Cuisine: At a time when “bistro” can mean anything at all and when French chefs are making themselves giddy with variations on classic combinations, this charming cafe amounts to a quiet stand for the old ways, a place where technical mastery supplants innovation and the menu, which changes seasonally, remains proudly canonical (mussels, quenelles de brochet, steak tartare). Antoine Westermann, a three-star Michelin chef with restaurants in Paris and Strasbourg, is a consultant and, though working largely from across the pond, has made this one of the area’s most consistent restaurants.
Mood: Outside, on the umbrella-topped patio, is one of the most charming settings in DC—a slice of cafe society. Inside, particularly upstairs, is a different story: The food may put you in mind of Paris, but the room is nondescript. A seat near the bar downstairs splits the difference.
Best for: Anyone who believes that the only true cooking is French and those who long for the deep satisfaction to be had from dishes prepared without fanfare and with a regard for detail.
Best dishes: A robust steak tartare surmounted by a raw quail egg; pâté en croûte Antoine Westermann, a tour de force of savory pastry making; the best pot of mussels in the area; a slab of pork belly, expertly rendered and crisped; a deceptively simple roast chicken with its own juices; mille-feuille, a rich sandwich of creamy sweet custard held together by two crisp panes of pastry.
Insider tips: To keep tabs low, two can split the pot of mussels, listed as an entrée on the menu; it makes a terrific appetizer.
Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, Sunday for brunch and dinner. Moderate to expensive.