Friday, September 10, 2010

un bon bistro la bonne

I have to agree with some comments I’ve seen that the small Bistro La Bonne on U Street is sort of rocking an "under the radar" vibe -- the whole space is easy to pass by, and dining outside -- even in lovely weather -- is really more of an "enjoy traffic" experience than anything else. That's not meant as an indictment, though, as last night’s lovely pre-fall weather made sitting outside a treat regarless of the traffic situation. (Not to the liquor store across the street: must you persist in blasting some nameless thumping horror that invades your brain and demands attention? Urgh.)

Nothing was knock-your-socks-off outstanding, but there's a lot of solid execution going on here and that's nice to see. Frankly, I'm kind of old school in certain ways; if a French bistro really wants to go that route, I'm going to look not for innovation but for top-notch delivery of standards. For the most part, I have to say that a meal here is soul-satisfying, and also reassures me that they are at least striving for the same thing I'm looking for. Pissaladiere, crispy puff pastry topped with caramelized onions, olives and marinated anchovy ($9.95) may not be an entirely authentic version, given the puff pastry, but man are those anchovies and onions good. I may be a sucker for both those ingredients, but these were really nice, and particularly when shared, a nice way to start an evening. The paté de campagne ($6.95) is nothing revelatory -- although, according to their website, mentioned in the WaPo's Going Out Guide -- but the nicely (perhaps slightly over)dressed greens make up for it, and it's definitely got nice flavor and texture.

I'm kind of incapable of not ordering  duck when I see it on a menu -- when it's good it's great, and when it's bad, well, caveat emptor -- so my dining companion and I split the Magret de Canard au Cinq Epices et Son Confit de Caingnard, roasted 5 spices duck breast, leg duck confit with a sweet potato and potatoe {sic} gratin, ratatouille & port wine sauce ($20.95). I could tell a story here about my French family and a summer week spent eating the best, freshest ratatouille on earth, but it's immaterial, because this dish was not elegant but was totally a satiating dish for the soul. The potatoes were creamy and earthy, the elements of the ratatouille retaining their bite, and the duck delicious (I would have preferred a few more slices of the duck breast, but the ones we had were perfectly cooked to the desired medium-rare, and well-seasoned). This dish was like a lighter version of cassoulet (also on their menu): homey, earthy, tasty, and completely satisfying.

I have no idea who the people are who are running this place, but after a few interactions our waiter (host? GM? he was everywhere out front, in snazzy orange-and-green suspenders) realized we spoke French and lapsed into it with us. I don't live close enough to U Street to make this place a regular stop, but I have a feeling that were I able to do so, I'd find myself speaking French with the staff and feeling like I'm back in Lyon or Limoges ... and oh could I go for that right now. A decidedly pleasant evening, one I hope to repeat when the siren song (or is that just sirens?) of U Street call.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

oooh honey honey (cake)

To ring in 5771, I will be partaking of homemade honey cake while on my evening conference call.

L'shana tovah tikatevu!