I had wanted to try Bistro Cacao, and OpenTable's Spotlight featured
them this week, so I plunked down my $25 for the $50 credit. Before
the Spotlight even filled, I made a reservation for last night. The
offer filled, and I was able to print out the voucher about two hours
before leaving for downtown.
Metro got us there a bit early, so Schneider's it was. Fifteen minutes
later, with one Cognac tasted and two bottles of Cognac and Calvados
richer, we headed down the block at 6:30 for an early supper.
There were a couple of tables already occupied, and we were seated in
one of the curtained-off two-tops in the easternmost dining room. The
chairs were overstuffed easy chairs, a bit too low for the table height,
even for me at 6'3"+. Using the loose pillows at our backs as seat
cushions took care of that problem.
When our server brought menus, I have him the OpenTable voucher and
asked if we were the first users (I'm sure we were). He didn't recognize
the voucher, and asked if we had anything that looked "like a check"
(They're pretty obviously used to Groupons and the like.) I said we
didn't, and he went off to verify with someone else. A few minutes
later, he returned and told us it was fine.
We ordered pheasant pate ($8) and smoked salmon (a daily special, $12)
to start, with rack of lamb ($21) and an onglet ($19) to follow, a glass
of Lauverjat Sancerre (2009, $10) to accompany the salmon, and a bottle
of Paveil de Luze Margaux (2006, $67).
The Sancerre arrived immediately, followed by the appetizers about five
minutes later. But it didn't seem to occur to our server that a glass
of the Margaux was needed to accompany the pate, so I had to flag him
down again. A few minutes later that was sorted out, although it took
two requests before my wife was given the wine to approve, since I was
already working on the Sancerre.
The pheasant pate was accompanied by baby greens. It had a very smooth
texture, as opposed to being a coarse country pate, and was delicious.
The smoked salmon was accompanied by very small, tender capers and a
mound of arugula with a very light vinaigrette. It was absolutely superb
-- possibly the best I've had in the last two years. My only criticism
would be that it was accompanied by too much arugula.
The main dishes arrived a bit too quickly on the heels of the starters,
but their quality overcame that minor irritation. The rack of lamb was
outstanding, tender and juicy, perfectly medium rare, with a hint of
mustard on the crust. It was accompanied by a cake of sauteed mashed
potato, which I found a bit dry, rather than buttery/creamy, and six
spears of perfectly roasted asparagus.
My onglet was au pointe as requested, with a deeply seared crust, and an
excellent red wine and shallot reduction. The onglet was in two
similarly-sized thick pieces, which is optimal. I wasn't sure if the
frites were freshly cut or not, but they were around 3/16" square and
perfectly cooked. I snarfed them all down, which is something I very
rarely do. Two small ramekins of catsup and mustard were provided; I
assume these are concessions to American taste, but it was disappointing
to see them.
We ordered a cheese plate, which included Roquefort, Camembert, Petit
Basque, and Le Chevrot (goat), accompanied by plump red seedless grapes
and thinly-sliced apple. (Their Web site lists St. Andre as well, but
none was served.) The cheese was served too cold; we waited five minutes
or so for them to warm a bit, but they still suffered as a result. The
Camembert in particular was a bit inferior, and the Roquefort was
decidedly handicapped by our having nothing appropriate to drink with
it. (I'd generally prefer that after-dinner cheese courses do not
include blue cheeses, since their taste seldom complements the flavors
remaining in the mouth after a meal.)
For dessert, we had profiteroles ($8; like the onglet and cheese,
mandatory on the first visit to any French bistro) and a trio of sorbets
($7), raspberry, mango, and lemon. The sorbets were very good, but I
don't think they were house made; they tasted to me exactly like Haagen
Dasz. The profiteroles were not very good at all. They tasted warm in
spots, cool in spots, as though they'd just been warmed in a microwave.
The pastry cream was all right, but the chocolate sauce was not as dark
and flavorful as I would expect to find in France (or at home).
We skipped after dinner drinks and coffee. The drinks menu did not offer
Calvados, and I felt the Cognacs, etc. were somewhat overpriced,
starting at $13 for a plebian vsop. This was a bit surprising, since the
wine list is well-chosen and nicely priced. (But since we have well over
100 single malts and an assortment of Armagnac, Calvados, Cognac, etc.
at home just a Metro ride away, that was fine with us.)
My sole exception taken to the wine list was that it includes only one
malbec, and that Argentinian. What? Onglet and no Cahors? Sacre bleu!
Overall, there were a few holes in the service, but the staff was
friendly, and things will only improve. The food was very good overall,
comparable to Bistro d'Oc and Montmartre, but in a slightly more formal
The check came to $166 plus tax, less the $50 certificate. Not bad for
a first visit to a relatively new restaurant. We'll be back.
320 Massachusetts Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20002
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