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Et Voila! French-Belgian Bistro in Palisades - Chef Claudio Pirollo on MacArthur Blvd and Dana Place


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We went tonight and had an excellent meal. Both chef/partners Claudio Pirollo and Mickael Cornu were there on Sunday night! Great pate, super mussels and a delicious gratin of prosciutto wrapped endive for starts. The rib-eye steaks were perfectly done. Charming service made the evening thouroughly enjoyable.

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We had an excellent late dinner at Et Voila tonight - our choices were basic bistro fare - steamed mussels in a garlic cream sauce for me and a green salad and hanger steak for my husband. The mussels were small and tender, and the cream sauce was not too heavy and was loaded with garlic. French fries were crispy and appeared to have been double fried. The salad had a light vinaigrette and came with garlic toast and goat cheese. The hanger steak was perfectly cooked to medium, with fingerling potatoes on the side. Bottled water and coffee brought the tab to $60. Service was friendly and the space, although small, is quite pretty.

We had only disappointing meals at the restaurant that was in this spot previously. We are glad to have this new addition to the neighborhood and definitely will be back.

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The tomato and beet salad was bliss. As was the tarte tatin. And after waiting a significant amount of time for our table, once seated we understood how it was that the table of women that had been camping there for 2.5+ hours didn't want to leave... service was very charming. As was the accent.

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The tomato and beet salad was bliss. As was the tarte tatin. And after waiting a significant amount of time for our table, once seated we understood how it was that the table of women that had been camping there for 2.5+ hours didn't want to leave... service was very charming. As was the accent.

He was cute, wasn't he? I'm happy to have followed Mark Slater's advice to go, but sorry to have waited until TS reviewed the place - they were slammed last Tuesday until about 9:30. Et Voila is a real gem. If the crowds die down it will be on frequent rotation for the porcupines.

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We went tonight and had an excellent meal.
We had an excellent late dinner at Et Voila tonight
The tomato and beet salad was bliss.
Et Voila is a real gem.

Count me as a dissenting vote. As promised, I returned to Et Voila this evening.

Frozen bread, crummy fries, forgettable mussels, a mediocre onglet - Et Voila is an overpriced neighborhood restaurant, no better than Kemble Park Tavern. Its one big strength is a good list of bottled Belgian beers.

Traditionally, it has been considered in poor form for one restaurant critic to review the work of another, but at what point does it become negligent not to do so?

If Tom Sietsema had a non-paying blog, he'd get a free pass, but the Washington Post restaurant critic has a fiduciary responsibility to the public, and to dole out 2.5 stars for nothing more than a decent neighborhood restaurant - which is a shadow of Belga Cafe, and much less interesting than Brasserie Beck - seems just plain wrong. How can Et Voila earn the same star rating as The Oval Room and Corduroy?

Am I a traitor for saying this? Tune in tomorrow at 4 PM.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Count me as a dissenting vote. As promised, I returned to Et Voila this evening.

Frozen bread, crummy fries, forgettable mussels, a mediocre onglet - Et Voila is an overpriced neighborhood restaurant, no better than Kemble Park Tavern. Its one big strength is a good list of bottled Belgian beers.

Traditionally, it has been considered in poor form for one restaurant critic to review the work of another, but at what point does it become negligent not to do so?

If Tom Sietsema had a non-paying blog, he'd get a free pass, but the Washington Post restaurant critic has a fiduciary responsibility to the public, and to dole out 2.5 stars for nothing more than a decent neighborhood restaurant - which is a shadow of Belga Cafe, and much less interesting than Brasserie Beck - seems just plain wrong. How can Et Voila earn the same star rating as The Oval Room and Corduroy?

Am I a traitor for saying this? Tune in tomorrow at 4 PM.

Cheers,

Rocks.

As long as you stick to what you believe in, have integrity and take pride in what you do....you'll never be wrong. The truth could be hard to say or hear, but it's better than the alternative. Cause you're keepin' it real. :lol:

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It is absurd to think that there is, or should be, a conspiracy of silence, an omertà, among people who style themselves journalists, or at least are part of the business of journalism. And yet, as you indicate, Don, there is a kind of cloying professional courtesy. For example, very few reporters are willing to say what a dud Gwen Ifill was on the VP debate. She failed to ask probing questions, didn't follow up, and generally acted like she was on sedatives. Only James Fallows of The Atlantic had the gumption to point that out. For your part, you must exercise your critical faculties wherever they lead you. Pulling your punches on one aspect of the dining industry disqualifies you from commenting on any other.

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I had lunch there for the first time last weekend, and, based on that one experience, must tentatively agree with Don: The mussels were ok but nothing special; the fries and waffles very disappointing.

Count me as a dissenting vote. As promised, I returned to Et Voila this evening.

Frozen bread, crummy fries, forgettable mussels, a mediocre onglet - Et Voila is an overpriced neighborhood restaurant, no better than Kemble Park Tavern. Its one big strength is a good list of bottled Belgian beers.

Traditionally, it has been considered in poor form for one restaurant critic to review the work of another, but at what point does it become negligent not to do so?

If Tom Sietsema had a non-paying blog, he'd get a free pass, but the Washington Post restaurant critic has a fiduciary responsibility to the public, and to dole out 2.5 stars for nothing more than a decent neighborhood restaurant - which is a shadow of Belga Cafe, and much less interesting than Brasserie Beck - seems just plain wrong. How can Et Voila earn the same star rating as The Oval Room and Corduroy?

Am I a traitor for saying this? Tune in tomorrow at 4 PM.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I think that space is cursed. When we moved to the nabe in 1996, it was a breakfast and lunch joint where you could go in and buy fresh bagels to take home on Sunday morning. That made sense, but they gave up. The space was empty for a long time, as I recall. And then a series of meh sorts of restaurants have tried to make a go of it.

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I had lunch there for the first time last weekend, and, based on that one experience, must tentatively agree with Don: The mussels were ok but nothing special; the fries and waffles very disappointing.

Interesting.

The speculoos ice cream is the single best flavor of ice cream I have had on this side of the Atlantic in a restaurant. Excepting Berthillion's prune and armagnac in Paris this is a extraordinary dessert and probably the best flavor I have had anywhere. With cinnamon, cloves, ginger and brown sugar, for me, it is reason alone to discover the softly lit twelve foot wide dining room which feels exactly like Brugges is outside the door.

Et Voila's appetizer mussels, with Pastis, saffron and thick slices of fresh garlic and cherry tomatoes are the best moules I have had in the D. C. area. Outstanding. Just truly exceptional. Far more flavorful than Beck's, Central, Cafe du Parc and a host of others.

Modest disappointment with the scallops and rib eye; very good butternut squash soup, good chocolate mousse but again, all in an ambience that feels for all the world that a walled or a city with a moat is just outside the door. For Et Voila you need not cross an Ocean to experience a very good, local Belgian bistro with at least several exceptional dishes.

Worthy of its stars.

___________________

Addendum: this is a recipe for speculoos ice cream - http://onfoodandwine.wordpress.com/2007/03...n-le-speculoos/

I have not found a recipe for the ice cream on the web. But using this as a base I will make it. Just incredibly flavorful ice cream.

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Brunch yesterday at Et Voila was very worthwhile. My Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon was just absolutely delicious, smothered in a creamy, just perfectly lemony hollandaise. We tried the charcuterie plate and the pate was ample and flavorful.

I tasted the moules et frites and was impressed--the mussels were very clean and done simply.

Topped off with a bloody mary, it was a great pre-holiday brunch with friends. We'll be back for dinner some night, hopefully soon.

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Weird. My dining companion had a beef stew that while tender was bland. My shortribs, however, were above par - spaetzle and cauliflower puree under it adding a creamy counterpoint to the rich meat. How could two fairly similar dishes be so disparate? Fresh asparagus soup special made you wonder if the "no cream" was a fib. But $93 for an otherwise modest dinner (soup, salad, two beers and glass of wine along with aforementioned entrees) at a little cafe in the 'hood. Yikes.

That said, service was very sweet and kind and attentive from the manager to the busboy. And compared to the chain-like feel of Kemble Tavern across the street this place may not be Brasserie Beck but it is a charmer.

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Count me in with the fans. Have enjoyed my two dinners at Et Voila immensely. Outstanding and flavorful hanger steak and excellent moules. The frites have been exemplar. Have also been delighted to find a Saumur red on the wine list-- not often found in the DC area and well worth it. Service has been welcoming and capable. The one caveat is that this is a small space that can feel cramped on busy evenings. Et Voila is a terrific addition to the MacArthur Boulevard dining scene.

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It's taken us a while to try this place, since we so rarely go out, even in our neighborhood. But we were driving by, it was late and we were hungry and I insisted we stop to see if we could get a table. Every table was full and two larger parties were already waiting, but it only took 10 minutes for a two-top to open up for us. It was extremely noisy, which didn't do good things for our mood, but that was soon turned around when the moules and frites, at $16 per order, were delivered. Jonathan had the creamy, garlicky preparation and I had "moules pastis" made with leeks, cherry tomatoes, a little bit of garlic and a lot of Ricard. Both versions were really good, with Jonathan's sauce being the better or the two. After a while, the sweetness of the pastis became a bit cloying, but the mussels themselves were exceedingly fresh, plump, juicy and abundant. The frites were hot, fried in fresh-tasting oil, crisp outside and fluffy inside. The bread was good--I dipped mine in the abundant broth of Jonathan's pot of mussels. The beer and cotes du rhone were both good. We had plenty to eat without ordering a first course or dessert, and got out of there for $54. The verdict from hewhocanoftenbeafussbudget: "I'll come back here again."

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I went into Et Voila last night looking forward to a nice meal at a good neighborhood restaurant, and got exactly what I was hoping for ... and then some.

There seems to be a French Connection going on here between the fibrous place mats (Victor at Silver Spoon?) the stemware (Jean-Philippe at Kruko?), and many of the wines (Olivier Daubresse at Vinifrance Imports). And I'll take a wine like the 2005 Chateau de Villeneuve Saumur-Champigny any day of the week. A lot of people know about Chinon, but I believe this wine is also Cab Franc based, and at $28 a bottle, is as good a red wine as you're going to find in a restaurant. It will go extremely well with many of Et Voila's dishes, and in fact carried through the entire dinner. The great 2005 vintage speaks strongly in this bottle, which was so good I ordered a second one, our gracious server packaging most of it "to go." I'm looking forward to another glass of this tonight.

The bread here remains problematic, with too doughy of a mie, and a cracker-hard crust from reheating; and the butter (frozen (which is fine), but bland (which isn't)) doesn't help. This bread needs to be dunked into a vat of mussels, soaking up the broth, but I just wasn't in the mood for mussels last night. (Incidentally, Didier, who you might remember from Montmartre and Adour, highly recommended both of the mussel appetizers (the casserole, and the gratiné). I know him very well as a diner, and have learned to respect and trust his recommendations - so you might want to give these a try.)

La terrine de campagne de mon ami "papi" et sa garniture ($10.50) is an excellent, finely blended pate served with an equally good red-onion compote and interesting greens. At $10.50, this was a frustratingly small portion, however, and really needs to be at least 50% larger.

Croquettes aux fromages (Chimay, Emmenthal et parmesan) ($12.00) came out looking like two ingots of fried mozzarella (!). Darkly breaded and large, the filling was more enjoyable than the visual, puffed up into almost a soufflé-like consistency, maybe by the addition of some potato, and also served with some high-quality greens. I'm glad I ordered this, but might not get it a second time - again, this is a fairly expensive appetizer for what it is.

An argument broke out at our table about the Truite grille et sa fondue de poireaux, crevettes grises et sauce Hoegaarden ($19.50), which I enjoyed for it's checkered grilling and sauce (which, surprisingly, was finished in a foam); my counterpoint felt the dish was overtly salty, especially the leeks, and did not enjoy the smokey character of the fish as much as I did.

By all means, order the Plat de côe Spätzle et mousseline de choux-fleurs ($18.00) with your Saumur-Champigny, a delicious bowl of properly (i.e., long) braised short ribs, with an inspired combination of (pan-fried?) Spätzle and cauliflower mousse. Not only would I get this dish again, I'm actually craving it. Right! Now!

Desserts may have been the highlight of the meal. Tarte Tatin avec sa Glace í  la Hoegaarden ($8.00) was an interesting take on an apple tarte tatin - not the caramelized version you might be expecting, but more pure and less intense, with a focus on the apple. It's accompanied by an outstanding Hoegaarden beer ice cream which is, needless to say, homemade. I LOVE Profiteroles ($8.00), but usually only in theory because they're almost always bad - the majority of versions use dried-out choux pastry (more like "shoe pastry") and something dangerously close to pourable Hershey's syrup; not here. A masterful rendition of profiteroles, with everything as it's supposed to be, right down to the homemade ice cream and almost Mexican-tasting Belgian chocolate syrup.

It's restaurants like Et Voila that give a city fiber and character - whenever you hear someone from NYC grumbling about the lack of good, casual, neighborhood places to dine in DC, this is exactly what they're talking about. It was packed last night, and deserved to be.

Cheers,
Rocks.

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We took my visiting BIL and SIL in for lunch today. I had the moules with blue cheese and cream, and I have now had four different preparations, and this one is my favorite. It had lots of garlic, as well as a broth that wasn't overly rich or cheesy, but full of complex flavor. As we were finishing up, at about 2:30, Roberto Donna and Michel Richard came in and sat down at a table. I asked the hostess/waitress if it was intimidating to cook for them, and she said "They are friends of ours." I asked Roberto how things were going with his schedule and he said that they were still on track to open in late October. They were both in good spirits, interacting with another customer's cute little three or four-year old girl, and teasing each other. At one point Michel brandished his knife as if he were going to use it to deflate Roberto's prominent belly.

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I have lived in the Palisades for twenty years and over that period of time the space where Et Voila is now located has been occupied by a dismal array of mediocre and sometimes pretentious restaurants. Then along came Et Voila and the rest is history. I took a friend of mine there for dinner three months ago. He has an apartment in Paris. He told me if he didn't know any better he would have thought he was at a bistro in the 7th Arrondissement. The owners, managers and chefs all make the experience of dining there a real pleasure. My wife and I often will just drop in for brunch on a weekend. Dinner on weekends is a mob scene so we tend to do dinner during the week. Is the food spectacular? No, but it is a fun place to get a good meal with a very Gallic twist. The enthusiasm of the staff and their obvious caring for the clientele make this place such a success.

I note that our genial mentor, Mr. Rockwell, has come around and if I read him correctly in his last post on the subject he now shares my enthusiasm for this neighborhood gem.

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I have lived in the Palisades for twenty years and over that period of time the space where Et Voila is now located has been occupied by a dismal array of mediocre and sometimes pretentious restaurants. Then along came Et Voila and the rest is history. I took a friend of mine there for dinner three months ago. He has an apartment in Paris. He told me if he didn't know any better he would have thought he was at a bistro in the 7th Arrondissement. The owners, managers and chefs all make the experience of dining there a real pleasure. My wife and I often will just drop in for brunch on a weekend. Dinner on weekends is a mob scene so we tend to do dinner during the week. Is the food spectacular? No, but it is a fun place to get a good meal with a very Gallic twist. The enthusiasm of the staff and their obvious caring for the clientele make this place such a success.

I note that our genial mentor, Mr. Rockwell, has come around and if I read him correctly in his last post on the subject he now shares my enthusiasm for this neighborhood gem.

I haven't lived in the Palisades quite as long as you have (13 years for me), but I share your sentiments about past and current denizens of this oddly shaped space. (Although it was nice, back when we first moved to DC, to have a place to go in the neighborhood to get bagel on Sunday morning.) If Et Voila we just a little bit less expensive, we'd be there more frequently.

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Taking advantage of a snow-triggered no-school day, my daughter and I and her 2 girls had lunch at Et Voila on Wednesday. My daughter and I both had French Onion Soup and the girls had the Et Voila Burger with frites. Actually, they even split that order. So we didn't plumb the depths of the menu at all. But everything we had was top notch and our experience was made especially pleasant by the charming and efficient waiter who cajoled the girls into speaking French with him and then presented them with Chocolate Mousse as a reward. The mousse, by the way, was dark and delicious!

My only complaint about the restaurant is that it is a long narrow space which is very noisy. Don't know how they might ameliorate that problem.

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Taking advantage of a snow-triggered no-school day, my daughter and I and her 2 girls had lunch at Et Voila on Wednesday. My daughter and I both had French Onion Soup and the girls had the Et Voila Burger with frites. Actually, they even split that order. So we didn't plumb the depths of the menu at all. But everything we had was top notch and our experience was made especially pleasant by the charming and efficient waiter who cajoled the girls into speaking French with him and then presented them with Chocolate Mousse as a reward. The mousse, by the way, was dark and delicious!

My only complaint about the restaurant is that it is a long narrow space which is very noisy. Don't know how they might ameliorate that problem.

Try to sit towards the front near the bar.

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Taking advantage of a snow-triggered no-school day, my daughter and I and her 2 girls had lunch at Et Voila on Wednesday.

...

presented them with Chocolate Mousse as a reward. The mousse, by the way, was dark and delicious!

That same evening I tried to go to Hook (yes, JU, I'm eager to try it again!), couldn't find parking at 6:10, noted that Georgetown Cupcake (old location) was loading up a UPS truck with boxes to deliver (to their new location), gave up, drove to BlackSalt, then decided to keep going all the way up to Et Voila.

So I had dinner at Et Voila, and also ordered that wonderful Mousse for dessert. As you say, it was dark and delicious, made doubly so by the chocolate BBs sprinkled on top. The only thing that kept the meal from being flawless was an overcooked piece of rockfish (in an otherwise-fine prep); I preferred the salmon, especially at the price. The charcuterie is purchased, but very good and it works well for two to share as an app.

I had a conversation with Didier that only a few people will appreciate. I ordered a glass of Chinon, and thought I recognized it. He came by to ask me how it was.

"Is this Givry?"

With a look of dismissal, he said, "Non! Givry is Pinot Noir!"

"No, I mean Laurent Givry, the importer."

"Oh! Yes, it is!" he said, before walking away, smiling.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I had dinner last Monday and I thought it was the best bistrot food in the city with Central.

Everything is good quality and well prepared.

The French fries are great, the profiterolles are perfect, the mussels great and the beet salad perfectly seasoned.

I was looking for a regular spot not far from my house, I just found it.

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Et Voila! has crepes Suzette on the menu. When I was a little kid I thought crepes Suzette was the epitome of sophistication, not to mention delicious. And here they are. My notions of sophistication have changed over the years, but I'm still tickled whenever I see crepes Suzette on a menu. And they were delicious: rich, buttery, orangey, caramely... I think I'll go there tonight just for dessert.

eta: crepes Suzette only available at Sunday brunch.

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Very good short ribs last night at Et Voila! Mussels mariniere, with a garlic and white wine sauce, had a touch of rosemary or something we could do without. Would prefer a touch more garlic instead. But we're purists with mussels. These were fairly large and juicy. Nice cheese plate for dessert.

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Met friends here last night after a disappointing dinner at K Town Bistro recently. The only thing the two places have in common is the font on the menu. Et Voila! is still a warm, charming restaurant with delicious bistro classics, and a good beer list. Hanger steak was perfectly cooked, with an addictive green peppercorn sauce. Beef carbonnade was rich, tender, deeply flavored. New on the menu (or maybe I've never noticed it before): mussel burger, a patty made of chopped mussels and served like a hamburger. Desserts haven't changed much. This is just a wonderful little restaurant, a perfect "I don't feel like cooking" or last-minute "let's meet friends for a late dinner" kind of place. Actually, it's a lot better than that. DC needs more restaurants at this level.

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Don't want to sound like a shill, but Et Voila continues to be a fantastic little bistro. DC would be a more respected food-city if every neighborhood had a place of this quality and ambiance. Another great meal last night - beef bourguignon on pappardelle is new on the menu (I think). Still a great Belgian beer list. The bread is much better than when Don first posted about it. (also, Don, those "fibrous place mats" are by chilewich.) Sadly the wonderful chocolate mousse is still contaminated by those little étrons lapin, but as I seem to be the only person in the entire Metro area bothered by that, never mind. I just hope that it isn't Michel Richard's sole lasting contribution to the DC food scene. That and riffs on the kit-kat bar... Anyway, one beer, one iced tea, one appetizer, two entrees, one dessert, and one coffee came to 70-ish dollars (before tip), which really is a good value for the quality of food. (Come to think of it, the onglet is about the same price as Ray's hanger steak, though it comes with a little salad and (excellent) frites rather than mini skillets of mashed potatoes and spinach.)

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Finally made it here last Sunday, we brought my Mom here for her birthday. They were in town from Philadelphia and my Dad is somewhat of a food snob and is rarely pleased with a meal. He just called me and he was still talking about how great his dinner was last week.

Between the 6 of us we had:

Red and yellow Heirloom Beet Salad with Crumbled Bleu Cheese and Toasted Pecan Nuts

Baked Snails with Garlic Butter and Toasted Bread

Parmesan and Passendal Cheeses Croquettes, Green Salad

French Onion Soup Topped with Baked Gruyère Cheese

Baked Mussels

Flemish beef stew simmered in dark beer, served with Belgium fries

Hanger Steak (Origin: Vintage Farm, Wisconsin) with Green Peppercorn Sauce served with Belgium Fries and Salad

Everything we had was excellent as was the service. Although not a cheap outing once you through in the wine and desserts but we all left very full and happy.

Need to get back here to try the mussel burger - looks interesting.

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Went to dinner here last Monday night and thought that they did a great job. Took the GF here, as every Monday we try to go to a new restaurant that we havent been to before. It is a small, intimate restaurant, with a 4 seat bar right at the entrance that I would never want to sit at becuase it is right in the doorway...while im sure it has its regulars, it would drive me nuts to sit there and deal with people coming and going all the time. If you dont like being seated very close to others while you dine, this is not the place for you. They do the best to maximize the space that they have...I'm not detracting from the place in any way...just saying its tight.

We ordered a bottle of Cotes Du Rhone-$30, escargot, onion soup and mussels to start...then had filet of Branzino and Coq au Vin, followed by a Macaroon stuffed with Nutella :rolleyes: Total was $126 plus tip I have to say that everything was quite good and there were no glitches or uncleaned plates. Service was friendly and spot on...Anne was our server/manager/hostess..and she rocked. This place will become a regular rotation for us and I cannot recommend enough.

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Et Voila packs a lot of charm into a little space, and we thought the prices were very reasonable, especially as other Belgian restaurants tend to be grossly overpriced. The areas we thought could really use some attention were both temperature related - steaks done beyond the requested temperatures, certain items (bière, mayonnaise) served too cold. The greens in the salad accompanying the onglet were excellent, and I liked the frites. It was tempting to spoon up every bit of the fennel cream sauce at the bottom of the moules de l'année. I thought the bread service was fine; it's hard to find a great loaf in DC, so at least this one had a decent texture.

Will have to reserve judgement on dessert until I've tried some more. My classic apple crumble had a lot going for it, but the crust seemed to be 30% cinnamon and 110% sugar, half-caramelized, and made for a cloying finish...and some of you know what a sweet tooth I have.

Would I return? Absolutely...these are only quibbles, not gripes. The totality of our meal was quite nice, and the atmosphere of the place is a big plus. Besides, I haven't tried their waffle yet.

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The areas we thought could really use some attention were both temperature related - steaks done beyond the requested temperatures

FWIW I've ordered the onglet several times in the past several months, and if anything it's been a bit cooler than requested (medium rare).

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'Twas the perfect spot to take my niece for her 21st belated bday celebration. Having just returned from a year abroad, she decided she missed the food and beer in Europe and wanted a taste of it again. And Et Voila delivered.

For starters, both my sister and her daughter enjoyed the tomato soup, and hubby and I both had the beet salad. The beets were sweet and fresh,not too earthy. Niece and and I both had mussels, but I can't recall the exact one she ordered. I had the Moules au Bleu, which I was hoping would not be too rich, and it wasn't. It was a nice balance of flavors with not too much cheese or cream. As others have noted, the mussels are quite good, and all of us really liked the frites. Deceivingly looked as if they would be limp, but instead they were quite crispy on the outside and fluffy soft on the inside.My sister had trout almondine and hubby had coq au vin. Both enjoyed their dishes as well. Leffe to drink for my niece, and a nice Dunkel to share.

We really were too full for dessert but decided we had to try them so we shared, and finished, two tasty dishes: an insanely chocolately rich mousse and an apple crumble with speculos ice cream.

I've always shied away from heading to this part of town. Not sure why...maybe because I thought it would be too difficult to find parking. But I now know that I will definitley be back again. Next visit I plan to try the scallops!

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A chicon au gratin of ham-wrapped Belgian endive smothered with baked Gruyere and bechamel really hit the spot on an unusually raw evening tucked into a relentless march of hot and humid summer days. This dish is largely about the sauce, when you are in the mood for something gooey and not especially subtle. Even so, it's not as heavy as you might expect, leaving room for a moules burger. Mashed mussels cohere into a nice patty that moistens the bun. It's not messy but is perhaps too easy to wolf down, one of my favorite recent burgers. It's almost up there with the hamburger at Mintwood Place, which has come into its own since the restaurant opened and demonstrates the differences in cooking styles between these two kitchens with a sandwich that is so packed it's hard to avoid smearing it onto your face and hands. (El Voila's medium-rare onglet was at the correct temperature, impeccable.)

There have also been peach Melbas to compare between the two restaurants. Et Voila's version with ice cream and a simple vanilla syrup is on the reticent side and the peaches were a bit lacking in flavor and sweetness. Mintwood, on the other hand, included berries and cake (if I recall correctly) and was easily enough to sate two healthy appetites even at the end of a light meal, which is not what you get here. This may be the height of the peach season, but it's a tricky business getting the ripeness that shows them at their best. I have a problem sometimes just keeping them from exploding in the bag in the short trip from the farmer's market to home. (Fiola recently solved the peach problem by deconstructing its Melba, concentrating the flavor in a sorbet, and leaving only a small residual slice of peach as a reference point.)

Et Voila's dame blanche falls into the common chocolate fudge sundae family, but the chocolate sauce is extraordinarily good with vanilla ice cream.

An Alsacian grappa (Massenez gewurztraminer) is a good excuse to linger at your table until the next D bus back to town is due. (They run about every 30 minutes in off-peak hours but seem reliable.) The marc is only $12 a glass but almost as good and just as fortifying as the $18 Poli pinot noir that is hard to resist at Fiola.

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The "mussel burger" (Burger de Moules, Sauce Aioli et ses Chips de Patates Douces) is a really really good thing. It is like the sophisticated cousin of an oyster poorboy; it gives that same blast of ocean funk in a sandwich format, and some fried onions add nicely to the texture. Very nice.

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Though I don't go as often as I should - it is 5-6 minutes from my house - this restaurant always delivers. Last night the onion soup was spectacular. Rich, complex (beef?) broth, and a perfect balance of broth, cheese, onion and crouton made this one of the better soups I have had this year.

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Though I don't go as often as I should - it is 5-6 minutes from my house - this restaurant always delivers. Last night the onion soup was spectacular. Rich, complex (beef?) broth, and a perfect balance of broth, cheese, onion and crouton made this one of the better soups I have had this year.

If you go, from October 2008, "The speculoos ice cream is the single best flavor of ice cream I have had on this side of the Atlantic in a restaurant. Excepting Berthillion's prune and armagnac in Paris this is a extraordinary dessert and probably the best flavor I have had anywhere. With cinnamon, cloves, ginger and brown sugar, for me, it is reason alone to discover the softly lit twelve foot wide dining room which feels exactly like Brugges is outside the door."

I am a huge fan of Et Voila.

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Out of the many times I've visited Et Voila! in the past, two things really stuck out on my most recent visit:

1) Claudio Pirollo is not merely Belgian; he's also half Italian - there are numerous Italian influences on this menu.

2) Et Voila! is greatly missing the departure three years ago of co-founder Mickael Cornu, the co-owner/pasty chef.

I began my meal with that rare beer which makes me want to find where to buy it at retail, that refreshing beauty with slightly more malt than hops, and an ABV in the 5-6% range - an amber, medium-bodied, session beer (at least in terms of today's definitions) that is quenching and perfect for a hot day. A bottle of Palm ($7) isn't going to win any awards, but it's what *I* want to drink on a regular basis, and I would love to find out who's distributing it in this area. I want Palm as my "house" beer.

But Chef Pirollo's cooking deserves wine, not beer, and so I got a bottle of 2014 Cháteau Montaut Rosé ($28), a Côes de Provence from the town of Pierrefeu du Var, in the Department of the Var (Cedric Maupillier's boyhood department in distal Southeast France - Cedric is currently the Chef de Cuisine at Mintwood). This wine is less than a year off-vine, and was so new that even though it was an extremely pale, very dry Rosé, it maintained an almost sticky-fresh bouquet of fruits, and needless to say, went perfectly with both of my first courses.

I was brought a small bucket with four pieces of sliced bread which I very much doubt was made in-house. It seemed par-baked and frozen (you know "that" texture that these breads have - a bit firmer towards the crust, a slightly "off" flavor and texture, and never really perfect anywhere in the slice. Well, I'm used to it in these parts, so it doesn't bother me, but when you have an in-house pastry chef (I actually hadn't yet realized that Mickael Cornu was no longer at the restaurant), this is not something that you want to see. The butter was in a nearly frozen rectangle (ice-cold butter doesn't bother me in the least, and I just don't understand why it bothers some people - break off a little piece of bread, cut off a little piece of butter, put it on the bread with your knife, and there you go. You don't need to butter the entire piece at the same time, and I'm not sure why people think you do - I rather like the contrast in textures and temperatures with warm bread and cold butter.)

At this point, it is extremely rare when I see a European dish on a menu that I've never had before (in Asian restaurants, this still happens fairly often). But I believe that I'd never before had, and quite possibly have never before seen, or even heard of, Tartare de Truite ($13.50 - the online menu's prices are out-of-date), Trout Tartare (!), with some blots of black-olive tapenade, a beautiful rectangle of tomato gelée atop the loaf of tartare, and some leaves of máche as garnish (which they call a "Mache Salad" on the menu, but it's not). What a great dish this was, both in presentation, freshness, and flavor - this dish alone is enough to earn something close to permanent respect for Chef Pirollo, and I urge curious diners to go here and try this. My server told me this is a river trout from Virginia, and that makes sense because although it was cut into small pieces, and appropriately dressed, it tasted like it was just pulled from the water. I'm pretty sure this was a first for me. Bravo, Chef.

For my main course, Rockfish Filet ($27.50), a thinly sliced, skin-on, slice of pan-seared wild rockfish that had me, upon first glance, dubiously asking my server if he was sure this was rockfish. Well, it was, and it was absolutely delicious - the truth is: I hadn't had well-prepared, wild rockfish in awhile, and I'm not used to seeing it look this beautiful. The skin was perfectly crisped, and the meat underneath was moist, tender, and just wonderful. It was served atop a slightly too-hot Caponatta (a Sicilian version of Ratatouille, although I'm uncertain this was a traditional recipe (it was covered by the fish, and hard to dissect; plus I was enjoying my dish so much that I didn't want to)), three rectangles of Barbajuanwhich is essentially "fried ravioli," these being stuffed with a trivial amount of ricotta, the entire dish with a small amount of Caponatta jus as a base (not poured on top). Yes, this was somewhat expensive for a relatively small piece of rockfish, but the quality was extremely high, and this dish was worth every penny. Again, I emphasize that both of these courses went beautifully with my $28 bottle of Rosé, of which I drank half, and took the rest home - you'll be doing well here if you do the same thing with this wine - it's less expensive by the bottle, and you don't need to finish the entire thing at the restaurant. Note also the Italian overtones in this dish with the Caponatta and Barbajuan - almost everyone assumes that Et Voila is a Belgian restaurant, but it's more of a Belgian-Italian hybrid, and that is to its advantage, giving its cuisine a richer depth of flavors and giving the chef a larger palette to work with.

I wish I could say my dinner - wonderful up until this point - had a happy ending, but the Profiteroles Choux Pastry Balls ($9) that I've had, and raved about, several times in the past here, were shockingly disappointing, and it was at this point in the meal when I knew that Mickael Cornu was no longer at the restaurant. At one point during the dessert course, I mustered the courage to asked my server, "When did the pastry chef leave here?", not even knowing for sure that he did. "Oh, you mean Mike, the co-owner?" he replied. "Yes," I said. "About three years ago," he told me, and sure enough, when I got home that evening. I've certainly been here at least once in the past three years, but this was just glaring. The choux were very good - good enough where they could have been made in-house, but other than that? This was nothing I couldn't have made myself at home, and I say that with deep lamentation in my voice, because even though Profiteroles is a dessert that kids in France can find in bowling alleys (seriously), here, they were a thing of wonderment - with this astounding, dark, chocolate sauce (not syrup; sauce) atop the little French ice-cream sandwiches. The ice cream in this rendition was freezing cold, overly dense, and smelled like Häagen-Dazs, but *not* the Häagen-Dazs of old; the industrialized, sell-out Häagen-Dazs of today which is no better than numerous store-bought ice creams you can find at your local 7-11. This was not good ice cream, and the chocolate syrup (not sauce; syrup) tasted like something that came out of a plastic squirt bottle. Make no mistake, this wasn't a "bad" Profiteroles; it just wasn't "the best Profiteroles you could possibly hope to find in the entire Washington, DC area," which is something that Et Voila could have claimed for many years. Surprisingly, their menu boasts a Pastry Chef: the ironically named Alex Malaise (I apologize, Chef Malaise, that was a super-cheap low blow - for all I know you're on vacation, and this has absolutely nothing to do with you (and that would also explain the bread, which could have been made in advance and frozen), but please be aware that I noticed in a big way, and I didn't even realize that any changes had been made).

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Before I received my rockfish, I asked if I could get a couple carryout items for lunch the next day - things that would keep well overnight - and I specifically said not to worry about presentation. So I ordered a Salade de Betteraves Rouges ($10.50) which came with two or three types of chopped, bite-sized, heirloom red beets, caramelized pear (which was either not included, or was such an afterthought that I might have mistaken it for a beet cube), toasted pecan nuts (which I didn't notice were there until I read the menu afterwards, and sure enough, I found a tiny one), and goat cheese gelée which were lovely, small cubes of feather-light, pillow-like goat cheese that had an almost gnocchi-like texture. It came with a plastic tub of a dark, reddish-brown, thickened, vinegar based dressing, and (forgetting the presentation) was just too expensive for what I got - had I ordered it in-house and received the standard presentation, I would probably think differently. And I also think that it isn't fair for a diner in a restaurant, in this situation, to be overly critical when ordering carryout - it's not what the staff is trained to do, and they essentially did me a favor by making it.

Also for carryout, a Páté de Campagne ($9.95) which is always good at Et Voila. Enrobed with a strip of charcuterie that I want to say is caul fat, but it's not - it's more like a fatty strip of meat without any webbing. This is a good, clearly house-made páté, laced with pistachios, and served with all the trimmings: cornichons, pickled cauliflower, a small green salad, and a slice of grilled bread to go along with the standard bread-basket slices. This came with the exact same dressing that the beet salad came with, and I'm not the biggest fan - it's a bit overpowering on the vinegar end of the spectrum. This isn't a páté that you'll remember for very long after the meal is over, but it's always reliable here, if not exciting. If you like Páté de Campagne, you won't go wrong in ordering this.

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ETA: Oh, wow, I just read my Jan 22, 2012 Minibite, and I mentioned the bread there, too. So this wasn't the first time I noticed - I didn't realize this until just this moment.

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Went for dinner on Saturday, June 3 for belated birthday and research for a forthcoming project. 

Food: Salade d'Endives BelgeMoules Diablo FritesCavatelli au Confit D'Agneau (pictured), Cavatelli and Salmon (special), and macaroons (white chocolate, lemon, green tea).

Drink: Francois le Saint Calcaire Sancerre (2015)  

Everything except the cavatelli are things i would happily order again. Macaroons were tasty but waaay to rich to finish at that point (6 per order). Server pointed us to the right bottle for the meal given our preferences.

18921000_10101682629394027_7664953188183432841_o.jpg

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