Spring has finally arrived, and it’s perfect weather for relaxing on an outdoor patio with a bottle of cold Chablis and a three-tiered platter of freshly shucked oysters, clams, cracked crab, and chilled lobster. Which you can now do at Le Diplomate, a 14th Street spot from Philadelphia-based restaurateur Stephen Starr, which is finally open after a year of construction.
Nightly dinner service is currently underway, and there’s already plenty of competition for seats on the 60-seat, hedge-lined patio. Chef Adam Schop combines traditional brasserie staples such as French onion soup, hand-chopped steak tartare, beef bourguignon, and moules frites with more modern innovations (here’s the menu). You might start out with tuna carpaccio drizzled with leek vinaigrette or roasted sweetbreads with morels before moving on to house-made pappardelle sauced with wild boar or seared scallops with spring peas and orzo. Simpler dishes—radishes with sea salt and butter, say, followed by savory crepes or an omelet—appeal to the casual weeknight diner.
Restaurants on the 14th Street strip are mainly geared toward the evening crowd, but once Le Diplomate is fully up and running, you’ll find breakfast, brunch, lunch, and mid-afternoon service. While the airy 200-seat eatery is surrounded by windows, the 36-seat garden room, with its glass ceiling and doors opening to the patio, seems particularly suited to reading the paper over a pot of La Colombe coffee and a warm croissant. Later in the day, a stately curving zinc bar or one of the deep semicircular booths promises to be a popular spot for sipping one of the many draft beers, wines, or French-inspired cocktails like a glass of bubbly with Combier Pamplemousse, a grapefruit liqueur. Designer Shawn Hausman—the talent behind see-and-be-seen spots such as Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont and the Standard in New York City—created the chic decor, which manages to feel both buzzy and cozy, thanks to glowing lamps and antiques salvaged from Parisian markets.
The concept was inspired by the corner building, a former laundry facility that reminded Starr of Parc, his French brasserie off Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square. While the menus and design are different, the two have a similar feel, especially from the outside with canopied sidewalk seating. Another welcome carryover: an extensive bakery program, with stacks of fresh baguettes and boules greeting you at the door. The loaves pop up on the menu, but you can also make like a Parisian and tuck one under your arm to go.
The restaurant officially opens on Monday, April 15. Until then, enjoy a 10 percent discount during the soft-opening stage. We’ll report back on daytime services as they start.
Le Diplomate. 1601 14th St., NW; 202-332-3333. Current dinner hours: Sunday through Tuesday 5 to 10, Wednesday and Thursday 5 to 11, and Friday and Saturday 5 to midnight.
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