Jump to content

Bistro Bis, Classic French Bistro in the Hotel George on Capitol Hill - Chef Ted Walker Replaces Joe Harran, Who Left for Woodward Table


Recommended Posts

Even though nobody asked - there you have it. Straight from the horse's sorry...hostess' mouth.

Posted on eGullet - really recently.

I imagine shrieking "Ask Me!!" while staring at the audience with dead-pan eyes a la resurrected fortune teller in Warlock II.

Seriously, though, definitely upscale of Bistro Lepic. Menu recently revised. Commenting on food would be mucho inappropriate for me, but the place has been booming lately.

Rather than telling you what the place is, I would tell you what it is not.

Not an intimate, romantic dinner place. Dining room is large and lively, and there is only one reasonably private table for two. PM me if interested in better table numbers for future reservations.

Not a small plate heaven. Menu offerings fall neatly into appetizers or entrees unless you want to graze at the bar.

Not a stuffy, overly formal French place.

Not a place to go if you don't fancy being greeted by a poster of a nekkid lady over the host stand.

The bar scene is great and busy on weeknights but almost empty on weekends. Take note.

Tasting menus: yes
Cheese plate: yes
Smoking at the bar: yes
Eating at the bar: yes
Reserving bar tables: no (well, PM me)
Best-looking front of the house staff in town: yes
Late dining: yes (we seat until 10.30)
Chefs kissyface: no

Link to comment
Share on other sites

[posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

Antonio Burrell recently became Chef de Cuisine at Bistro Bis, an establishment run by restauranteurs Jeff and Sallie Buben, having come from a short stint at Gabriel.

A check-in this evening showed some terrific work by new Pastry Chef Heather Martindale, who just came from Marcel's.

The chocolate bread pudding with crème anglaise, was everything you could possibly want, and how often do you find both the sorbets (passion fruit and mango) AND the ice cream (vanilla) arriving at the correct temperature and showing the proper respect to their ingredients?

It's worth stopping in just for a late dessert to sample the great work of Heather Martindale.

Cheers,
Rocks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just returned from lunch at Bistro Bis. Bistro Bis is one of my favorite restaurants in DC and I was eager to see what was being offered on their special Restaurant Week menu. I dined with a colleague and, overall, we had a delightful time. The food, as usual, was superior, and I have always found the restaurant's environment to be warm and inviting. The only weak spot was our service, which saw 10-minute-ish periods of inattentiveness between being seated by the host and greeted by the server and again between the check drop and pickup. When we were attended to, our server was minimally communicative and conveyed indifference. He was, however, spot-on in recommending one of the two Restaurant Week entrees as being sufficiently good to order in place of the tried and true fare from the regular lunch menu. So, on to the food; my dining companion and I had the following:

First Courses

Chilled Tomato Gazpacho Andalouse with crouton and cilantro cream (Restaurant Week Starter) - a solid if not remarkable preparation, light with a clarity of flavor and spice. B+

Onion Soup Les Halles with sweet onions, sourdough croutons, and gruyere - my favorite onion soup in all of Washington continues to set a very high bar. It is rich and earthy without being overly salty or sweet. Be forewarned that t is still served hot enough to scald. A+

Second Courses

Swordfish Steak Provencale (Restaurant Week Entree)- pan roasted with ratatouille of summer vegetables (yellow squash, zuchinni, onions), olives, fresh tomato, shellfish broth and basil. This was a perfect seasonal preparation that highlighted the light and delicate flavor of the swordfish. The ratatouille, which was served underneath the fish, tasted like a summer garden. A

Tuna Salad Nicoise, seared yellow fin tuna with haricots verts, fingerling potatoes, olives, eggs, tomatoes and arugula. My colleague declared this the best tuna nicoise she had ever eaten. The tuna, which was beautiful and seared for only a few seconds on each side, was the centerpiece of an appropriately sized, picturesque salad. A

Pomme Frites - Umm, heaven. All of you dissatisfied with the frites at Poste need look no further. A

Third Course

Classic Chocolate Tart (Restaurant Week Dessert) with dark chocolate raspberry ganache and raspberry coulis. Nothing to write home about...actually, maybe it's the bastard cousin of their (former?) mouthwatering milk chocolate creme brulee. B-

The meal was most affordable. The above food, 3 non-alcoholic beverages, and tax came to $65. Despite the poor service--which I think warrants a brief comment to the daytime GM--we left a $15 tip for a total bill of $80. As someone who often gets excited about Restaurant Week and then finds himself ordering from the regular menu, I was happily surprised today's lunchtime offering.

Edited by LoganCircle
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just wanted to put in a few words in praise of the bar at Bistro Bis. Part of the year I work late in the evening and don't have a chance to have dinner until 10:30 or so. That's when I head to Bistro Bis and dig into their steak tartar, which is served with cornichons, grainy dijon, garlic potato chips, and a bit of frisee and other greens seaoned with a pinch of (I think) fleur-de-sel. The tartar is moist, perfectly seasoned with capers and a hint of onion, and cherry red. It's so good that it has prevented me from exploring other items routinely available on the bar menu, such as the smoked trout salad and the charcuterie and cheese plates. Wines by the glass are always good, especially the granache, which is a perfect chaser for the tartar (as is a martini, always well made at Bis). Service is smart and friendly. What's there not to like?

Edited to add: I'm not a dessert person, but I recently had a selection of petits fours after dinner last week with a glass of Malmsey. Exquisite.

Edited by Banco
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I loved Tony Burrell's food when he was at Gabriel and he has not lost anything with the move. The only problem I've ever had with Bistro Bis, and this is not a problem that most of you will relate to, is that they limit the corkage to two bottles per table. When four of us get together, we always bring more than two bottles.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just wanted to put in a few words in praise of the bar at Bistro Bis. Part of the year I work late in the evening and don't have a chance to have dinner until 10:30 or so. That's when I head to Bistro Bis ... a martini, always well made at Bis). Service is smart and friendly. What's there not to like?

a few years ago i also was a frequent late night patron of the bar at bistro bis. i regret that i don't get over there very frequently now, as i have very fond memories of the place. that was one of the few bars in the city where i felt comfotable ordering a sidecar and trusted that the bartender would make it correctly without me having to explain the drink. they have always had a very good bar staff.

in case anyone is wondering...

the sidecar was invented in france during wwI, and named after an american general who always rode in the sidecar of a motorcycle. the original recipe calls for 3 parts cognac, 1 part cointreau, the squeeze of two lemon wedges, and one lime wedge. shake vigorously, and serve straight up in a sugar rimmed cocktail glass (i consider this to be optional, and the best bartenders i have found either ask first or rim half the glass in sugar therefore offering the guest the option of each experience), and garnish with a lemon twist.

thusly made it a beautiful and refreshing drink that is far from the cloyingly sweet imitations offered by most bartenders.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

a few years ago i also was a frequent late night patron of the bar at bistro bis.  i regret that i don't get over there very frequently now, as i have very fond memories of the place.  that was one of the few bars in the city where i felt comfotable ordering a sidecar and trusted that the bartender would make it correctly without me having to explain the drink.  they have always had a very good bar staff.

in case anyone is wondering...

the sidecar was invented in france during wwI, and named after an american general who always rode in the sidecar of a motorcycle.  the original recipe calls for 3 parts cognac, 1 part cointreau, the squeeze of two lemon wedges, and one lime wedge.  shake vigorously, and serve straight up in a sugar rimmed cocktail glass (i consider this to be optional, and the best bartenders i have found either ask first or rim half the glass in sugar therefore offering the guest the option of each experience), and garnish with a lemon twist. 

thusly made it a beautiful and refreshing drink that is far from the cloyingly sweet imitations offered by most bartenders.

O-O-O-O-H! This sounds better than any "Side Car" I've ever had. On that note, I once met someone for a meal and she ordered a side car because, she said, that you can't use a mix to make one. Your recipe makes that logical.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The only problem I've ever had with Bistro Bis, and this is not a problem that most of you will relate to, is that they limit the corkage to two bottles per table.  When four of us get together, we always bring more than two bottles.

Hi,

this is indeed what the wine list says; however, in my experience, no requests to the manager to increase that allowance were ever unsatisfied. If you give us a call and tell the manager you want to bring more, I do believe they will work with you.

Edited by Nadya
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My date and I had a fantastic dinner at Bistro Bis on Saturday night. The only off note? The place was sort of empty (maybe 60% capacity at 8:15 pm).

I guess that's what happens on a rainy night in August. I'll post more details about the food soon.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi,

this is indeed what the wine list says; however, in my experience, no requests to the manager to increase that allowance were ever unsatisfied.  If you give us a call and tell the manager you want to bring more, I do believe they will work with you.

I will not that the last time I was at Bistro Bis the Somm. did a fantastic job!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bistro Bis was on point again last night. The Black lentil soup with squab breast and smoked bacon was the perfect fall dish to tuck into along with a great bottle of Burgundy. The Lamb was perfectly cooked even if the pumpkin gnocci could have used a bit let time in the water. Finally the cheese course is still my favorite in the city for uniqueness, quality and quanity. STELLAR.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I smell an off-line coming on...loved Chef's Burrell's food at Gabriel.

Unfortunately the corkage policy is a maximum of two bottles per table, though they did say they would work with us if we wanted to do it on a Monday or Tuesday night.

PS That off-line at Gabriel was one of the best ever wasn't it?

Edited by dinwiddie
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I received a request to define "off line" from another member so here goes:

Many of us who are wine fanatics (cork dorks, wine nerds, etc.) particpate in wineboards such as Wine Spectator's, vinocellar.com, etc. When those of us who meet and get to know each other online, get together in a restaurant or at someone's house for an inperson gathering, we refer to it as an "off line." I belong to a group here in the DC area that gets together about once a month at different restaurants. One of our "off lines" was at Gabriel, and a wonderful time was had by all. Of course, that was before Tony Burell left to go to Bistro Bis, so the food was fantastic (and Tony came out to meet us and share a glass of wine) the service first rate, and the evening long and memorable. The only reason we broke up the party was because some of us had to catch the last Metro home. If I remember correctly Chris W and bbq4me were also in attendance and had a great time (things did get a little fuzzy that night.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Firefly, Corduroy, Maestro, Cityzen, Circle Bistro, Notti Bianche, and Bistro Bis are all part of multiple location hotel corporations. Obviously a boycott is in order.

Eaten at Bistro Bis lately?

Bar service: great.

Wine list: great.

Cheeses: great.

Desserts: great.

Number of combovers: astonishing.

Food: horrible.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Eaten at Bistro Bis lately?

Bar service:  great.

Wine list:  great.

Cheeses:  great.

Desserts:  great.

Number of combovers:  astonishing.

Food:  horrible.

Heavens! I've had very good food there a few months ago. Has it changed so much since then?

Nadya, perhaps you need to rip Don a new one?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

well, current version of mussles are nicely spicy, and all who know me know I like spicy. I used the dollop of rouillet (prob spelled wrong again AND I DON'T CARE!) to butter my bread before I dunked it in the self decribed "mussle juice" mmmm, spicy. PS, nadya wasn't workin', but I had a suprise :lol: . Maybe some other night...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You know, I met a friend for drinks at Bistro Bis after she finished a long day at the office just a few weeks ago. She had a difficult time finding something to eat on the menu, finally choosing onion soup. I had eaten so I waited for desserts. Wanting something lite, little and to share all at the same time, I chose the cookie assortment. It was TERRIBLE. Not only was the presentation the pits, the cookies were not worth eating. Okay, I ate them anyway but... come on...

Edited by NCPinDC
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is an excerpt from an article in today's LA Times:

"Upscale restaurants have noticed a decided decrease in business. "It's been a tough beginning of the year," said Denis Sirieyf, maitre d' at La Colline, a French restaurant located two blocks from Senate office buildings.

Sirieyf, whose restaurant specializes in dishes such as sauteed calf's liver with fricasseed apples, said he checked with half a dozen other restaurants near Capitol Hill to see if they were having the same experience.

'They were not busy at all … I think [the lobbying scandal] will have a big impact.'"

Nadya, has there been a perceptible impact on the power lunch crowd at Bistro Bis due to the Abramoff scandal?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a day job so I am never there for lunch shift. I can check for you and report back. Off the top of my head, I don't see how the Abramoff scandal should be related to lunch traffic. They still need to eat, right? It's not like the Hill is the fine dining haven. There's us and Charlie Palmer's, and that's about it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The dip in lunches could have something to do with the Congressional recess of the last four weeks. It just hasn't been a busy time on the Hill.

People won't stop going to lunch, though. I've heard that many offices will be paying for their staff to go to lunches with lobbyists rather than not go at all. After all, lobbyists also give campaign contributions; offices don't want to sever that relationship altogether.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Joe worked with Chef Buben for a long time and was at the helm of our lunch shift before his appointment. I would like to point out that the lunch shift at Bis delivers a unique kind of pressure as a hundred-plus people descend on the place and want to sit down all at once and get out in an hour. It takes great skill and organization to do this, so I'm not surprised at Joe's move up.

He's also great to work with, always cheerful and composed, which is an underappreciated quality for a chef. I hope he makes an appearance here before too long.

Edited by Nadya
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Joe worked with Chef Buben for a long time and was at the helm of our lunch shift before his appointment.  I would like to point out that the lunch shift at Bis delivers a unique kind of pressure as a hundred-plus people descend on the place and want to sit down all at once and get out in an hour. It takes great skill and organization to do this, so I'm not surprised at Joe's move up.

He's also great to work with, always cheerful and composed, which is an underappreciated quality for a chef.  I hope he makes an appearance here before too long.

After Nadya's gracious introduction I figured I'd better post something or she'd refuse to talk to me at work. :lol:

My name is Joseph Harran I've been cooking professionally for the past 20 years in and around the DC area. I have been with Jeff Buben on and off for the last 13 years, starting at Vidalia about 6 months into the first year. I stayed there for 4 years then moved down to Raleigh, NC to open a restaurant that never happened. While in NC I worked at Bloomsbury Bistro for Chef/Owner John Toler. (If you're ever in NC please stop by and have a bite to eat and tell Chef John that I said to stop by and that I said hello.)

My job prior to Bis was at Bob Kinkeads Colvin Run Tavern in Vienna, Virginia. I'm pleased to have taken over the helm at the now 7 year Bis that shows no signs of slowing down. Next on my list is change the menu within the next month or so.

I'm getting married on February 18, 2006 so the menu change will probably happen after the whirlwind of the wedding and reception and 100+ family members and friends. So that's a little bit about me and I look forward to feeding and hearing from you good bad or indifferent.

Thanks, Jojo. Or as my spanish crew call me "yoyo"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So that's a little bit about me and I look forward to feeding and hearing from you good bad or indifferent.

Thanks, Jojo.  Or as my spanish crew call me "yoyo"

Welcome, Jojo. I can start by saying your Sweetbreads Zingara - pan-roasted veal sweetbreads with spinach, potato-leek gratin, tounge, truffles, and sauce zingara ($29) a couple weeks ago were out-of-this-world good. I love sweetbreads that are crispy on the outside, but still have that 'gooey umami ju-ju' in the middle (to quote a friend of mine), and these were perfectly executed.

Cheers,

Rocks

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the heads up !! I've never had shad roe and don't know if I'll get the time to grab some from you, but I appreciate your effort to take the time to notify the Rockwellians of an available seasonal item. It will make me take the time to experience your restaurant when I can. ( Not that Nadya didn't have me interested already )

BD

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A note from the back of the house......I got the 1st Shad Roe of the season in this morning(Tuesday). Any shad fans please stop by, I'll be running it for lunch and dinner for the next few days.

Mmmmmm, how are you preparing them?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A note from the back of the house......I got the 1st Shad Roe of the season in this morning(Tuesday). Any shad fans please stop by, I'll be running it for lunch and dinner for the next few days.

What timing! I was just mentioning to someone yesterday that I couldn't wait until shad roe starting popping up on menus again. See ya sometime this week (I just hope there's some left by the time I get there).
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What timing!  I was just mentioning to someone yesterday that I couldn't wait until shad roe starting popping up on menus again.  See ya sometime this week (I just hope there's some left by the time I get there).

Well after tonights service I had none left. But have no fear I have more on order for tomorrow (Thursday). So drop on by and get 'em while they're hot.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The shad roe sounds intriguing.

I had a nice breakfast at Bis last weekend. I usually take a friend out for breakfast for her birthday. She loves steak and eggs for breakfast, and Bis does that beautifully. She always enjoys it a lot.

I really like going to Bis for breakfast and brunch. I probably get there as much for that as for dinner. I wish there were more good places for breakfast on Capitol Hill.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The shad roe sounds intriguing.

I had a nice breakfast at Bis last weekend.  I usually take a friend out for breakfast for her birthday.  She loves steak and eggs for breakfast, and Bis does that beautifully.  She always enjoys it a lot.

I really like going to Bis for breakfast and brunch.  I probably get there as much for that as for dinner.  I wish there were more good places for breakfast on Capitol Hill.

Bis is my favorite place to dine before going to Sunday afternoon Nationals games. The brunch menu is wonderful, and they've never batted an eye at our casual dress and (well-behaved) children.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I often come to Bis for brunch myself. As much as I am opposed to pimping, I think our brunch is under-appreciated, possibly on account of too little foot traffic in that area. The deal we've been running for as long as I can remember is three courses (appetizer, main and dessert) for a little under $30. I think that's a good deal and a rather lot of food. Menu is here.

And we don't enforce a dress code, and particularly not at brunch. For dinner, most people wear business or business casual.

Edited by Nadya
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I often come to Bis for brunch myself. As much as I am opposed to pimping, I think our brunch is under-appreciated, possibly on account of too little foot traffic in that area. The deal we've been running for as long as I can remember is three courses (appetizer, main and dessert) for a little under $30. I think that's a good deal and a rather lot of food. Menu is here.
Nadya, is there a distinction drawn between breakfast and brunch on the weekends? I had noticed when checking the web site that it said breakfast on weekends ended at 10 and brunch started at 11:30. Is that accurate? I was wondering if you really did not do service between these hours. I guess I should have asked :lol:

When I was there last weekend, people near us were ordering that 3 course brunch and it was only about 10 AM or so.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nadya, is there a distinction drawn between breakfast and brunch on the weekends?  I had noticed when checking the web site that it said breakfast on weekends ended at 10 and brunch started at 11:30.  Is that accurate?  I was wondering if you really did not do service between these hours.  I guess I should have asked :lol:

When I was there last weekend, people near us were ordering that 3 course brunch and it was only about 10 AM or so.

To the best of my knowledge what you said is correct:

Breakfast service is 7 am to 10 am

Brunch service is 11.30 am to 3 pm both Saturday and Sunday.

Not sure why you overheard someone ordering three courses - I rarely work brunch so don't know that scene. One option is that perhaps they were eating at the bar area? Really, don't know. As far as I know, there's no service between 10 and 11.30 am except perhaps continental breakfast in the lounge. I will investigate and let you know.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thru my windows, it appears that the Hotel George is undergoing some significant renovations to its rooms.  Is Bistro Bis going to be renovated as well?  Not that it needs to be, just curious.

You are correct. The hotel itself is going through many changes. New carpet in all the rooms, 32" flat screen tv's, dvd players in all the rooms and a totally smoke free hotel starting in March I believe. Bistro Bis will be going totally smoke free at the beginning of 2007 I believe. As far as Bis is concerned, no major changes in the front of the house. I do have a few new kitchen items coming. A new double decker convection oven and a brand new hot window to handle all of the food that comes up during lunch, dinner and countless banquets. Joe

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To the best of my knowledge what you said is correct:

Breakfast service is 7 am to 10 am

Brunch service is 11.30 am to 3 pm both Saturday and Sunday.

Not sure why you overheard someone ordering three courses - I rarely work brunch so don't know that scene. One option is that perhaps they were eating at the bar area? Really, don't know. As far as I know, there's no service between 10 and 11.30 am except perhaps continental breakfast in the lounge. I will investigate and let you know.

Last season (I told you, I go to Nationals games :lol: ) I called about this on a Sunday morning, and was told that they would be happy to seat me at 11 for either Breafast or Brunch. Don't know if this was a one-time shot, or just unofficially the practice.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you are looking for a quiet spot to celebrate a birthday/anniversary etc., need some place classy because the parents are in town and they are paying, or a civilized start to a day at the museums, give serious consideration to brunch at Bistro Bis.

The restaurant is airy and modern without being stuffy, the fire place is warming, the menu is delicious, the $28.95 3 course prix fixe will fill you up, and being off the radar screen for brunch, you are guaranteed a spot.

Brunch starts with a wooden bowl of assorted biscuits and breads, both sweet and savory...and perhaps a mimosa if the mood strikes you. The onion soup had a rich onion broth and a thick layer of gooey gruyere cheese, perfect for a city dressed in snow. The trout salad was a real treat, delicate presentation with a scattering of frisée, fingerling potatoes, hard cooked egg, bacon, capers and crème fraîche remoulade. Quiche Lorraine (ask for it to be warmed up, not room temp) was quite excellent, the eggs a delicate but rich custard. And if you like your forced meats, check out the charcuterie plate, which comes with at least 4 different types of pates and terrines and a selection sausages.

Dessert are playfully plated, the white cholocate espresso bombe will fix your chocolate craving, while the poached pear bordelaise was delicious if you want a lighter ending. A perfect start to an afternoon of Cezanne.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's that time of year again when I often can't eat dinner until around 9:30, so I head to Bis to eat at the bar. I continued this tradition last night, which also helped assuage my envy of all you participants in the Corduroy double blowout. The place was fairly hopping, and Nadya greeted me with her characteristic charm.

Is it my imagination, or has the menu at Bis really taken off? There are few menus in DC that are so uncompromisingly and unapologetically French--a refreshing sight. Sweetbreads and other "variety meats" in particular seem to feature prominently. I took advantage of this apparent trend and ordered the Pied de Cochon, which was prepared as a terrine (gelatinous, unctuous and just downright porky) and then delicately breaded and fried. It was served with the light and savory frisée salad that accompanies a number of Bis' dishes. I'd like to take lessons from the prep cook who slices the chives, which are beautifully consistent pieces of millimeter-size confetti.

A Rhone Viognier suggested as a pairing with the pig feet was a good choice, and a reasonable one at under 8 bucks a glass.

Since I had just come from an opera rehearsal, I went against my usual dessert aversion and had the "gateau opera"--delicious layers of almond paste and ganache, garnished with an espresso gelée. It was beautifully executed, and despite its richness I veritably inhaled it. I guess this is how singers get fat. At any rate, it'll do me for a week or so.

Edited by Banco
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...