By Linah Colgrove, Foodable Contributor
A little taste of France has found its way to Washington, D.C., and many agree that it’s “très magnifique.” Le Diplomate, brainchild of Philadelphia restaurant mogul Stephen Starr of STARR Restaurants, was part of the restaurant explosion that took D.C. by storm earlier this year; in this case, filling the space of the former Shirt Laundry on 14th and Q Streets. Since opening day, Washingtonians have been singing the bistro’s praises – from the bread to the escargots; the ambiance to the impeccable service.
Heading there for a weekend brunch this fall, it wasn’t surprising to find a jam-packed patio and a line out the door of this former laundromat-turned-chic-restaurant. Inside, a bustling scene of black tie-adorned servers navigating their way about the tables, and smiling French flag color-clad hostesses greeting diners. Eyes travelled first to the antique bicycle and memorabilia hanging above the bar, then to giant loaves of crusty bread on display, and finally to the impressive structure itself. It’s elegant and cozy all at once – a modern brasserie.
Directed to a table in the “laundry,” where Blanchisserie de Chemise stands out in giant letters from its green backdrop, it felt like walking into a solarium. The sun spilled through the large, paneled glass onto the marble topped tables, green plants hung neatly from the ceiling, and a low hum of satisfied diners gave the room a palpable energy.
Brunch food can be tough to decide upon when savory and sweet are constantly competing for your attention. Luckily, the pastry basket helped satisfy both cravings thanks to a buttery croissant, a pain au chocolate, a delightful roll with anise and orange flavors, and a couple of other doughy delights. Ultimately deciding to eat the savory for the appetizer and saving the sweets for dessert ended up working in our favor.
The decision of the main entrée was simple. The French tend to do duck exceptionally well, and the Duck Sarladaises called to me. What came to the table was a beautiful dish of duck confit with roasted potatoes, covered in a luxurious béchamel-like sauce and topped with an egg, sunny side up, all presented in a skillet. Each bite was an incredible combination of textures and flavors – crispy duck skin and rich, juicy meat, earthy potatoes, a thick, slightly tangy sauce, and the runny egg yolk coating every morsel.
It’s worth noting that every piece of décor and each presentation of food (and drink) is artfully done and beautifully presented. While foam makes any cappuccino lovely to look at, the little cookie accompaniment made it unique.
When the check comes, it’s accompanied by an adorable “thank you” postcard, a thoughtful ending to an excellent meal.
All in all, the first taste of French fare at Le Diplomate was delicious. The entire experience was an utter delight. This place is more than buzzworthy – it’s absolutely worth a repeat visit.