18 Eads Bistro

A French/American cafe in the Sheraton Crystal City Hotel.

From April 2005

Reliable American-French Dining in Crystal City 

Diners who take food seriously usually approach hotel dining rooms with caution. Unless the hotel is out to make a statement–which more of them are–hotel restaurants are likely to feature bland cooking, the kind that managements imagine visiting families prefer. The Sheraton Crystal City Hotel takes a middle ground, calling its eatery an American/French cafe and giving it the name 18 Eads.

The dining space–carved out of the lobby, which is undergoing renovation–is attractive and airy, with high ceilings and earth-tone hues. Dotting the walls are old black-and-white photographs of France and the United States. Adjacent to the dining area is a bar that features two high-definition TV sets and allows smoking.

The menu is short: six appetizers, four salads, and nine main courses. There are enough French preparations–such as Chicken Rôti, Filet au Poivre, Risotto Jardinière, and Salmon au Citron–to meet expectations. But there are also Country Style Short Ribs and Frenchy's Mac-n-Cheese, penne baked with four cheeses and truffle oil. Nomenclature aside, the restaurant provides satisfactory cooking at a generally reasonable price.

Among the appetizers, onion soup gratinée, made with a mix of Parmesan and Gruyère cheese, looks the part and tastes good. Shrimp cassolette consists of good shrimp topped with bread crumbs and a Cognac-and-Dijon-mustard cream sauce. A fondue of simmering Gruyère and Emmentaler cheeses and white wine, with branched vegetables and slices of baguette for dipping, was fine. Garlicky Wings were accompanied by a chipotle aïoli dipping sauce. The oven-roasted mussels didn't work; they were dried out and unrevived by the garlic, white-wine, butter, and lemon sauce. The otherwise excellent Pommes Frites Bleu–thin fried potatoes with a "bleu-cheese drizzle" and roasted peppers–were marred by lumps of room-temperature bleu cheese.

Main courses were generally good. Two fish dishes, Rockfish Meuniére and Salmon au Citron, were well cooked for $18. The roast half chicken with garlic mashed potatoes was also good. Perhaps the best dish was the country-style short ribs, meaty and tender in a red-wine sauce. Sausage with French green lentils, garlic confit, and pearl onions was another winner. The dish of steak frites was very good, though for $21 it should have been a more generous size.

Diners seeking lighter or simpler fare might try the Bistro Burger, made with Angus ground chuck and Vermont cheddar; its limited handling should please purists, and its flavor should please almost everyone. The niçoise salad is an attractive mélange of seared tuna, string beans, hard-boiled egg, fingerling potatoes, greens, and a Dijon vinaigrette.

The baguette is so-so. Desserts, according to the server, are store bought and not bad. The wine list is fairly priced with a good variety. Coffee is good.

Lunch is similar to dinner in price and portion, though the menu has fewer main courses.

Bottom line: A comfortable restaurant that should appeal to people who live or work in the neighborhood.