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On any given night, more than two dozen diners could find themselves in upgraded conditions. Controlling one’s comfort in a public place is no small luxury. And that’s an average place for an entree of $35.
The name in the title refers to Jerry Hollinger, whose other Maryland restaurants are Daily Dish in Silver Spring and Dish & the Dram in Kensington. His third project is the most ambitious yet and continues something of a theme at this location, which was previously home to a steakhouse, Classic and Ray Classic. Hollinger, a Mennonite whose parents ran a grocery store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and who became a chef and caterer, admits that the mile-long restaurant’s name is Mouth. In addition to honoring his family name, “Waterman’s Chophouse” makes subtle nods to seafood and steak, words that Hollinger considers antiquated.
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The little dream team takes care of the patrons. The kitchen, visible from the bar, finds John Manolatos in command. You may have tasted his talent at the much-missed Cashion’s Eat Place in Washington. The chef’s brother, George Manolatos, with whom he co-owns Cashion, serves as general manager. The suit advising you about wine, Timothy Clone, worked at the late Requin in Wharf before trying his hand with beer at the nearby Astro Lab Brewing.
Let’s eat! Soups and salads hint at the good stuff that will feature on the menu. Asparagus soup tastes as though the signature vegetable had just been plucked from the ground, passed on some steam and mashed with basil and mint; The intense color comes from the spinach added just before serving. The fish stew features local rockfish, specifically its belly, and is treated like salt cod, and paprika for a rich, smoky flavour. “George” salad is served in the Greek garden with feta cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers. What sets it apart from other green salads is the seasoning, a mix of red wine and sherry sweetened with chopped shallots and a bite of garlic—a delicious stimulus to finish off the veggies.
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The “light bites”—steamed mussels, vegetable tempura, and homemade noodles—are designed for people who want something larger than an appetizer but smaller than a typical main course. The star of the game marries between the waves and the grass: Crunchy toast with caramelized ham shares the stage with pumps of flavor including kimchi jam and sweet mustard, as anything would play across the street at the AFI Silver Theater. You can easily make a meal of perfectly cooked pasta, a swirl of glossy, buttery pasta scattered with sweet Virginia oysters, smeared with red pepper flakes and best for crushing garlic breadcrumbs on top.
I’ve been reminded repeatedly that John Manolatos cooks with James Beard Award winner Ann Cushion, now a partner at Los Compañeros. Consider the crab cake, Cashion’s recipe that links jumbo sliced crab with a cracker meal and just enough mayonnaise and mustard to keep the prize together (and to taste most crab). Accompanying the dish is double fries, foil-cut coleslaw, and tartar sauce that enhances fresh chervil, lemon, and capers on top of the fat.
Reasonable prices occur because Hollinger personally purchases products at auction from Amish sources in Pennsylvania and moves the ingredients to his three businesses. Manolatos also offers leaner portions of beef than you might see in other steak sources. The restaurant opened in May with an 18-ounce Kansas City strip steak that fetches just over $60; By trimming the chops (New York tape with the bone inside) to 14 ounces, he can charge $48. I’m partial to the coulotte, a light but tender piece whose distinct flavor is complemented by the brushstrokes of clarified butter on the grill.
The chef also offers ingredient dishes — thoughtful unions of protein, starch, and vegetables — meaning you don’t need a side dish to make a main course. J.Hollinger’s juicy, salty pork chop can stand on its own, but how cool would it be to see it on top of lemon spaetzle with bright English peas, dark cabbage, and a curtain of creamy Morel sauce? Arrangements can change from one visit to the next; The constant is the kitchen’s habit of not holding back good ingredients.
Clune, Director of Wine and Assistant General Manager, is an example of a good neighbor offering premium glasses for under $10 and suggesting bottles that are lower than the price of the selections you’re considering. “I love exotic grapes that come from exotic places—and value,” says Clone. Pro tip: Uruguay makes some good wine, and Clune is happy to serve you the joys of Artesana Tannat for $47. He’s also good at finding the right bottle for a seafood and steak bridge, since on the night he poured her fruity-flavored Elizabeth Spencer bean (imagine raspberries and ripe strawberries), well acidic and ending with metallic notes.
There may be delays between sessions. But the wait pays off when, say, a juicy hamburger pats the ground chuck and brisket at last on the table, inside a site-baked brioche bun. It took a while for my salmon from the Faroe Islands to emerge, too. All is forgiven when the main fish show up with playful companions like flavored with fresh dill and melted cabbage, buttery sauce with salmon-orange roe.
Other chopping houses might offer a slab of cheesecake and call it a day. This option lets you walk, rather than roam, thanks to a light Bavarian lime layer on this crisp-bottomed version of steak.
There is a lot of talk in the industry about being friendly. J.Hollinger’s Waterman’s Chophouse is not only talkative, but allows some lucky customers to adjust their own ambiance. From now on, when people ask “Where’s the beef?” or “What about the fish?” I’ll direct them to Silver Spring and the restaurant that can teach Washington some new tricks.
Hollingers Waterman Chop House
8606 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring, Med. 301-328-0035. jhollingers.com. Open: Indoor and outdoor dining 5-9 PM daily and 11 AM-2:30 PM Saturday and Sunday. Prices: Dinner starters $9 to $45, main dishes $19 to $75. Voice check: 72 dB / Must speak loudly. accessibility: there are no barriers at the entrance; ADA compliant toilets. Pandemic protocols: employee masks are optional; Most, but not all, employees are vaccinated.