Samantha Lee, Guest Contributor
June 9, 2016
Suma Restaurant + Bar is an New American style restaurant located near Bethesda Row. Suma translates to “born in the summer”. Boasting an outdoor 20-seat patio with sectional sofa and basket-woven chairs, the indoor dining room comfortably seats up to 57 people. The large windows give off an airy feel to restaurant, while French doors bring in more natural light.
Chef Gene Sohn has been in the DC hospitality industry all his life. Eschewing a path to business school, he chose to become a chef. Moving up in rank and responsibility from dishwasher to Chef de Cuisine, he worked for the Robert Wiedmaier Restaurant Group including the prestigious Marcel’s and the ever-popular Mussel Bar in Bethesda for almost 8 years. Eventually he teamed up with Jay Evans, the former General Manager of Mussel Bar – Bethesda, and Jennifer Day to open Suma. Sohn aims at mastering simple, classical dishes with a modern twist.
The restaurant is modern with an art deco vintage theme. Some of the quirky artifacts include a Japanese Pagoda, green pear-shaped candles in a lantern, decorative lamps with spiral-patterned shades, metal sculptures, and a golden glass bowl. In one of the corners of the restaurant a Vermouth Bianco poster oversees the room. Booths sport a honey brown pattern and lighting comes via vintage lightbulbs. Six bar stools create an intimate feel to the small spot.
The menu reflects the chef’s seasonal approach. In lieu of bread service, expect a plate of homemade pickled vegetables – spicy cucumbers, onion and cauliflower.
For my appetizer I chose Maryland Crab Dip – a slightly creamy, mix of fresh lump crabmeat with butter and Old Bay and topped with panko bread crumbles. It arrived in a cast iron skillet on a wooden plank with slices of warm baguette. I found it to be light and savory with no discernible filler.
Of particular pleasure are the Deviled Eggs garnished with goat cheese, bacon bits, and chives and served over chipotle aioli.
On the day I visited the specials featured Lobster Bisque, Salmon Burger, and Seared Tuna, all of which sounded delicious but I had my eye set on the Pan Seared Halibut, an entree of line-caught halibut fillet lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and dressed with a buttery tomato and caper sauce. Light in texture, it was accompanied by lemon-accented whipped Yukon potatoes and asparagus. The dish was perfectly prepared and delicately seasoned.
Desserts were luscious sounding – Vanilla Creme Brulee, Banana Nut Bread Pudding, Chocolate Chip Brownie, Mango Sorbet and Pistachio Parfait – and it was difficult to decide. I opted for warm Vanilla Creme Brûlée made with freshly scraped vanilla bean pods and topped with a scoop of creme fraiche – a shareable portion that was light and not too sweet.
Suma Restaurant + Bar, 4921 Bethesda Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814. 301 718-6378. For information and reservations visit sumabethesda.com. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily (except Monday’s). Happy hour is from 4-7 pm and brunch on the weekends is from 11 am-4 pm. Happy Hour specials include $2 off drafts, wine by the glass, all products from Maryland, and $1 oysters. The restaurant is three blocks south from the Bethesda Metro station. There is not a private lot but there are multiple public parking garages within a 0.5 mile radius.
Photo credit ~ Samantha Lee