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January 2004: Jean-Michel

Jean-Michel proves civilized doesn’t have to mean stodgy. This salmon-and-beige dining room is the place for updated French classics. Catering largely to couples who dress for dinner, Jean-Michel manages to combine Gallic sensibility with American ease. O

Jean-Michel proves civilized doesn't have to mean stodgy. This salmon-and-beige dining room is the place for updated French classics. Catering largely to couples who dress for dinner, Jean-Michel manages to combine Gallic sensibility with American ease. Owner Jean-Michel Farret keeps an eye on the well-run dining room, where you can rediscover old loves like snails in puff pastry or nibble on new-wave shiitake mushroom ProvenÃßale.

Salads of mesclun and goat cheese, and endive with walnuts and bleu cheese, are beautifully dressed and worth ordering—before or after the entrée. And there are other pleasures. Parsley sauce gives new life to salmon. Grilled Dover sole glistens under its dribble of choron. The lightest of cream sauces envelops lobster flamed with whisky, while a special of quenelles, those airy ovals of seafood mousse, might well be the best in the area.

Beyond seafood are plates like New York strip steak with wine-and-shallot sauce, Maple Leaf Farms roast duck with raspberry sauce, and meaty venison chops with an earthy chestnut purée. Desserts are sublime: a melting apple tart with house-made caramel ice cream, profiteroles drizzled with chocolate sauce, and house-made sorbets in offbeat flavors like green apple, passionfruit, and white peach.

Jean-Michel, 10223 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda; 301-564-4910. Open Monday through Friday for lunch, daily for dinner.

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