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Montmartre Restaurant Francais, 7th St. and Pennsylvania Ave. in SE Capitol Hill - Chef Brian Wilson Has Returned

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We met our out-of-town friend once again for dinner last night, and went to Montmartre, a sentimental favorite.  It's only the second time we've been there with her, but when her husband was coming to town with some regularity, it was his favorite restaurant to go to and we went every time he visited.

Service was eager to please but not without some bumps. Our friend ordered pate to start and they tried to give her one of my starters instead (I ordered both an excellent--really excellent--arugula salad and beef tartare that was seriously underseasoned/underdressed.)  Her order seemed to have gotten lost completely somewhere along the line. It took a little while, but it came out, with three different concerned staff rushing around trying to resolve the problem.  My husband had a French onion soup to start that he seemed to like. I finished off the last of the broth, which was fine but not enough to judge the whole soup on. I wanted to order the spring pea soup with creme fraiche but, after having sat through 4 innings of windy rain a few hours earlier at the ballpark, I didn't feel very springlike and went with meat and salad instead.  I've had the tartare before and liked it, but this just didn't have any oomph to it.  I don't know if that's a one-off or a completely different preparation that is now their standard. It was a most generous portion. We all ate some of it.

My husband got the bistro steak, medium rare, and thought it was very good. Our friend and I both ordered French classics, she the Beef Bourguignon and I, the Coq au Vin. She liked her dish but I've got no further details.  The coq au vin was fine.  I enjoyed the fingerling potatoes with it. I thought the red wine sauce was a bit salty, so, while I happily ate what I could with the food items in the dish, I didn't sop the rest up with bread. (I'd also already had 3 pieces of bread: 2 grilled triangles with the tartare and one slice of warm baguette, which--by the way--came with cold-to-frozen--pre-wrapped pats of butter.)

We shared the Floating Island for dessert, which none of us had had before, and it was quite good.  It was a bit hard to share with spoons out of a single bowl in the middle of the table, though. The Creme Anglaise was dribbling all over the table as we tried this maneuver.  Despite that, we were glad we ordered it.

My details are a bit sketchy in some places here (I cannot recall what the red wine was we got at all). I didn't grab the itemized bill and the online menu is fairly different from the one in the restaurant, not surprisingly, I guess, with the change in chefs. (FYI, the website says the current executive chef is Karen Hayes.) 

Highlights of the meal for me: the arugula salad, the floating island, and the shared meal at a sentimental favorite of a neighborhood restaurant. 

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Brian Wilson is the executive chef again. 

We had a lovely anniversary dinner at Montmartre, followed by gelato at Pitango down the block. I would have liked some French onion soup, but it just seemed too hot out for that. I started instead with the beef tartare and it was much more flavorful than on my last visit a couple of years ago. (It's hard to believe it had been a couple of years since we'd been, but there you go.) I imagine the pastrami aioli component was what boosted this over the previous version when there was a different chef. This was also a more compact portion and I ate most of it myself. The pumpernickel toasts accompanying were sliced very thinly and unevenly. I rounded out the three pieces of toast  with one of the wonderful warm slices of baguette from the bread basket. This time the bread basket came with a ramekin of soft (but not too soft) whipped butter. As always, I ate too much bread.

I went with roasted beet ravioli for my main course. It was plated beautifully in a deep bowl/plate with a bright design. I should have taken a photo. The accompaniments were beech mushrooms, green chickpeas, swiss chard, toasted hazelnuts, and charred lemon cream sauce. I enjoyed every bite of this. The sauce was a lovely pale yellow.  It was fairly subtle but enhanced the rest of the dish. There were a lot of beech mushrooms, and they were a great companion to the ravioli. 

My husband got the swordfish special. Among other things, it came with some kind of greens, maybe Swiss chard. I recall him saying that the description of the dish read similarly to the rockfish on the regular menu. The bite of fish I had was moist and meaty. He had started with the bistro salad (mixed greens, cucumber, radish, fennel, blackberries, goat cheese, hazelnuts, honey-red wine vinaigrette), which was an ample portion, and he loved it.  He also enjoyed finishing my ravioli (see: bread, above, and saving room for dessert).

We wanted to use an old gift card to Pitango that we keep forgetting to use, so we skipped dessert at the restaurant and went there instead. 

I know Montmartre is a favorite of quite a few people in the neighborhood and beyond, so I'm surprised that my post from more than two years ago is the most recent previous one in the thread. Of course, I hadn't been back since then either...

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I miss that place. 

It was the first and only restaurant I've ever really been a regular at, back in my single/Capitol Hill days. 

I loved eating at the tiny bar looking back into the kitchen. Used to eat the mussels all the time, occasionally getting the great rabbit or hangar steak if I had some extra money. 

Gotta go back there at some point. 

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Yesterday a friend and I had brunch at Montmartre. It was slow to fill up but then was packed. I had an absolutely amazing sandwich: roasted lamb, black pepper aioli, feta, piquillo pepper tapenade, frisée, toasted focaccia. For $14, it came with a small house salad. The sandwich was warm, the lamb was moist, the aioli was creamy and peppery. This was a fantastic sandwich.

Not to obsess on a minor point, the only (only) thing that wasn't perfect is that the loose salad and sandwich were presented together--beautifully, I might add--on a small wooden cutting board. With the entire flat board full of food, it was difficult to eat without spillage. I clumsily attacked the salad first to have more room to maneuver. Even though this looked camera-ready as it was served (and of course I didn't take a photo) it really would have benefitted from having a lip or edge to keep the salad from spilling so easily onto the table.  In any case, this is a small quibble. My friend loved her Quiche Lorraine, and we had a lovely time.

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My wife and I went here the other night after hearing that Brian Wilson was back and were pleased with our meals.  I've never loved this space, it always feels a bit cramped and it's very loud when full.  We started with the very lovely Steak Tartare, which was well seasoned and garnished, and the Onion Soup, an app that we have a soft spot for (and are a bit snobby about).  The soup was nice on a cold night, but I couldn't help but feel that the mushroom broth lacked the depth of flavor and mouth feel of the best versions of this soup.  This needed more black pepper and oomph, but again still hit the spot.

Our entrees were the Seafood Stew and the Duck Confit and were very well prepared.  The Stew was essentially a bouillabaisse minus the potatoes and my wife really enjoyed the perfectly cooked fish.  The broth could have been more compelling for me, but that's a minor quibble.  The Confit was right up my alley, however.  This hit all the right notes, being rich and unctuous without being oily, and the interesting pairing of curried gnocchi brightened the dish up with some spicy (not hot) balance to the duck and garlic sausage.  

I think it's safe to say that we'll be back, this will be our go-to for brasserie food.

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