South Beach has arrived at 7904 Woodmont Avenue in downtown Bethesda. The Parva, a new restaurant, bar, lounge and event space, held its Grand Opening this past Saturday evening. The night before, they held an invitation-only soft opening and tasting. I made sure to bring back plenty of photos and video for you, so you can have a rare chance to see all of the dishes served by the restaurant as they will be served to you. Even the professional restaurant critics can't show you the whole menu of a restaurant, so I hope this will be of help to you in making your dining choices. You can see the photos (more to come) here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/robertdyer/
The first thing you will notice at The Parva - after the helpful valets park your car for you - is the Miami-inspired decor inside and out. Whether you've traveled to Miami, or just know it from the way Hollywood and TV have presented it, you're sure to feel at home. The white color scheme is accented by subtle colored lighting, artworks and sleek furniture. Friday night's event was held in the upstairs lounge. You can notice the work that went into converting this space from the previous tenant, and I would certainly recommend it for your next party, event, wedding, reception or rehearsal dinner. Especially if you like a Latin theme, but with a specific Miami accent, there is really no other place in the area like this.
Now it's all well and good to have a stylish interior, but what about the food? After this tasting, I can tell you that it is just as outstanding. The restaurant has succeeded in the ownership's stated goal, which is to provide a totally new concept which you can find nowhere else in the DC region.
First, start with the drinks. The Parva cocktails include the Parva Mojito, Brazilian Caipirinha, Peruvian Pisco Sour, and - another specialty - a white sangria which is very good, but I forgot to get a picture of it. One of many generous touches this evening was the open bar that lasted all night.
The Parva is a Latin fusion restaurant. Of course, the phrase "Latin fusion" is used quite often by restaurants. Could The Parva really bring something new to this concept? Yes, they have, and it starts with the chef himself, Andrés García (or Chef Andy, as he prefers to be called).
It would have been easy to play it safe, and hire a solid, experienced chef who had been number two or three at a well-known restaurant in the area. The ownership of The Parva, led by Juan Carlos Balcazar, took a different approach - and a risk - and brought a talented chef from South America. They took a chance, and it has paid off.
The first indication that The Parva has something special going on was when the appetizers began to emerge from the downstairs kitchen in a carefully-orchestrated show. You'll get a sense of what that was like when I upload some of the video. Each dish not only sounded creative in its description, but what really jumped out was the artistic platings. Whoever this chef was, he must have put decades of work into learning his craft, one thought. And then the samples came around and the food lived up to the promise of the concept.
Imagine everyone's surprise after sampling all of these dishes when, at the end of the evening, Juan Carlos Balcazar announced that the chef was only 25 years old! There was something of an audible gasp around the room, and then Chef Andy himself emerged from the staircase to take a bow and receive the applause his work that evening had earned.
It's pretty clear that, while many fantastic restaurants are opening this summer and fall in Bethesda, we have a rising star of a chef here in our town at The Parva, and the word is going to get around. You may be seeing this guy on Top Chef some day. It's simply hitting the ball out of the park to add a new talent like García to the impressive roster of famous, experienced chefs we have like Jose Andrés, Robert Wiedmaier and Yannick Cam.
So stop in now before it gets hard to make a reservation.
Chef Andy's story, as told by Balcazar during the evening, is a dramatic and compelling one. Balcazar told of García's journey all over Latin America. Collecting unique ingredients and recipes in Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Panama and Peru - to name a few! - his quest culminated in the creation of new dishes that fit perfectly with The Parva's new concept. The words that came up often during the evening were "fresh," "healthy," and the fact that this or that item is something you can only find at The Parva. Friday night's tasting allowed those in attendance to vicariously recreate Chef Andy's journey across Latin America over a few hours' time. Sure, you've had gazpacho before. But have you had a fresh gazpacho from Peru - where gazpacho originated - served Peruvian-style as a refreshing beverage?
Fresh is the operative word, and those ingredients - whether they be seafood, meat or produce - are flown in fresh from Latin America. García bakes 3 kinds of bread daily, and that is used for sandwiches as well as a bread basket. As someone who has studied Latin American history - and who loves everything about Latin America - I felt the authenticity of atmosphere and recipes was captured at The Parva Friday night. But then the chef takes that familiar authenticity and transforms it with completely new ideas, using all fresh ingredients.
The highlights of the menu that stood out for me were the shrimp appetizer, meal-size ceviches, the Argentine-style steak (hard to find in Bethesda), and a generous portion of a classic tres leches cake. How about a fresh watermelon and basil salad with goat cheese and blue cheese? I haven't encountered that before.
There was even a celebrity guest in the house, from the local Univision affiliate. She interviewed the owners and Chef Andy after the event ended, and a cameraman captured the evening on film. So don't be surprised if you see me on Channel 14.
The Parva is a great addition to Bethesda, and brings an impressive new chef to town - something to brag about to your friends in other cities. In Colombia, parva means "the best of the best." After trying Chef Andy's creations, you may think it is a fitting name for this new restaurant in "Old Town" Bethesda.
The even greater news is that The Parva reopens at 3pm today, and will be serving dinner until 11pm tonight!
Stay tuned for more photos and video from this special event!