Bistrot du Coin

A boisterous French-style bistro.

From January 2003 100 Very Best Restaurants

At lunch, Bistrot du Coin has a sense of leisure that encourages one to dawdle over an aperitif before deciding whether one is in the mood for a pate de campagne followed by a soothing blanquette de veau, or a crock of onion soup and an open-face sandwich topped with smoked salmon. At night, stools at the zinc-topped bar are at a premium, and the sound and energy levels go up.

This is as much a Dupont Circle neighborhood bar as it is a restaurant. Drink prices are reasonable: A glass of the very good house Champagne is $7, and Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label–$15 a glass around town–is $10 here. Ricard, the largest-selling aperitif in France, is a bargain at $3.95, and the connoissieur's Cognac, Hine "Rare and Delicate," is a steal at $6.50 for a generous snifter. The wine list, a collection of French country wines, offers delicious reds and whites at fair prices.

Bistrot du Coin averages more than 400 customers a day. In the past year chef Yannis Felix's kitchen has grown inconsistent. What one expects to be a gloriously crisp-skinned duck confit arrives with the pale skin reminiscent of a hotel-banquet chicken. The tartiflette–originally a heroically rich gratin of potatoes, bacon, and Reblochon cheese–lately was a mush of overcooked potatoes and gloppy cheese. And the once-wonderful Nicoise tripe stew is sometimes served with more potatoes than tripe.

To dine reasonably well while enjoying the hubbub, consider a wonderful salad of grilled scallions with a confit of duck gizzards; a consistently good onion soup; the thin, flavorsome rump-steak and fries that are the standard of Paris cafes; and the daily specials–such as a plate of wonderful rib chops of lamb served with a classic ratatouille–which nowadays seem more dependable than the dishes on the set menu.