September, 2004: L'Oustalet

With a Proven├žal name meaning "small house" and a menu of regional French classics, L'oustalet evokes the country restaurants of France.

By: Cynthia Hacinli

With a Provençal name meaning "small house" and a menu of regional French classics, L'oustalet (302 King Farm Blvd., Rockville; 301-963-3400) evokes the country restaurants of France. Chef/owner Marcel Bernard, formerly of Les Halles in downtown DC and La Miche in Bethesda, has renovated the space once occupied by the Turkish-Russian eatery Kuzine. Creamy walls with wooden battens give the 48-seat dining room a country-French feel.

The dinner menu, with entrées from $16.50 to $24, reads like an ode to bistro classics: onion soup gratinée, escargots with Burgundy and bacon, roast chicken with French fries, and duck confit with sautéed potatoes and gizzards. Modern dishes include spinach flan with crab and mango chutney sauce, smoked salmon ravioli, Kobe beef with shallot sauce, and salmon with roasted leek fondue and a citrus emulsion. Mussels come three ways: with white wine, shallots, and parsley; with dry-vermouth curry sauce; or with white-wine cream sauce. Desserts range from orange-scented crème brûlée to frozen hazelnut soufflé.

The pared-down lunch menu, with entrées from $10.50 to $19.50, includes sandwiches, less-elaborate entrées, and many of the appetizers and desserts from the dinner menu. L'oustalet is open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner.