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La Piquette, Modern French Bistro by the Owners of Bistrot Lepic - in the Former Bistrot Le Zinc Space


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The Bistrot Lepic folks are taking over the former Bistrot Le Zinc space.  No plans for major renovations, so they are claiming a late October opening.

Washington Business Journal with the story.

La Piquette will have a small menu featuring seasonal, sustainable products posted daily on a large chalkboard in the dining room. The wine list will feature wines by the glass and the bottle that are priced comparably with other restaurants in the neighborhood.  "We don't want to be pricey. We want it to be trendy, fast-paced, fun, with a nice wine program and good food to go along with it,"

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"We don't want to be pricey. We want it to be trendy, fast-paced, fun, with a nice wine program and good food to go along with it,"

That quote worries me a bit but, of course, it'll be all about the actual experience once people can get there and report.  I was a big fan (as were many others) of Bistro Le Zinc when it first opened in the space. It was impressively good and well priced. Then the chef carousel began and, with it, everything about the menu went downhill and then the place closed.

I have a definite soft spot for Bistro Lepic. It was one of the first 'better restaurants' I had recommended to me many years ago here. I remember at the time, a colleague of mine with an uncle at CIA mentioned that "many from the French Embassy" ate there.  With all the restaurant opens in the past 10-15 years and the rising average level of quality, I haven't gotten back very much.

I'm looking forward to trying La Piquette and just hope it'll be more about "good food" and "nice wine program" than about "trendy, fast-paced, fun"; different from the implied priorities in the quote.

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I wouldn't worry too much about the "trendy, fast-paced, fun" concept, because the restaurant doesn't come across that way at all.  Stopped in around 6:30 on a recent weekday night; by 7:30 the place was almost full.  There's a bar and open kitchen on the upper level, and table seating for about 50 on the lower level.  Looks and feels like a French bistro.  Wine list has about 12 bottles each of white and reds, and a few rosés and Champagnes; I believe all are French.  With the exception of a Chateauneuf du Pape at $145, all are priced from $29 to near $100.  There was a smaller selection available by the glass.  I rarely drink wine any more, so take this for what it's worth (not a lot): my $14 glass of Saint-Émilion seemed rather thin-bodied and, well, duller than what I expected.

The menu is written on large chalkboards on several walls; you're always within reading distance.  Management claims that the menu changes often.  The other night, listed under Petite Assiette were a few soups, a few salads, salmon tartare, charcuterie, cheeses.  For fish courses there were razor clams, salmon, scallops, a fish stew; for meat courses there were chicken, pork sausage, a few steaks, and cassoulet.  There's also a bar snacks menu with just a few items listed; you can order these if you're seated at a table.  Desserts were a gateau a l'orange, gateau chocolat, a few house-made ice creams, an intriguing sounding rice pudding, and apple pie.

We started with a goat cheese tartine, which was nothing more than a slice of grilled bread with a good-sized chunk of very nice cheese atop.  Mr. P ordered the grilled pork sausage, which was a coarse grind and highly seasoned.  It was served with a heap of shoestring fried onions,  a swath of potato puree, and brussels sprouts.  Here's my only quibble: although the lowest-priced meat course ($18), it was served with exactly 1.5 sprouts.  Really: 3 halves.  Even considering the low price, that seemed skimpy.

I ordered cassoulet ($25 for a generous portion).  The waitress explained that it was somewhat a hybrid between a Provení§al style and Toulouse style, and contained duck confit and duck sausage, but no pork.  I couldn't say if the beans were tarbais or not, but they were large and white, and very rich and creamy.  The whole dish was magnificent if rather more simple then any other cassoulet I've ever had.

I am somewhat of a pastry snob - okay, a lot of a pastry snob - and so usually disappointed by pastry in restaurants.  Mr. P's so-called apple pie was really a tart with apples in páte brisée, which was extraordinary: perfectly flaky and crisp throughout, and you could taste the butter.  I had the orange gateau: a small single-layer slice of very moist, intensely but not overwhelmingly orange-y cake served with a little boat of crème anglaise. Excellent.  As someone who's almost always disappointed by desserts, I'm impressed.

Service was efficient and friendly without being intrusive or effusive.  I'm looking forward to going back.

Pictured below: le menu; cassoulet

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post-554-0-55232500-1387546475_thumb.jpg

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No, it's not exactly expensive, but adds up to almost what you would pay for a better meal at Et Voila!, based on dinner only a week or two after it opened. The bartender didn't know how to make a martini, but by the end of the night maybe he did because people were ordering them. I'm not sold on the chalk board listings because it can be difficult to read them if you are sitting directly in front of one. An avocado and shrimp salad was good but pinchingly small. I thought the cassoulet was on the dry side without enough depth to keep from ending up feeling like a dull bowl of beans by the time I finished it. I had a better early meal at the restaurant formerly in this spot that Tom Sietsema inexplicably trashed. There's nothing wrong with a plain French restaurant, and this is the place if that's what you are in the mood for, but after walking about three blocks from home to get there for a second meal I just couldn't help crossing the street to 2 Amys instead. I am sure I eventually will return, but maybe not before hearing convincingly from those who have honed in on why this is a trip worth making at a time when there are so many more interesting places popping up all around town.

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Inspired by Tom Sietsema's rave about the gabure soup in Wednesday's chat, my wife, brother and I stopped by last night for dinner. I was impressed. The 3 starters - the gabure, salmon tartare and a particularly luscious cauliflower soup - were all strong. Similarly, the main courses - a well seasoned, simple, moist, grilled half chicken, a melt in your mouth steak frites, and my delicious, homey, wintery beef daube - all really hit the mark. Similarly, the apple tart and homemade vanilla ice cream were excellent. We also shared a perfectly fine, though uninspired, Ceasar salad and chocolate fondant. When We are eating close to home we go to Palena, 2 Amys or Et Voila 90+% of the time, but last night's meal will definitely warrant further exploration of La Piquette - a very welcome neighborhood addition.

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On 1/10/2014 at 9:40 AM, hmmboy said:

Inspired by Tom Sietsema's rave about the gabure soup in Wednesday's chat, my wife, brother and I stopped by last night for dinner. I was impressed. The 3 starters - the gabure, salmon tartare and a particularly luscious cauliflower soup - were all strong. Similarly, the main courses - a well seasoned, simple, moist, grilled half chicken, a melt in your mouth steak frites, and my delicious, homey, wintery beef daube - all really hit the mark. Similarly, the apple tart and homemade vanilla ice cream were excellent. We also shared a perfectly fine, though uninspired, Ceasar salad and chocolate fondant. When We are eating close to home we go to Palena, 2 Amys or Et Voila 90+% of the time, but last night's meal will definitely warrant further exploration of La Piquette - a very welcome neighborhood addition.

Ate at La Piquette for the first time last night.  Wasn't too busy and got to try:

Salmon Tartare: good, with a faint spicy kick at the end.  Fairly chunky avocado.

Foie Gras: This was paired with roasted apples. The liver was a touch overcooked and I didn't think the apple paired very well.

Veal T-bone: Well cooked piece of meat with a good sauce.  Asked for spinach in lieu of kate.  The spinach was sauteed lightly in garlic.  Paired with Pommes Anna.  Good entree, but a bit on the small side.

Black Sea Bass: Again, well cooked piece of fish with a good sauce, but the fish was about a 4 oz portion. Quite small given the $30 price tag.

Chocolate Mousse & Creme Brulee: Ordinarily don't order desert, but were still hungry at the end of the meal.  Both were good.

Probably won't break into the heavy rotation - Et Voila and Les Vieux Logis both seem to do French/Belgian a bit better at the same price point.

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Froze our butts off for lunch today.  The temp was about 30, with a gusting wind.  We sat outside and the patio was covered by tent flaps.  They did provide a heat lamp, which heated everything above the table.

We started with foie gras and pate.  They were followed by sirloin steak and stuffed cabbage with mashed potatoes.  The single slice of foie wasn't very big, felt expensive at $24 but it's the coldest day thus far during this winter of our discontent and there are extra costs to running a restaurant.  The cabbage was supposed to be stuffed with oxtail, pancetta and ground beef.  Alas, while the flavor was good the taste and texture was predominately ground beef.  The steak was cooked beautifully (medium rare) and came with the crunchy shoe-string fries.

The restaurant looked so warm and cozy inside....

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