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La Fourchette, French Cafe at 18th and Belmont Street, Adams Morgan - Closed

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JLK said:
More places you don't hear much about: Cafe Divan, Bombay Club, Agua Ardiente (restaurant or club?), Arucola, Bacchus, La Fourchette.

Work with me here for a minute folks, as I try to sort out this quote system... (in other words, sorry if it looks weird, I'm trying)

I had a terrible dinner at La Fourchette, admittedly 5 years or so ago. But it was bad enough that I wouldn't go back. Terrible service, and food that included a mayonnaise-based dressing (I detest mayonnaise, and most of its aise cousins) on a nicoise salad. The waiter argued it wasn't a mayo dressing, it was oil and vinegar. Umm, yeah, there's oil in there, but there's also blipping egg in there, thus making it an -aise! Plus, that's obviously not a the kind of dressing that belongs on a nicoise salad.

Yeck.

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To get back to La Fourchette: They don't have the best food or service in town. Sometimes an individual dish might even be pretty wretched. Sometimes the waitstaff is so overstretched that no one is well served. But still, in a way, La Fourchette is my favorite restaurant in Washington. Generally dependable, well-conceived, moderately well-executed, basic French bistro food served without a whisper of pretension, at a very fair price. For decades. La Fourchette, I love you.

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To get back to La Fourchette: They don't have the best food or service in town. Sometimes an individual dish might even be pretty wretched. Sometimes the waitstaff is so overstretched that no one is well served. But still, in a way, La Fourchette is my favorite restaurant in Washington. Generally dependable, well-conceived, moderately well-executed, basic French bistro food served without a whisper of pretension, at a very fair price. For decades. La Fourchette, I love you.

Maybe I've just gotten jaded over the years, but I actually remember when La Fourchette came to the neighborhood. For you youngun's, in the mid-1970s, 18th Street was rather a wasteland. It certainly was NOT a "restaurant row." Adams Morgan was the place to find Cuban food. Good luck with THAT these days. La Fourchette was a little expensive for some of us. Later, my DH and I much preferred "La Petite Fontaine" for French food. Always good, and we could always get a table--even on New Year's Eve :lol: . Since that became "The Little Fountain," we haven't been there.

Times change, but La Fourchette is still here, still family-owned, and the owners still live upstairs. Still putting out bistro food. God Bless 'em.

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I had a great brunch there this Summer: strong coffee, well prepared poached eggs, yummy hollandaise, bEAUTIFul tomotoes, and a nice little seat on 18th street. Accompanie by some shoe shopping and a stop at the vegetable vendors, and you've got a nice start to your day!

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Maybe I've just gotten jaded over the years, but I actually remember when La Fourchette came to the neighborhood.  For you youngun's, in the mid-1970s, 18th Street was rather a wasteland... 

Times change, but La Fourchette is still here, still family-owned, and the owners still live upstairs.  Still putting out bistro food.  God Bless 'em.

We always wondered about that. My boyfriend's theory was that at one time, La Fourchette was the fanciest place on 18th Street. He will be thrilled when I tell him he was right.

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A few nights ago while having drinks at the Pharmacy Bar, we had a pleasant conversation with the owner of La Fourchette. I'm anxious to try the place now. The service can't possibly be as miserably wretched as Bistrot du Coin.

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The service can't possibly be as miserably wretched as Bistrot du Coin.

I believe that's what we call damning with faint praise!

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A few nights ago while having drinks at the Pharmacy Bar, we had a pleasant conversation with the owner of La Fourchette. I'm anxious to try the place now. The service can't possibly be as miserably wretched as Bistrot du Coin.

I believe that's what we call damning with faint praise!

The service at La Fourchette is likely to be Cheerfully miserable.

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Years ago there was a petite arrondissement on the east side of 18th Street: the always absurdist Cafe Riche, featuring DC's oddest owner, Bennie; Cafe Lautrec, featuring good jazz and an occasionally controversial tap-dancer; and La Fourchette, featuring the best food of the three and those vageuly haunting murals indoors.

Sadly, times and crowds have changed and La Fourchette is now the sole (meuniere) survivor, save the massive Lautrecian mural on the outside of what is now a beer palace for drunken suburbanites.

Sometime last week Mrs. B decided she needed a taste of an old La Fourchette standby, bouillabaisse, and so, after a day in which we spent eight hours selling snacks to University of Maryland football fans in support of our daughter's rowing team made the concept of cooking at home unpalatable, we cleaned up, strolled through the early evening into Adams-Morgan and seized an outdoor table to watch the sun set and the crowds walk by.

If you pass La Fourchette in the morning, as I often do, you'll discover that it is the kind of place where Madame tends the flowers and cleans the cafe out front while, one assumes, Monsieur is in the back overseeing the sauces and the stews. It doesn't feel like a concept, it feels like a home -- a French one. And the food -- a cut above bistro fare in price and in quality -- feels homey, too, though elevated to level where you know you're eating in a real restaurant, not a great bar that happens to serve steak frites.

Not much has changed over the years. The bouillabaisse -- not the elaborate four-hour affair that Joe H. engages in when in Marseilles, but more than just a fish soup -- remains excellent. Thank goodness someone in town knows how not to boil fish to dusty death, and isn't afraid to spike the rouille with a heavy hit of garlic. Thank goodness, also, that Mrs. B does not have a vast appetite and that eight hours on my feet had given me quite a voracious one, because I was able to wolf down half of her entree and still have room for mine -- a duck breast in honey sauce, charmingly presented with hand-turned potatoes and little cordwood stacks of haricots verts, bound together with a carrot strap.

These were preceded by some fine pork rillettes and followed by two thirds of the French Holy Trinity of desserts: a mousse that received mixed reviews and a superior iles flotant (the third member of the trinity being creme brulee).

The wine list, though short, offered a variety of wines at reasonable prices. We began with a the best Muscadet I've ever sipped and concluded with a Chateauneuf that -- at $45 -- was good value and a tasty accompaniment to the duck.

The outdoor table was a delight -- at sunset on a Saturday evening, Adams-Morgan is still blessedly asshole-free and the weather was perfect, making the patio almost as civilized as the dining room. And, at $177 for an ap, two entrees, two desserts, two bottles of wine, port and Grande Marnier (plus tax), the addition was significantly less than I would have expected in one of the city's more upscale bistros.

La Fourchette is definitely old school. I remember some of the menu items from my first dinner there, twenty (?) years ago. It's not an exciting place. But I increasingly find that the excitement of yelling over the din while drinking $14 cocktails and begging for a table has diminished, while the delight in eating a well-cooked duck breast, and being greeted by an owner who's running a neighborhood restaurant and not a lifestyle center remains undimmed.

I think I'll go back again. Soon.

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Well said. For a long time for me, Adams Morgan has been "that neighborhood where Bourbon is." I enjoyed my last meal at LF, but it must have been eight years ago by now. I shall return.

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Yeah, but some of them are relatively wretched: City Lights of China, Duangrat's, La Fourchette, Nora, Old Angler's Inn, Rockland's, Tara Thai: Would these make anybody's top 50 today?

I was already living in Adams Morgan when La Fourchette opened up and became the sole "fine dining" spot in the 'hood. I acutely remember that it cost about $10 per person for a decent meal--too expensive to be anything but a special occasion sort of place. :o Now, I wouldn't eat there unless somebody else (other than Dame Edna, that is) is picking up the tab. Too bad that they never improved their product and now there are places like Cashion's which run laps around them while not costing any more.

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You seem to suggest that La Fourchette was good in its day but too expensive, and has failed to move with the times. That sure isn't my take on it. I've never thought of it as an expensive place. It used to be my idea of good, inexpensive fare in a pleasant space with cheerful service without any attitude. The problem with La Fourchette is that the good food they used to serve is a dim memory, and they serve lousy food now. Still not very expensive, and not a lot of attitude. Since I believe that the same people still own and run the place as always, I can only conclude that at some point they stop caring about their restaurant, which is a shame. If they no longer care about it, they should do the right thing and close it.

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You seem to suggest that La Fourchette was good in its day but too expensive, and has failed to move with the times. That sure isn't my take on it. I've never thought of it as an expensive place. It used to be my idea of good, inexpensive fare in a pleasant space with cheerful service without any attitude. The problem with La Fourchette is that the good food they used to serve is a dim memory, and they serve lousy food now. Still not very expensive, and not a lot of attitude. Since I believe that the same people still own and run the place as always, I can only conclude that at some point they stop caring about their restaurant, which is a shame. If they no longer care about it, they should do the right thing and close it.

I always thought of it as expensive. Back in 1997, we were gifted with a meal there for $100 for the two of us. All inclusive, of course. The thing was, I had food I could cook just as well at home. That isn't why I eat out. Plus, they believe in the old French idea that cream and butter makes everything taste better. True, but we don't eat like that anymore. Also, I had lunch there some years back (I believe it was $17.95 for a three-course lunch) and it was really, really not good. There is absolutely nothing on their menu that I want to go back and eat. Unlike some other things in other local restaurants I could mention. Yes, the couple who opened it live above the store, so to speak, and were rescued from oblivion on more than one occasion when they got good notices in the WaPo. That hasn't happened in a very long time.

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I always thought of it as expensive.

On the whole, I think we largely agree. La Fourchette just isn't much good. But I still have to say it's not expensive, except insofar as paying anything for a bad product is expensive. Almost all the starters are under $10, and almost all the mains are under $20. That's not expensive by any measure other than the paying-anything-for-a-bad-product-is-expensive one.

French bistro cuisine is mostly stuff you can do just as well at home. But when you go to a bistro, not only does somebody else do it, they clean up after it, and they can do multiple courses for you without a half hour wait in between, and they can put something on the table in a few minutes that you would have had to start planning for two days ahead. All of which La Fourchette used to do pretty well, and, alas, they no longer do well.

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On the whole, I think we largely agree. La Fourchette just isn't much good. But I still have to say it's not expensive, except insofar as paying anything for a bad product is expensive. Almost all the starters are under $10, and almost all the mains are under $20. That's not expensive by any measure other than the paying-anything-for-a-bad-product-is-expensive one.

To clarify: at the time it opened, it was the most expensive resto in AM by far. That made it a special occasion place for me at the time. Other places have since opened which are at least, if not more (Cashion's I'm looking at you) expensive. You've hit on the difference, though, in that those places generally offer much better cooking. I guess I just miss the original Little Fountain, which offered French bistro cuisine and food that I liked a lot. Once that place opened, we never even considered going to La Fourchette.

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To clarify: at the time it opened, it was the most expensive resto in AM by far.

1978 is a very long time ago, but I think El Caribe was in roughly the same price range as La Fourchette. I don't recall when they opened.

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