Bistro LaZeez, Bethesda, MD

After an afternoon of heat-driven thunderstorms, the sun came out for a glorious few hours before tucking in for the night, and the temperature had dropped about ten degrees – it was a perfect time for an early dinner on the patio of Bistro LaZeez.

Unfortunately, when I arrived at 6-ish, every table on the patio had been taken, and so I walked into a completely empty restaurant and took a table in the back corner. (During the course of my meal, several other parties came in, and they all sat right next to the window which is a quasi-patio since the storefront is almost entirely glass.)

It’s often the case when a restaurant’s wine list is so bad that I’m driven to drinking beer; this was the opposite. The beer list at Bistro LaZeez is awful, but I did manage to find a quaffable glass of 2009 Louis Latour Chardonnay d’Ardèche ($8.45), and as it turns out, this table wine was to pair up perfectly with the buried treasure that I found here (read on).

An order of Hummus ($4.99) was attractively presented, but ultimately nothing special. Bistro LaZeez goes out of its way to say that its entrees are “served with GRILLED pita bread” (caps are theirs), and I assumed it would be homemade; not so. With the hummus, I got a basket of purchased, paper-thin cardboard-like pita bread (think: Amoo’s Kabob or Shamshiry) that works well in a pinch (no pun intended), but is also disappointing. So, unless you’re really, really in the mood for hummus, I would try something else on this menu.

The entree came with a house salad that was mostly disappointing: a small plate of decent greens in a balsamic vinaigrette (why?!) – at this point in the meal, between the bulk wine, the ordinary hummus, and the Americanized salad, I was looking through that glass storefront and longing to be on the other side of it.

And then, the meal did a 180.

Chicken Medley ($11.99), grilled, marinated, skinless chicken thigh, drumstick, and a wing, with a tub of “zesty signature BLZ sauce,” is served with a choice of either basmati rice with roasted almonds, or Mediterranean potatoes (and of course GRILLED pita bread, which is one slice of that same bread, grilled to a golden brown and crispy). Do yourself a favor and get the potatoes. Here’s why: during this course, I had one of my relatively rare moments of Diner Pause – when I pause, look down at what I’m eating, and everything else in the world goes away.  These three pieces of chicken were fantastic, both in terms of their marinade and their execution on the grill. That BLZ sauce (that I was somewhat worried about) was a gripping, lemony narcotic that took both the chicken and the delicious, ample mound of simple-but-perfect potatoes, and made this blue-collar, blue-plate dish into something special. And that mass-produced Chardonnay? With this combination of flavors, it started drinking like a Puligny-Montrachet, both food and wine hitting a synergy, and I found myself shaking my head at how good this was. You simply do not find homestyle cooking this good for $11.99, certainly not smack dab in the middle of Bethesda. It is incredibly gratifying when, as a diner who writes about his meals, I stumble across something like this and can share it with everyone. Get this exact combination – Chicken Medley with potatoes, and a glass of the Latour Chardonnay – and you, too, will find yourself pouring that little tub of BLZ narcotic over the chicken and potatoes and reveling in the moment.

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