we decided if we needed to eat dinner before the show we'd try the Thai place next door (Kao-Thai?). It only took a little while to get seated at the Bistro side of Rays, and what followed was definitely a top 20 if not top 10 meal in recent memory. Sometimes you just have a great dining experience, from the food to the service to the ambiance and even your own mood while enjoying it. This was one of those nights. Our waiter was a gem, absolutely loved him. I forget his name offhand, its on the receipt which I don't have nearby atm, but he was just great. When we were walking past the next night after the concert in our full concert gear he happened to look out the window and saw us and waved enthusiastically at us. It was nice, you wouldn't expect it necessarily but we won't forget it. Anyway, on to the food which is the real purpose. I ordered the Bistro special with the Crab Bisque and the Hanger Steak and decided to add the Brandy Mushroom Cream Sauce to my steak. The Crab Bisque was everything you hope it will be and it usually isn't. The Soup itself was so good I honestly didn't care if there was any actual pieces of crab in it, and yet there they were at the bottom, lovely big pieces of real lump crab meat, not little bits and shreds. I wasn't sure about ordering the Hanger Steak my preferred Rare, I'd never had a real Hanger steak but I knew it comes with a bit more chew for which you're rewarded with a bit more flavor. A quick consult with our waiter convinced me it would be just fine rare, so I went with it. He did ask if I wanted sauces, but didn't try to do a hard sell. I had already decided I wanted the Brandy Mushroom Cream sauce and I was happy to find when the bill arrived it was only $1 extra. My steak came out gorgeous looking, exactly rare as ordered, and was perfect. The cream sauce didn't cover up the flavor of the steak but added a nice touch to it. In fact if they served that sauce in a bowl I'd order it, I was a little disappointed I couldn't lick my plate. I loved the texture of the Hanger steak, it reminded me a little of the crunchy black asian mushrooms I adore that are the only reason I ever order mu shu anything. I don't know how to quite describe it, but you get a nice chew and then it gives way to a soft meatiness with some resiliance that is very pleasant. You don't feel like you're getting a workout for the jaw or anything, but there's a sense of substance to it all.
Hubby went for the Diablo Strip with the spicy garlic sauce in a Medium Rare. He ate more of it then I thought he was going to manage and was whining he couldn't finish the rest. Of course the reason he couldn't finish it all was he kept taking more and more of the creamed spinach and mashed potatoes that were complimentary with the steaks in the Bistro. They were both quite good, at first we thought the creamed spinach was a bit less assertively flavored then it sometimes can be but after awhile we realized it was a perfect supporting role to the steaks and was letting them shine. Lets face it, if your favourite part of a steak dinner is the creamed spinach (and this has happened to me) then something was wrong with the steaks, or at least not as right as it could be. Since I typically leave some of my starches behind to eat more steak etc I finished up hubby's Diablo Strip for him. I also liked it, I think I preferred mine slightly but it would somewhat depend on the mood I was in that night and if I wanted spicy or creamy. Needless to say none went to waste, as did any of the creamed spinach or the mashed potatoes including the refill of potatoes they offered us and hubby accepted.
Oh I forgot - the complimentary bread was good, had a nice seasoning to it. And the spiced cashews were a complete hit with hubby and I. I think next time I might have to order a cocktail to go with them.
They had a couple of desserts on offer, and I found myself a bit torn between them. Had they been in season I doubt anything could have been better then the strawberries with whipped cream but alas it was November and I know better. Key Lime Tart looked to be correctly made but ultimately we went with the Dark Chocolate Mousse. I'd seen one go buy and knew it was real Mousse and not fancified pudding with a name change. When I ordered it Hubby asked if I wanted to share or should he order his own. Our waiter didn't even try to stifle his chuckles when I replied that WOULD share, but he should feel free to order one for himself. He gave Hubby a bit of a gentle elbow and told him he thought the Lady had made her preference known and he'd make that 2 Dark Chocolate Mousses. It turned out to be the correct choice, since neither of us would have been happy with half. It was as advertised Dark Chocolate, gently sweetened, with real whipped cream on top and a slice of strawberry. And like everything else we ate that night I probably have had a slightly better version somewhere once, but when you combined it with everything else the consistent level of high quality throughout the meal made for a top dining experience.
When the bill arrived and came with two pieces of house made candy all Hubby and I could do was look at each other and start quoting the Monty Python line about "just a little wafer". There was no explosion but we did waddle slowly back to our car completely satisfied with everything.
I promise I'll review Nandos and Iron Age later today/tonight. They'll be shorter reviews and the cliff notes version is we had a great time at both of them and enjoyed the food. Although neither was quite as wonderful as Ray's. We do really wish they'd open a Nando's out our way.