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Sur La Place, Belgian Bistro in Palisades - On MacArthur Blvd Across From Et Voila! - Closed

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It's open. Sietsema did a little preview of it this week, as did MrP and I. Wild mushroom ragout on toasted garlic bread was delicious, in a rich tasting but light textured sauce that had some but not too much tomato in it. Pommes croquettes were small, crispy outside, fluffy inside, and perfectly fried (not at all greasy). The beef carbonnade had a good rich flavor but the meat itself was on the dry side. The pommes frites that came with it were not worth the calories. Not bad as such but not good enough to bother eating, either. Well, maybe they were bad - when MrP doesn't finish his french fries somethin' ain't right. Wild boar and cranberry sausage was delightfully porky, and its saltiness was nicely contrasted by the rather sweet braised red cabbage underneath, and I enjoyed a side of Brussels sprouts, though I can't think of anything in particular to say about them, other than they had bacon.

A decent looking beer list, but only four on draft, and they were out of one of those.

A chocolate pot de creme was extremely dense and dry. The waitress described it as a ganache, as she wasn't kidding. I didn't want to eat it so much as roll it into little balls and coat them with cocoa. It wasn't a very good dessert. Chocolate terrine was likewise rich, dense, and boring, and guess what? [pet peeve alert] there was raspberry sauce squiggled on the plate.


We left feeling it wasn't very good and that we probably wouldn't go back, but then as I type this I realize there was alot that we enjoyed. Why does that happen? Whatever. There's a venison and blueberry sausage on the menu, so we'll go back at least one more time.

There were about a gazillion mussels preparations on the menu, but as I wasn't in the mood for mussels I didn't look it over in any detail.

Nice to see a neighborhood joint packed full on a weeknight.

Comparisons to the other Belgian restaurants are inevitable. If I were plunked onto the MacArthur Blvd median between Sur La Place and Et Voila!, I'd head toward the latter. But I can't provide a dish by dish comparison. I think Brasserie Beck is by far the best restaurant of the DC Belgians; I love what they do with mushrooms in a cream sauce on spaetzle, but Sur La Place's treatment was a nice change of pace.

Probably a good thing I didn't make the connection between Sur la Place and Mannequin Pis in Olney (same owners), because I had a most dreadful meal at the latter and would never go back.

Link to the TS preview.

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The other evening, I'd driven to Et Voila, only to encounter a full restaurant with no space at the bar. Not wanting to drive any more, I simply walked across the street to a moderately empty Sur La Place. I'd been here once before for mussels and a beer, and liked it well enough.

I started off with a draft of Straffe Hendrik ($11), a massively strong Belgian Quadrupel weighing in at 11% ABV. The pours thick, and has a nose of malt, raisins, and pitted fruits without being sweet or gratuitous - it's really a special beer to have on tap. This beer was so large-framed that it carried me through the meal, and I didn't even quite finish it.

For my started, I got a bowl of Lobster Bisque ($10) because it was the only thing on the menu I can recall as being marked as a "Chef's Special." Unfortunately, this was essentially a cream of tomato soup, with a few good-sized chunks of frozen lobster meat in it - the lobster meat was ample, but the base of the bisque seemed like it was deficient in shellfish. This was not a bad soup, but it also wasn't a lobster bisque, so adjust your expectations accordingly to avoid disappointment.

Three other small plates were due to arrive whenever they were ready: Escargots en Croq ($10), Endive Brabaní§onne ($6), and Creamy Parsley Salsify ($6). The escargots was a decadent, slutty dish, the snails baked and served in a ceramic escargot plate, with a hole for each snail, and the entire thing just drenched in an addicting baked cheese - I'm not sure what type if was, but it proved essential during the meal. This dish stayed on my right side.

In front of me was the endive, which was an ample portion, and certainly on the bland side. However, I would scoop out a snail and a tablespoon-full of cheese, and put it on my endive plate - this lent much-needed salt, and the dairy neutralized the bitter endive, making for a more fun plate of food - whenever I ran out of snail and cheese, I'd scoop out another, and repeat the process.

On my left was the salsify which was a mistake to order: not only did I order too much food, but the salsify was too much like the endive (I knew this in advance, but had never had either prep, so wanted to try anyway). The salsify was served in a dish liberally covered with a milky sauce flecked with plenty of parsley. It, too, desperately needed salt, but was really not a bad side dish at all.

If you can accept the gooeyness of the escargot dish, this was not a bad meal. I ordered wrong, of course, but made the most of it with the distribution of the salty cheese. I finished all the snails, but left some endive and salsify because it was just too much food.

My sweetheart of a bartender - who had been very nice to me the entire meal - told me before giving me the check that she had neglected to give me happy hour pricing on the beer and one of the dishes (I didn't quite pick up the details), and that she simply removed the beer from the check to compensate. Given that I had no idea it was happy hour to begin with, I viewed this as pennies from heaven, and left a large tip.

Sur La Place is certainly no Et Voila, but based on two visits I've made, I like it - it's not quite in Italic, and in fact, I would put it comparable, quality-wise, to the current version of Bistro Vivant, although stylistically, the restaurants are nothing at all alike. You could certainly do a lot worse than snuggling up to the bar here, having some Belgian beers, and a hearty dinner.

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