I've been to the venerable Cafe Bethesda twice in the last couple of months, and am very encouraged by the progress its making. The new chef, Eric (last name slips my mind), has completely revamped the menu, making it the most interesting I've seen in the Bethesda area, and on a par with the best downtown restaurants.
Eric trained at l'Academie de Cuisine (the owner of which owns the restaurant), and from there worked under Gerard Pangaud at Gerard's Place downtown, staged in some top restaurants in France, and then worked under Michele Richard at Citronelle. He obviously learned a lot and used his training and knowledge of food to develop an impressive menu.
Of course, a menu without execution is nothing, and Eric doesn't fail us there either. Some dishes we and our guests have loved include "Quail Stuffed with Foie Gras on a bed of Wild Mushrooms and Foie Gras", "Grilled Tuna with Black Truffles on a bed of Spinach", "Loin of Venison with Puree of Sweet Potato (and other garnishes that I can't remember)", and an appetizer of "Mussels en Croute with a Mustard Sauce". There have been a few slips, but overall this small restaurant is well worth a visit.
The prices have been raised in step with the quality of the cooking and the ingredients (most entrees are in the high $20's), but, for a few dollars more than the other mundane, stodgy Bethesda places, the food here is well worth it.
My fear is that the conservative Bethesda clientele will not understand or appreciate what Eric is doing at Cafe Bethesda, and will avoid it thinking it's either too expensive or too "adventurous". I hope other Chowhounds will patronize this and other restaurants that are trying to raise the bar on suburban food, and that places like this will flourish.