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Marty L. | Jan 2, 2004 01:28 PM

I don't have time at the moment to write up a complete recounting-- and it's been a few weeks, so the detail sare blurring together -- but I wanted to make sure to follow-up on my inquiry a few weeks back requesting delicious but unstuffy recommendations for a friend's birthday celebration.

Thanks in large part to raves on this board (and Pam H's assurance that it was pretty much exactly what I was looking for!), Soigne was the choice and . . .
it was perfect!

I don't know of any analogous place in D.C. The "feel" of the place is most reminiscent, I suppose, of the late, lamented Ruppert's. A really charming row-house; no pretense (not even with the black-attired waitstaff!), no fuss; your $$ are obviously spent on the *food* (and on the very interesting wine list). Even an extremely inviting bar where, I'm confident, one could sit for a couple of hours nursing some great drinks and delicious food on a cold winter's night.

The cuisine is, I suppose, Asian-influenced in a sense -- there is a specific debt to Nobu noted on the menu -- but the dishes themselves are not, as at Yanyu (and, less successfully, TenPenh), high-end variations on asian "classics." There was not a missed note the entire night, from simple but delicious salads, to the oft-lauded foie gras, to the very generous rack of lamb, to a nightly special of a "cioppino" of sorts, to whole grilled bronzino, etc., etc.

I was torn between the duck, the scallops, and the tuna. I opted for the latter, although the folks at the table next to us (who claimed to eat at Soigne about once a week!) had the duck and the scallops for the first time and pronounced them both shockingly delicious. You know how grilled tuna, rare inside, is often good, and even exciting for the first few bites, but thereafter a bit same-old, same-old, and tiring? Well, this wasn't like that at all -- mostly because of a *perfectly* matched bunch of pickled ginger and mouth-watering mashed potatoes (garlic-infused, IIRC). Incredibly simple, but perfectly executed -- one of those dishes where one really is disappointed when reaching the final, savored bites. Having said that, I don't think I'd order it again, simply because there are so many other enticing entrees on the menu!

The pistachio ice-cream "sandwich" was the one thing that disappointed Pam H., because it suffered from freezer burn. Ours was not quite that frozen; more importantly, it improved dramatically when it had softened up a bit after a few minutes on the table, to the point where it was a real stand-out dessert.

Our table was for 8:30 on a Saturday night, and there were only two or three tables seated after us. B'More apparently is not a late-night town. By the time we ambled out at 11:15 or so, the owner's greyhounds had made their way downstairs from the apartment above, no doubt all-too-aware of the world-class table scraps that were in store!

*Highly* recommended, including for those in DC who don't mind a bit of a drive (it's only about five minutes off of I-95). Thanks for all the recommendations!

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