La Piquette

After years of not being overly interested by French cuisine, we have been on a French kick lately. In fact, it’s a safe bet to expect more reviews of French restaurants over the next few months. We started things off with brunch with friends Brenna and Kyle at La Piquette, in DC’s Cathedral Heights neighborhood.

Marnay, Paul, Kyle and Brenna eating brunch at La Piquette in Washington DC

We usually are hesitant to write a full review based on brunch-alone, mainly because the brunch menus at restaurants tend to be unrepresentative of the dinner menus. But the good thing about La Piquette is that the brunch, lunch and dinner menus are all very similar.

At La Piquette’s brunch, you have the option of ordering 3 course for $30—a really good deal. But it also seemed like a lot of food, so all four of us opted to order a la carte. My steak tartare was very finely minced, bound by egg yolk and shot through with copious amounts of horseradish. It was served a bit colder than I would like, however. It was a little like serving wine too cold – you can’t make out all of the flavors.

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Meanwhile, Marnay cleaned the plate of her mushroom risotto, made with shitake, hen of the woods and royal trumpet mushrooms. We appreciated that La Piquette used some out-of-the-ordinary types of mushrooms and didn’t skimp, either.

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Kyle went the more traditional brunch route, ordering piperade, a traditional Basque dish (really a sauce more than a dish). Piperade is a red pepper, tomato and onion-based sauce. While the Basque region tends to be associated more with Spain, it’s important to remember that it also includes portions of southwestern France. His piperade was topped with French ham, two sunny side up eggs and frites.

We expected to all be full after this, but the entrees were just so good we didn’t want to skip dessert. We all shared the gateau a la’ orange–a spongy, sweet cake, plus a chocolate mousse. The gateau came with crème Anglaise, meant for pouring over the cake. I’ll admit, the sauce was so good I also ate it on its own!

Gateau a la’ orange for dessert at La Piquette in Washington DC

A lot of ink has been spilled over what constitutes a “neighborhood restaurant.” At its heart, I think it just means a place where you can go frequently (maybe 2-3 times a month). I believe that La Piquette fits the bill: it’s small, cozy, and moderately-priced with respectful but not overly formal service. If we lived in Cathedral Heights, I could see us going to La Piquette multiple times a month, for sure. For classic French cuisine in a casual setting, La Piquette is the place to go.

bar

Best Bite
Paul: Steak tartare with frites
Marnay: Mushroom risotto

Address
La Piquette: 3714 Macomb Street, NW Washington, DC 20016
Closest Metro: Cleveland Park

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Marcel’s

Thanks to a generous OpenTable gift card we received from our family for Christmas, we were able to have dinner at Marcel’s, the French-Belgian fine-dining destination in the West End. From 5:00pm-6:30pm each night, Marcel’s offers a $70 per person pre-theater menu. You can choose from one of three options for a first course, main and dessert. When it’s all said and done, you get whisked away in a town car to the Kennedy Center. When we were first seated, our server asked us what time our show was so that the kitchen could get could get the timing down.

Marcel’s, the French-Belgian fine-dining destination in the West End

For our first course, the local mixed green salad with shaved cucumber, beet, carrot and sherry vinaigrette topped with shaved cheese was a master-course in proper seasoning and texture. Meanwhile, the duck confit tortellini with black trumpet mushrooms and scallions in a parmesan cream sauce was the definition of decadence. We both forgot what was stuffed inside the pasta because all of the flavors went so well together.

Marcel's duck confit tortellini

Marcel's local mixed green salad

Mains included pan-seared Norwegian salmon with lobster risotto and English peas and the New York strip steak with potato gratin and white asparagus matchsticks in a cabernet reduction. The salmon had an impossibly crisp skin, but it was the lobster risotto, with its huge chunks of sweet lobster, that stole the show. The New York strip compared favorably to the “DC Steakhouse” course at Pineapples & Pearls, thoroughly seasoned and with a nearly complete absence of grit and gristle. Chef Paul Stearman cooked the steak to medium rare, which is his preference, but the server gave me the option of choosing something else if that is what I wanted.

Marcel's pan-seared Norwegian salmon with lobster risotto

Marcel's New York strip steak with potato gratin

Dessert is where we encountered a minor hiccup in the meal’s pacing. Everything had been planned out just so, but the restaurant did not account for the fact that the hot chocolate soufflé would take longer than our other dessert. As a result, we arrived at the Kennedy Center minutes before our show started. It didn’t affect our experience at either Marcel’s of the Kennedy Center, though.

The hot chocolate soufflé with raspberry white chocolate ice cream was a showstopper. Our server punctured the inflated soufflé, added the ice cream in the middle and then doused everything with hot chocolate. We also got the chocolate mousse with crispy praline, chocolate caramel sauce and a cocoa nib tuille. The best part was the praline on the bottom, although the whole dessert was good. The soufflé was just amazing, though.

Marcel's chocolate mousse with crispy praline

Marcel's hot chocolate soufflé with raspberry white chocolate ice cream

Marcel’s is one of the best examples of old-school fine dining in DC, and the complementary town car ride to the Kennedy Center put it over the top. However, the food is anything but old-school.

Marcels, Marnay and Paul

Best Bite
Paul: Hot Chocolate Soufflé
Marnay: Duck Confit Tortellini

Address
Marcel’s: 2401 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20037
Closest Metro: Foggy Bottom