New iPic Theater Is Pricey, Food Is Mediocre
The new iPic Theater opened Oct. 31 at the new Pike & Rose development along Rockville Pike at 11830 Grand Park Ave. in North Bethesda.
Operated by the Boca Raton, Fla.-based iPic Entertainment, the theater has eight screens and 782 seats. Each theater features premium and premium plus seating with plush leather seats. Premium plus seating includes fully reclining seats, personal pillows and blankets, free popcorn and guests can order from the theater’s “dining in the dark” menu designed by James Beard-award winning chef Sherry Yard and cocktails designed by iPic mixologist Adam Seger on iPads at each seat. The food is then delivered by servers dressed in black. Premium ticketholders can purchase their food from the iPic Express count in the lobby and take their food into the theater.
Premium tickets are $13, while premium plus seats are an additional $9 on top of the base price.
Unfortunately, only the very front two or three rows are the $13 premium, with the better locations all filled by the $22 premium plus seating. Since the seats are assigned at purchase, you need to order early and be prepared to get a stiff neck from looking up at the screen or pay for more expensive seats. If you’re in the premium plus section, you’ll also have to give the server your credit card to pay for any purchases you may make during the film.
Dinner in the theater is pricey too and just mediocre.
iPic Express features a menu designed by Yard, who joined iPic as corporate vice president of culinary direction last April. Yard previously was pastry chef for Wolfgang Puck for 20 years. She began her culinary career at the Rainbow Room followed by stints at Drew Nieporent’s Montrachet and Tribeca Grill. She moved to California where she established herself as a pastry chef at San Francisco’s Campton Place followed by a move to Los Angeles to work with Puck including helping with the opening of his Source restaurant at the Newseum.
Menu items are conducive to in-cinema dining while a full-service bar offers an exclusive selection of handcrafted cocktails featuring local, fresh produce and herbs with house-made syrups, bitters and infusions. Seger’s creations include the Norma Jean ($19) made with strawberry vodka and from-scratch strawberry lemonade, and the Augustine Sour ($13), made with cherry house-infused bourbon, grade B maple syrup and pressed lemon.
Starter include potato knishes ($8) with caramelized onion, black pepper, Yukon gold potatoes and black truffle mustard; warm biscuits ($8) with Black Forest ham, cheddar cheese and whipped Sweet Barrel aged maple butter; crispy beans ($7) with tempura farmers market green beans, Szechuan salt and Suki hoisin sauce; warm, soft German pretzels ($9), cheddar and jalapeno nuggets and crisps with honey mustard; empanadas ($12) with braised prok belly, swish chard and orange honey sauce; and potato boats ($15) with smoke salmon, crème fraiche and chives or with caviar ($25).
Sandwiches and entrees include chicken Caesar romaine boats ($12) with roasted chicken, romaine lettuce hears, parmesan cheese, croutons and crisps; mahi mahi fish tacos ($13) with avocado cilantro sauce, cabbage slaw, corn chips and guacamole; Chinese bao ($14) with short ribs, eggplant, pickled cucumbers and carrots, hoisin sauce and crispy beans; fried chicken ($15) with brioche French toast strips and warm maple syrup; roast beef French dip ($15) with onion jam, Swiss cheese, horseradish sauce and rosemary potato nuggets; pulled pork sandwich ($15) with BBQ sauce, apple cider slaw and sweet potato fries; Reuben sandwich ($15) with pastrami, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, thousand island dressing on marble rye with potato knish; Green Goddess turkey burger ($16) with avocado, cucumber, Green Goddess mayo, smoked gouda dip, lettuce and crispy beans; angus burger ($16) with Applewood smoked bacon, sharp cheddar, tomato, curly leaf lettuce and truffle fries; smoky BBQ pizza ($14) with grilled chicken and bacon; smoked gouda and mozzarella cheese, red onion and cilantro; pizza bianco ($14) with ricotta, tallegio, mozzarella and parmigiano reggiano cheeses; margherita pizza ($13)with buffalo mozzarella, marinara and micro basil; and sausage and pepper pizza ($14) with house-made pork and fennel sausage, roasted red peppers, mozzarella and fontina cheese.
Other dishes include garden of crudité ($12) farmers market vegetables, sweet pea dip, rosemary crackers and parmesan crisps; an artisan cheese plate ($16) with three Maryland artisanal cheeses, fig jam, Marcona almonds, dates, crackers and crisps; charcuterie ($17) with the chef’s selection of cured meats, grissini sticks, grilled gaguette, olives and stout mustard; popcorn of the day ($7); potatoes chips with sea salt ($5), potato chips seasons with Old Bay ($5); and truffle fries ($8).
Desserts include toffee coffee chocolate chip cookie ($4); triple ginger cookie ($4); sticky toffee caramel cake ($7) with butterscotch sauch, toffee crumble and whipped cream; and frozen apple pie a la mode ice cream cup ($5). Gourmet candy includes gummy bears ($6), sour fruit candies ($7), buttered popcorn or sour apple Jelly Belly beans ($9); chocolate and toffee covered pistachios ($9) and classic candies ($4.50) including Whoppers, Reeses Pieces, Twizzlers, Swedish Fish, Sour Patch Kids, M&Ms, Raisinets, Butterfinger and Skittles.
During a media preview, we were offered a limited menu. I had the naan-chos, naan chips with red pepper hummus, sweet pea guacamole and smoked gouda topping. At $13, this was the best a dish I sampled all night. I also had the lobster roll ($18) with poached Santa Barbara lobster, pink chili dressing and Old Bay seasoned potato chips. The lobster roll lacked flavor and the chips were limp. For dessert, I had the worst chocolate s’mores cake ($7) with toasted marshmallows, graham cracker crumble and whipped cream. I actually sent dessert back because the whipped creamed tasted like Crisco. My waited check with the kitchen and told me the Crisco taste was because Yard used crème fraiche in her whipped cream recipes.
I contacted Yard by email about the foul tasting whipped cream and she explained: “Truly I feel terrible about what happened last night. I pride myself on tasting everything in the kitchen prior to service,” she wrote. “Half-way through the night I tasted the desserts and the ‘whipped cream.’ Unfortunately, the recipe was made incorrectly. Yes I do use crème fraiche but only a smidge. It gives the recipe a slight tang. Here was the problem: The crème fraiche was tripled in the recipe and then OVER-whipped. These mistakes were the cause of the “Crisco” factor and sour factor.”
A night for two at iPic with dinner and a movie is going to set you back about $100. More if you have dinner at the attached City Perch restaurant first. Unless you live close by, this is better suited for that once or twice a year night out.
For other times, the new Regal Theatre at the Springfield Town Center and Landmark’s Bethesda Row Cinema both have reclining leather seats and full-service bars in the lobby. The AMC Courthouse Plaza 8 and AMC Lowes Center Park 8 in Beltsville, Md. Also both have reclining leather seats with no upcharge, but no bars. And the new Arclight Cinema at the nearby Montgomery Mall has wider seats, a café and a bar, and none of them charges extra for the nicer seats.
Editor-in-Chief Mark Heckathorn is a journalist, movie buff and foodie. He oversees DC on Heels editorial operations as well as strategic planning and staff development. Reach him with story ideas or suggestions at dcoheditor (at) gmail (dot) com.