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DonRocks   

Bistro Cacao will be opening shortly in the old Two Quail space at 320 Massachusetts Avenue NE - they're currently shooting for the end of next week, but that is not official. The restaurant is owned by Harun and Yavuz Bolukbasi who owned Mezè in Adams Morgan.

But the really exciting news about Bistro Cacao is the chef, Kemal Deger, who last ran the kitchen at Le Tire Bouchon in Fairfax, and the GM, Veronique Onteniente, who just got back from France, and who before that was the gracious presence running the front of the house at Montmartre and Montsouris. If you're familiar with the work of these two, you know they'll make a formidable BOH-FOH combination.

Bistro Cacao's website isn't ready yet (and currently lists an incorrect opening date), but it can be found at www.bistrocacao.com.

Good luck to everyone, and congratulations in advance.

Cheers,

Rocks

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DonRocks   

This evening is opening night for Bistro Cacao. Last night, I went to a pre-opening party there, and very much liked what I saw. Although I didn't try any of the pass-around hors d'oeuvres, I can vouch both for the atmosphere and the wine list.

In terms of atmosphere, Bistro Cacao is going to be one of the most romantic venues in the city - it's only a slight renovation of Two Quail, with some new hardwood flooring, rustic wine-racking, and wall decorations evoking warmth and even some humor.

The opening wine list may be my favorite on Capitol Hill right now (with proper respect to Charlie Palmer Steak, Belga Cafe, and Montmartre). It's tiny, but is heavily represented by Wine Traditions (run by the great importer, Ed Addiss), Elite Wines (Laurent Givry), and Country Vintner. If you have an old-world palate, as I do, you'll be very happy with the wine selections here. Also, take note of the single-digit by-the-glass prices.

Despite the charming atmosphere, great little wine list, and charismatic GM, Bistro Cacao will be made or broken by the strength of its cooking. Although the menu reads beautifully, I haven't tried anything, and have no idea what to expect in terms of execution.

I picked up copies of the opening dinner menus and the wine list, which I include here. Good luck and congratulations!

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Pat   

For people missing 2 Quail, Bistro Cacao does retain quite a bit of their interior design, including curtained areas. We had a nice meal last night, both starting with French onion soup. Not the best I've ever had but good and satisfying on a cold night. My husband enjoyed his Salad Cacao, while I had the house salad of mixed greens with a pleasing mustard dressing. I had asked if the salad was very big, as I didn't want to get a large salad in addition to soup and an entree, and our server said the salads weren't that large. My salad proved more ample than I expected, however. A generous serving of salad is generally a good thing, but I think I would have skipped that course if I had known the size ahead of time. That's one of those things it's hard to estimate for another person, I guess.

My favorite selection of the night was the onglet, covered with caramelized shallots and in a red wine sauce. The fries accompanying were very thin, almost potato sticks. This was served with a ramekin of a mustard sauce (Dijon mayo?), which was delicious. I wasn't sure if it was supposed to go on the fries or steak, so I tried it on both :lol: I declined the offer of ketchup for my fries, but they have it if people are so inclined. My husband loved his venison with cherry sauce, which came with a potato cake. We were full and in somewhat of a hurry so declined coffee and dessert.

Service was good, and everyone was quite genial and helpful. This is a comfortable spot and not wildly expensive. (Pre-tax and -tip total of about $80 for 3 courses each and 1 glass of wine..)

I can't add much to Don's comment on the wine list, but I enjoyed the glass of Malbec I had ($7?). I didn't like the rolls, but at least that meant I didn't fill up on them :angry:

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Having never been to Two Quail (for obvious reasons), I was none-too-sad to hear it had closed and Bistro Cacao had opened in it's place, a mere three blocks from my apartment. The Hill (esp the North side) is always in need of good restaurants, and I think this one is going to fit the bill. I LOVE the space and decor and would definitely consider it one of the more romantic dining rooms I've been to in the city. The third room has cute, cozy booths made from high-backed chairs and the chandeliers are so pretty. As mentioned in FunnyJohn's post, Table 26 is indeed a great one to request.

I felt the wine list was somewhat limited (esp for a place planning to open a wine bar next door), but we still had a great bottle of white Bordeaux (Sauvignon Blanc $34). The rolls served with dinner were pretty generic, but they were served warm with soft, spreadable butter, and were a tasty tool for sopping up soup at the bottom of the bowl.

I will start my food report by admitting I've only been to a handful of French restaurants and am not intimately familiar with the cuisine, so I can't compare some of Bistro Cacao's dishes to others in the city (or in France for that matter). I started with the French Onion Soup ($6.95) and thought it was gooey and flavorful and really hit the spot on yet another freezing night in DC. It was full of onions and rich broth and the cheese on top was nicely browned. My +1's Lobster Bisque ($6.95) wasn't as "lobstery" tasting as I would've thought but he really enjoyed his bowl. The Soup du Jour sounded tasty (asparagus with white truffle oil), but we wanted to try the menu mainstays on our first trip.

For entrees our waiter highly recommended the Rack of Lamb, but since neither of us really enjoy that particular protein, we unfortunately had to pass. I had never had bouillabaisse before, so I went with the Bouillabaisse "Bistro Cacao" (shrimps, mussels, scallops, calamari, clams and monkfish in a rich fish broth, with aioli and croutons) for $17.95. I'm still not sure I was eating it correctly (Do you de-shell everything and then dig in or go piece by piece? How exactly do you utilize the aioli and croutons?) but I thought it was very good. It was really a ridiculous amount of seafood for the price. The +1 went with the Loup de Mer "Cacao Signature" (Chilean Sea Bass, Sauteed Baby Spinach, Mushrooms and mango champagne sauce) for $19.95 despite my sustainability argument. This was a decent-sized fillet, perhaps a bit on the dry side, but the accompanying sauce and vegetables went well. We both agreed we would order these entrees again, but also wanted to try some other things on the menu (the hanger steak with caramelized shallots at a neighboring table looked delicious).

We were too full for dessert, but saw a very cute trio of cremes brulees go by, and were told by our waiter that the apple tart was amazing and more than worth the 15 min wait time. Perhaps next trip we'll try to save room.

As we were leaving the +1 commented it was rare to find a restaurant with good food and ambiance where we could get out with 2 apps, 2 entrees and a bottle of wine for under $100. I, for one, am happy to have Bistro Cacao up the street and look forward to trying it again for dinner, brunch and perhaps the new wine bar when it opens.

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We tried Bistro Cacao last week for our anniversary. Always very happy when a new place opens in our 'hood, and we don't get out as often as we like, so we took advantage of an anniversary and hit the new place. The decor was... interesting, I found the tables behind curtains more to my liking than my husband did, and he hated the big cushy wing chairs. I think next time we'll ask to sit at a regular table.

My husband ordered the Lobster Bisque, which I wanted to steal from him, because it was creamy and flavorful with some nice if small pieces of lobster. I had the foie gras terrine, which was kind of pasty and flavorless.

My husband, being a glutton for French food, also ordered the frogs legs appetizer, which really puzzled the waiter. You want two appetizers, AND a main course? Yes, please, don't argue with someone who wants to eat more of your food! I do not eat frogs legs, it's one of the few things I don't eat (the other being bunny) because these animals are pets. But for those of you who do eat them, he said they were the best he's ever had, and he orders them all the time. And if there had been bunny on the menu, he would have ordered that as well.

Just as well there wasn't rabbit on the menu, he instead ordered the veal chop, which he devoured and said was really good. I asked the waiter for a recommendation, and he didn't hesitate to say "hanger steak", the standard Bistro meat. It was very, very good, cooked just right (rare with a good sear) and tender.

We share a Poire Helene for dessert, it too was quite good, but that is hard to screw up.

The wine list was great and reasonably priced, we ordered a good French wine that didn't kill the budget, and because it was our anniversary (always worth mentioning), they brought us a glass of Champagne. That was a nice touch.

All in all, worthy of another visit, but the Bistro food didn't quite match the fancy atmosphere - that kind of food I picture eating in a place more like Bistrot Du Coin.

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My parents came up this past weekend and weren't originally sure if they'd make it for dinner on Friday, so I wasn't able to make reservations anywhere. However, we were able to walk into Bistro Cacao at 8pm on Friday with a party of 4 and be seated immediately, which was very nice. It was probably about 3/4 full, so it was certainly doing business, but it was nice to have a place within a few blocks to have a good meal I didn't have to plan ahead for.

My mom and +1 both had the French Onion Soup ($6.95) and my dad had the Lobster Bisque ($6.95). After being able to taste it again, I am really a big fan of Cacao's onion soup. On future visits it is going to be difficult for me to order something else (at least until this cold weather departs). I decided to go out on a limb and order the Cuisses de Grenoulle "Provencale" (Sauteed frogs legs with eggplant, potatoes and parsley garlic sauce $8.95). I don't think I'd ever had frogs legs before but would certainly try them again after this rendition. There is something to the notion that they "taste like chicken," and although there is not a ton of meat on each leg, it was a good amount of food for an appetizer and the eggplant/potato/garlic sauce on top was really scrumptious.

My dad and I both had the Onglet de Bouf aux Echalottes (hanger steak with caramelized shallots, french fries and red wine sauce $17.95). Mine was cooked to a perfect medium rare and was juicy and flavorful. The shallots and red wine put it over the top. Everyone at the table loved the fries too...tiny little crisp shoestrings served with some spicy Dijon mustard. Yum. The +1 had the Poitrine de Volaille au Chevre, Sauce au Romarin (stuffed chicken breast with goat cheese and sundried tomatoes served with potato gratin, roasted asparagus and rosemary jus $14.95). The chicken was a good size with a nice tang from the goat cheese, and the bite I had of the gratin was quite good. My mom went with the rockfish special of the day, and although she kept lamenting the price (kudos to the waiter for letting us know it was $29 - about $10 more than the other fish dishes on the regular menu - before we placed the order), although she ate every bit of fish and seemed to enjoy it all.

Despite being pretty full we ordered the Flourless Warm Chocolate Cake (with vanilla ice cream, mango coulis sauce $8.95) and the Apple Tart (with marzipan and vanilla ice cream $7) which they warn will take 15 minutes. While both desserts were adequate, neither was mind-blowing, and in the future I'd probably just stick with apps and entrees (although if asked to choose, the apple tart was the clear winner).

Two trips in and I'm still thrilled with this newcomer to the neighborhood! On the way out we asked about their timing in the wine bar next door and were told they are hoping to open in April.

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We had made reservations at Bistro Cacao just before the snowpocalypse, and while I was fuming at being unable to fly into DC I was also lamenting my imagined meal of something that would make winter seem not so harsh. So on Friday, we cabbed to Bistro Cacao in the rain for our first visit there.

I'm a person of "a certain age" and Bistro Cacao made me feel smiley and sentimental. It's one of those places with lumpy upholstered arm chairs, bad reproductions of French posters and art, white table cloths and curtains separating tables. Where have all those places gone? And why did we let them leave? It all makes for a really comfortable dining experience, perfect for a rainy, chilly night.

I liked the lobster bisque - no overwhelming heavy cream but lots of nice lobster flavor (small pieces of lobster evident throughout the generously sized bowl). It was served at a good temperature, not so hot that I couldn't enjoy it right away. SO had some sort of salad which she liked and she cleaned her plate. I snagged a chunk of bleu cheese from the plate and it was quite tasty. But I was in no mood for salad.

For mains SO had the hangar steak and I had the duck. You've got to try bistro classics at a classic bistro. Both were competently executed. The potato side with the duck was slightly undercooked, but overall the portion sizes, flavor and presentation all met or exceeded expectations. The steak and the duck were full-flavored, tender, cooked to proper temperature...such simple wins but lately I've really come to appreciate places that aren't stretching and that do what we expect them to do.

This place is a good value, with some mains under $20 and few much more than that. Service was attentive, and no one seemed to rush us. The place was not crowded, and if it had been, we wouldn't have lingered, but it was so nice to be able to linger...it's a great place for conversation and a lovely addition to the neighborhood.

This is a really comfortable spot and I hope it succeeds.

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A co-worker and I enjoyed a fairly simple but tasty lunch here yesterday. I had the Vegetarian Sandwich (portobello, zucchini, roasted red pepper, avocado, herb aioli and fresh mozz), which was a surprisingly good rendition of what is usually a throwaway sandwich at most places. I was pleased to find that the fillings were well-balanced - no huge chewy portobello patty overpowering everything else. The herb flavor in the aioli wasn't that pronounced; actually any spread was almost unnecessary since the melted mozzarella and avocado provided a nice smooth mouthfeel that contrasted perfectly with the texture of the vegetables (and um, fungi).

My co-worker had the Steak Sandwich with havarti. The only complaint she had was that it contained undisclosed aioli - but then she has an aversion to mayo. She still thought it was excellent and finished the dish. The breads, both the dinner roll and the sandwich roll, were warm, crusty and very well-seasoned.

Both sandwiches were accompanied by a generous serving of addictive crispy fries. With ketchup, which was fine, although next time I'll ask for a cup of mayo.

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DaRiv18   

My favorite selection of the night was the onglet, covered with caramelized shallots and in a red wine sauce. The fries accompanying were very thin, almost potato sticks. This was served with a ramekin of a mustard sauce (Dijon mayo?), which was delicious. I wasn't sure if it was supposed to go on the fries or steak, so I tried it on both :D

I didn't like the rolls, but at least that meant I didn't fill up on them :)

For mains SO had the hangar steak and I had the duck. You've got to try bistro classics at a classic bistro. Both were competently executed. . . The steak and the duck were full-flavored, tender, cooked to proper temperature...such simple wins but lately I've really come to appreciate places that aren't stretching and that do what we expect them to do.

Not much to add here, except last night was my favorite DC al fresca dining experience ever. Very relaxed (we were 3 of 6 people on the patio, which seats about 50), gorgeous Tuesday night, in a peaceful part of the city. I agree with Pat and dcandohio's accounts of the onglet. Going forward, this place will be our first choice for outside dining (unless one of youse guys convince me otherwise!).

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Not much to add here, except last night was my favorite DC al fresca dining experience ever. Very relaxed (we were 3 of 6 people on the patio, which seats about 50), gorgeous Tuesday night, in a peaceful part of the city. I agree with Pat and dcandohio's accounts of the onglet. Going forward, this place will be our first choice for outside dining (unless one of youse guys convince me otherwise!).

You just convinced me. I am going to buy the WTD Deal for Bistro Cacao and head over and eat outside. I know several people that got engaged at Two Quail, I am happy that their replacement is still a great restauarnt.

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pltrgyst   

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 can only improve. The food was very good overall,

comparable to Bistro d'Oc and Montmartre, but in a slightly more formal setting.

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.

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DonRocks   

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.

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!

I had that onglet and loved it (the fries were indeed frozen, but not bad). The wine list may be in for some difficulties, as the fetching Veronique Onteniente is no longer at the restaurant (though rumor has it she's been spotted (by me!) at Petits Plats). :)

Cheers,

Rocks

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lizzie   

Has anyone been here lately? Is it still a positive recommendation - thinking of it for lunch on Friday.

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It's my go to if I'm doing lunch on the Senate side of Capitol Hill. I would not give it a super strong endorsement, but it is solid, and worlds better than the other options on that strip (Cafe Berlin, La Loma, Union Pub). That is, however, a low bar to clear.

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saxdrop   
On 7/24/2012 at 4:33 PM, Mark Dedrick said:

It's my go to if I'm doing lunch on the Senate side of Capitol Hill. I would not give it a super strong endorsement, but it is solid, and worlds better than the other options on that strip (Cafe Berlin, La Loma, Union Pub). That is, however, a low bar to clear.

Nearly four years later...I wouldn't put much weight behind pushing back on @Mark Dedrick's take above. Rather, I'd add emphasis to his use of the word "solid." Stopped in for dinner last week and I'd offer this proposition for discussion: is there a more charming dining room on the Hill? How about in NE? From the mismatched serving ware to the unapologetically old-fashioned furniture and decorations. 

Alternatively, as @DonRocks put it in the DC Dining Guide capsule review: 

"A fine French bistro in a quirky setting, great onglet, some of the best wines by-the-glass in town, a little gem"

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