Considering that Rachel and I are the only ones in the DC foodie blogosphere who still haven’t been to Stephen Starr’s bustling brasserie in the ever-growing 14th Street Corridor, we finally booked a reservation for Le Diplomate the week before Valentine’s Day. We decided to celebrate the holiday seven days early, as we wanted to avoid the trap of prix-fixe menus and overpaying for a meal, especially that we have also have to spend extra for a babysitter these days.
With repurposed materials being all the rage in new restaurants, the interior of Le Diplomate is absolutely stunning. You would never know that it was the site of a former laundromat, let alone open for a little under a year. The moment you step inside, you’re instantly transported to a classic French bistro that looks like it’s been open for business for decades.
After a drink at the bar, we were seated at a lovely booth in the corner of the dining room. Great for couples, we had a view of the entire restaurant and watched as servers were jumping from table to table delivering some French classics like escargot and Onion Soup Gratinee.
While reviewing the menu, our server dropped off their famous bread basket. Overflowing with three different kinds of bread, ranging from sourdough to a classic French baguette to my favorite, cranberry walnut, it’s no wonder why Le Diplomate (along with Rose’s Luxury) features one of the best complimentary bread baskets in the District.
For our appetizer, Rachel and I decided to split the mushroom tart after hearing such glowing recommendations from friends. Arriving to the table at room temperature, the buttery, flaky crust combined with the pioppini mushrooms and grated truffle pecorino made for an outstanding first course. Perfect to split between two people, it’s a great if not filling dish.
As for our entrees, considering that this was our first ever visit to Le Diplomate, I simply had to go with the traditional order of steak frites. Prepared medium rare and served with two handfuls of crispy pommes frites, the pan-roasted hanger steak was topped with a hearty amount of maître d’ butter resulting in a smile to my face. There’s a reason why this is one of their bestsellers. If I wasn’t biting in the succulent, buttery steak I was dipping the crisp frites into the accompanying side of mayonnaise. You can’t go wrong with this dish.
Rachel, who already felt somewhat full after the mushroom tart, opted for a “lighter” entrée in the Trout Amandine. The filet was layered with almonds and sitting in a bed of haricots verts and cooked in a brown butter sauce. While the fish was nice and moist, the sauce had an overpowering flavor of vinegar that detracted from the overall taste of the dish, not to mention the overabundance of butter used. Not sure if it was a bad night in the kitchen, but it was slightly disappointing as Rachel regretted not ordering the Beef Bourguignon instead.
Despite the snafu, we had a lovely time as the atmosphere made for a romantic evening. The service was great if not a little rushed, but then again, we left at 10pm and people were STILL waiting for tables. One thing is for certain — Le Diplomate is a legitimate cash cow. No wonder we had to book a table a month in advance.