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Le Diplomat: Starr's Successful translation of French Bistro


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Restaurants & Bars Washington DC & Baltimore

Le Diplomat: Starr's Successful translation of French Bistro

Kurtis | | Jul 7, 2013 06:59 PM

Though this is a place I would think about on return trip to the states more so than while within, I can easily understand a critic's excitement with this place when he said he couldn't stop thinking about LG while he was in Paris. Whether this is a brasserie, a bistro, or a cafe is an interest of discussion less important (there's a nice read on CH on this very topic ,and LD's website writes that it is a "homage to french cafe culture") as Starr translates the best of bistro experiences in winning combination: our anniversary dinner here a last week and recent wknd lunch was exciting in ways we haven't felt in a long while. And the key to this success, IMO, is the thought behind choosing Adam Schop among the obvious french chefs in their applicant pool as their executive chef.

Certainly they have their decor and ambience detailed to the point of "wood floors creaking just so" is what I read on the web, but the same effort for duplication isn't the part in their food or the service. While the menu reads as typical as any bistros (purpose of visiting different bistro is to flirt with the kitchen of the other twin sister), the cookery here adds some degree of breaking the "rules" to infuse Schop's alchemy from past experiences in south american and japanese cuisine as well as french: thicker cuts of the meat that transform what's norm (and usually boring) to special, ceviche of razor clams or the baby scallops on their respective shells (subtle enough to not offend anyone ; ) that harmoniously joins the fruits de mer plateaus that is well-sourced and of variety (snow and king crab, sea snail/whelks cooked just right, east and west coast oysters shucked correct, proudly large prawns, plump lobster in half, flavorful smallish mussels) or the gutsy bite of black pepper in steak au poivre, and in general more attended seasoning which is more at par american than french. We didn't order, but it would have been in sync with Schop's vision to prepare the escargot with locally sourced live ones in shell rather than a canned version imported from Burgundy. Beef tartar here has a spicy attack on the palate, and my wife thoroughly enjoyed her onion soup. Again, the foie parfait is a pungent, sweet and salty in-your-face kind (excellent) rather than the delicate french counterpart. The thoughtful wine list also include matching sections of "interpr├ętations internationales" inclusive of even local ones from Virginia. So, while their menu seems a copy of other renown bistros their food definitely is not, and their service isn't a 3MS experience (you don't want or need that here) but comes quite close in number of servers and how well this busy place runs only several months into their opening. To comment that the chef here does a "dead-on impression of a french chef" is unfortunately missing the point, and is a comment I can imagine Schop and his kitchen staff having a good laugh with Romarins (addictive) in their hands.

Most if not all of my meals in French Bistros in the states left me with varying degrees of regrets and unfulfilled wishes as they attempt (and many don't even try hard) to mimmic the logistical impossible. Whether one is an experience diner or otherwise there's certain expectations that comes with the title that make it nearly impossible to fulfill, and LD won't fulfill their dream either if the cut of the steak frites is to be "just so." But if you come here with similar level of expectation to see an American chef's take on old-guard french bistro you will be delighted, and I am looking forward to returning here routinely to go through their menu - a flirt that has already turned serious.