Tag Archives: French

Galatoire’s — Lunch on 13 February 2020

You’ve probably read somewhere that “Sixty percent of restaurants don’t make it past their first year and 80 percent go out of business within five years” or “The average lifespan of a restaurant is five years and by some estimates, up to 90 percent of new ones fail within the first year”.

Urban legends—none of that is true.

According to Forbes, “…only 17% of restaurants close in the first year, not 90%.”

And then there’s New Orleans, which is probably the home to more “centenarian” restaurants—restaurants that are still thriving more than 100 years after their founding—than any other city in the country.

They must be doing something right to last 100 years. Whatever that “something” is, Galatoire’s, on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, is doing it particularly well.

Galatoire’s

Galatoire’s

Founded 115 years ago, Galatoire’s is yet another New Orleans centenarian restaurant, like Commander’s Palace and Acme Oyster House. Five generations of the Galatoire family and descendants have been involved with the running of the restaurant.

Shrimp Remoulade

Shrimp Remoulade

For my simple Shrimp Remoulade starter, the shrimp were boiled and served on iceberg lettuce. The authentic, definitely-not-from-a-bottle remoulade sauce was a quintessential taste of New Orleans.

Chicken Bonne-Femme

Chicken Bonne-Femme

Somewhere under that luscious mound of bacon and caramelized onions is a perfectly seasoned roasted half chicken, complemented by cottage fries.  Highest possible praise for this one. Looking back, it was my favourite main course in a week full of great meals.

Convivial — Lunch on 21 January 2020

Convivial

Convivial

Convivial has consistently found a place on The Washingtonian’s annual “Washington, DC’s 100 Very Best Restaurants” list since the year it opened, but I’d somehow never got around to visiting.  TripAdvisor lists 2,750 dining options in Washington, and with my limited daily food consumption—just the usual four meals a day, plus snacks, and an extra dessert now and then—it’s impossible to keep up.

So I was off on another trip to Shaw, to find out what I’d been missing. Turns out, I’d been missing quite a bit.

Onion Soup Gratinée

Onion Soup Gratinée

A week earlier, I’d had a stupendously bad lunch in a restaurant that had never been less than perfect in the past. (Let’s call it Restaurant X.  I may write about the experience in a later post.) My starter at Restaurant X was French Onion Soup, but the cheese, instead of being melted and stringy, was a big solid blob with the consistency of chewed and solidified bubble gum. Ever have to cut your soup with a knife?

The Onion Soup Gratinée at Convivial was the very model of what French Onion Soup should be. I relaxed; it was an excellent start.

Trout Amandine

Trout Amandine

Trout Amandine, my main course, was also a stunner. It was served with roasted almonds, haricots verts, lemon brown butter, and capers. I took a lot of time with this dish, savouring the taste and thinking about Julia Child and that famous Trout a la Meunière that changed her life.

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

The only problem with my Key Lime Pie was that there wasn’t enough of it. I could have eagerly devoured three or four pieces.

Service was both friendly and efficient. Delightful place!

Persimmon — Lunch on 10 January 2020

It’s mid-January, which is the start of my annual Month of Eating Dangerously. You might want to mark your calendar.

The combination of various Restaurant Weeks, multiple seasonal promotions, and trips to warmer climes to escape Washington’s dreary winter gives me a great excuse to dine well, as if I needed one.

Persimmon

Persimmon

First stop this year is Persimmon, a charming little restaurant in Bethesda that calls itself “An American Bistro”. That’s a good description, because the menu offered a mix of American standards like Crispy Fish Tacos and Chicken Club Sandwiches, and French bistro classics like Steak Frites and Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee.

Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse

Persimmon serves a very good Bouillabaisse, with mussels and clams and shrimp and salmon and whitefish, etc. I liked the crunchy crostini.

Molten Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream

Molten Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream

My neighbour at the next table asked me what I was eating for dessert. It’s that kind of relaxed, unpretentious place.

This was my first visit to Persimmon, and I’m adding it to my list of restaurants I want to try again. It was comfortable—the clientele was on the mature, well-dressed, and quiet side. The food was good, and the price was, too.

Bistrot du Coin — Lunch on 13 July 2019

Still catching up with old news here….

My Bastille Day celebration continued. I stuck a Tricolour flag in a tab on my knapsack and donned my souvenir baseball cap from the Château de Chenonceau. With those essential signifiers in place, I headed out for lunch, humming a medley of “La Vie en rose“, “Non, je ne regrette rien“, and “La Marseillaise“, occasionally complementing it by singing my kinda loose interpretation of the lyrics.

Another day, another bistro.

Signifiers, used in the hope that strangers might think I was French. It didn't work.

Signifiers, used in the hope that strangers might think I was French. It didn’t work.

Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle

According to Google Maps, it takes about10 minutes to walk from my condo to a certain little French restaurant on Connecticut Avenue, assuming you don’t stop along the way. But Dupont Circle, aka le cercle de Dupont, looked so lush and green that I couldn’t resist the temptation to spend a few minutes resting on one of the benches, enjoying the pleasantly warm day.

I’ve lived a bit more than a block away from the Circle for almost half my life, and I’ve had more than a few life-changing conversations in the Circle itself. The Washington I moved to years ago is long gone, and much of the city is almost unrecognizable today, but Dupont Circle is a constant.

Bistrot du Coin

Bistrot du Coin

In a previous incarnation, Bistrot du Coin was a vegetarian-friendly, hippy-ish restaurant/bar that often hosted performances by local musicians. It was called Food for Thought, and it was one of my frequent DC hangouts. Now it’s a popular bistro, serving all the popular bistro standards. Conveniently, the site’s evolution mirrors my own changing tastes.

Casserole de Lapin à la Moutarde

Casserole de Lapin à la Moutarde

Lunch was rabbit stew with carrots, onions, and mushrooms, in light creamy mustard sauce. It was served with “Croes pasta”, and I have no idea what that means.

A very good meal.

Lately I’ve found that many American restaurant serving sizes are just too big for me. The thought of leaving half of this fine stew uneaten was unthinkable, if you can have an unthinkable thought. I took it home, where it made a delightful dinner. My Presbyterian Morrison ancestors would have approved.

Postscript: And with lunch, my Bastille Day celebration came to a close, one day early. When 14 July, the actual Bastille Day, arrived, I was too tired to celebrate and not hungry enough to go out to eat. I blame the late-night leftover Casserole de Lapin à la Moutarde, and maybe the two glasses of Chardonnay I drank with it.


*Or “another bistrot”. Both spellings are correct.

Bistro Bis — Lunch on 12 July 2019

After an hour or so at the “Infinite Space” installation at ARTECHOUSE, I headed over to Capitol Hill for a late lunch.

Bistro Bis

Bistro Bis

Bistro Bis is a 10-minute walk from the Senate Office Buildings north of the Capitol, which should tell you pretty much all you need to know about its clientele. The interior is beautifully done, with multiple dining areas on two levels. It’s a charmer.

Bistro Bis Interior (Image from Bistro Bis website)

Bistro Bis Interior (Image from Bistro Bis website)

Duck Confit

Duck Confit

I’d talked to a friend a few days earlier, and the conversation turned to duck confit, as my conversations so often do. It occurred to me then that since I’d titled my current life-improvement project as the “Bastille Day Revival”, and since dining well was a key part of the Revival agenda, there’d be no better way to start it than by ordering that classic French dish. And where could I find one of the best versions of duck confit in Washington? Well, it wasn’t simply chance that brought me back to Bistro Bis.

The duck was served on a bed of wilted spinach and beans, with baby shallots and a good gastrique. Excellent as ever. I could live on this.

Pommes Frites

Pommes Frites

I chose Pommes Frites, with spicy harissa and rosemary aïoli dipping sauces, for my side dish.

This meal made me happy. Thanks to ARTECHOUSE and Bistro Bis, the Bastille Day Revival was off to a great start.

Lunch at Le Café Descartes at the French Embassy

I’ve roosted in Washington, DC, for most of my life now, and I’m still making wonderful new discoveries about the possibilities for living well in the city. Until a few weeks ago, I was unaware that I could apply for entry to Le Café Descartes at the French embassy. All it took was an email request and a selfie. Last Thursday, I got my response:

Bonjour !
Your Frequent Diner Membership badge will be available in Le Café Descartes Coffee Bar, which is located in Building C of the French Embassy.

Building B

Building C, or maybe B

The embassy isn’t a single building, it’s a complex. Le Café Descartes is in Building C, or maybe B,* and serves lunch to embassy staff and visitors. The café consists of a small outdoor dining area, a coffee bar, a lounge, and a big open room that could probably hold a couple hundred people. To be clear, this is not white-tablecloth haute cuisine, it’s an informal, cafeteria-style lunchroom.

But it’s a lunchroom where tomorrow’s mains will be Escalope de Poulet Viennoise and Haddock Beurre Blanc, followed by Filet de Bronzino and Saucisse de Toulouse on Tuesday. We’re a long way from tater tots and cube steak.

Best of all, one of the choices for Friday was Confit de Canard, my long-time favourite French treat, and a perfect selection for my first Le Café Descartes meal. So late Friday morning, I grabbed my passport for identification, put on my red souvenir cap from the Château de Chenonceau, and headed for the embassy.

Duck Confit

Duck Confit

And there it is. Confit de Canard with Brussels sprouts and endive. The duck leg was on the small size, but I was in heaven. (I knew it was heaven because everyone around me was speaking French, and that’s what they do there. That, and eat French food.)

Blueberry Tart

Blueberry Tart

And a blueberry tart for dessert. Perfect.

I have a feeling I’ll be lunching here a lot.


April Lunches at Le Café Descartes


*The email said it was Building C, but the guard at the security gate said it was Building B.

Bistro Bis — Lunch on 16 January 2019

Bistro Bis

Bistro Bis

It’s the third day of Restaurant Week, and we’re back in DC.  Lunch is on Capitol Hill at Bistro Bis, a stylish restaurant that’s an easy walk from Union Station. From the restaurant’s website:

“From the zinc bar with its tall columns and fabulous fixtures to the tiered dining area with its soft patterned tile floor, Bistro Bis is simply the restaurant on Capitol Hill where diners want to be. Current and sophisticated, warm and intimate, Bistro Bis’ natural cherry interior is a wonderful modern version of a French bistro.”

Image found on the Web.

Image found on the Web.

Onion Soup

Onion Soup

Another day, another ramekin of Onion Soup.

In the extremely unlikely event that I were a judge on Top Chef and had to choose between Bistro Bis’s version of the French classic and yesterday’s serving at La Côte d’Or, I’d probably mumble incoherently and make a dash for the exit, accidentally knocking over a camera and an assistant director along the way.

Both servings were excellent.

Duck Confit

Duck Confit

I accept that I am powerless to pass on a plate of Duck Confit. Just look at that golden-brown beauty! You can almost taste the delicious crunchiness of the skin!

The duck leg was served with white beans, duck sausage, frisée, and a garlic and sherry vinegar-thyme gastrique.

Apple Croustade

Apple Croustade

The apples were caramelized and wrapped in a buttery pastry, with a
vanilla bean crème anglaise and calvados sauce.

This lunch at Bistro Bis was the best all-around meals I’ve has so far this week.