Most of the grand French restaurants that ruled the scene a
generation ago have died off, casualties of an age that equates formality
with fustiness. The low-key bistro, however, has survived the tectonic
shift, and this Eastern Market mainstay epitomizes its appeal.
It’s one of the liveliest spaces in town, a densely packed room
that evokes a Gauloise-stained Paris bar where the “other” Capitol
Hill—the not-forever-working crowd—relaxes over red wine while cooks clang
pans in the open kitchen.
New chef Brian Wilson has brought an unexpected lightness to
the stove, adding more fish and introducing a lineup of tartines
and quiches. These are welcome changes, but Wilson is wise to recognize a
vision that doesn’t need reinventing. This remains French country cooking,
robust and generous—and at a price that feels like a bargain. Don’t
miss: Mussels steamed in white wine or pastis; country pâté;
mushroom consommé with barley; Arctic char with shrimp and trumpet
mushrooms; swordfish in fennel sauce; crème brûlée; chocolate tart;
floating island. Open: Tuesday through Friday for lunch and dinner,
Saturday and Sunday for brunch and dinner.