First Impressions ~ Le Diplomate

Apparently, I was not the only one who simply couldn’t wait to try Le Diplomate! The 260-seats brasserie just (soft) opened and it’s been swamped every night this week. And I know that because I’ve been there almost every night this week 😉

It’s no surprise. Ever since it was announced that Philadelphia restauranteur Stephen Starr would be taking over a former laundry mat building at the corner of 14th and Q, it became one of the District’s most anticipated openings. And I don’t care if Washingtonians were excited about it because of Stephen Starr’s fame and reputation, because of the location, or because they’re like me and always looking for good French food in the city… I’m just excited to hear the whole town buzzing over a French restaurant. Cocorico

Even though I’ve already been a few times, I’ll definitely be back at Le Diplomate soon. Actually, I have brunch reservations for this Sunday. I want to try their breakfast, lunch and brunch (especially the eggs boudin noir), as well as more items from the dinner menu. Maybe next week I’ll just show up at 9AM and won’t leave until they throw me out around closing time… or maybe not. In the meantime, here are some of the things I love about Le Diplomate so far, as well as some of the things I don’t love so much…

The space ~ There’s nothing not to love about the Le Diplomate‘s space. It’s brighter and more open than Bistrot du Coin, plus it’s got that great patio and I love love love the Ricard tables (though I don’t love the $10 price tag on a glass of a pastis as much…in France, it’s more like €2) I love the bistro style tables on 14th street, and can’t wait to sit there, a coffee in hand, reading Le Monde and munching on a croissant. And I adore the “blanchisserie de chemise” (that’s French for laundromat) green room. Basically, I love it all. Well, except…

…the women’s restroom ~ First of all, I love the little French details. The tiles on the floor are very similar to the ones at my parents’ Bastille apartment. The faucets are made in my hometown of Lille. I appreciate that. But I am not a fan of the very scantily clad ladies on the walls. If I wanted to see boobs, I have two of my own. The men’s restroom has pictures of half naked women, why can’t the women’s restroom have pictures of half naked men? That would seem fair to me… Maybe Le Diplomate could look to the restrooms at Estadio, just across the street, for inspiration. Now that’s a great ladies room!

The bread ~ We devoured the whole basket! C’est tout. Can I pick up a baguette to go on my way home? 

The food ~ So far everything I’ve had has been great: the moules frites (the mayonaise is so rich but so good!), the steak frites, the hand-chopped steak tartare (you can tell a lot about a restaurant by its raw meat), the lamb shank, the tête de cochon… I can’t wait to try the lavender duck breast, the grilled loup de mer (one of my fave fish!) or the bouillabaisse! I brought some French girlfriends with me so I could a) have a lovely evening with my copines of course b) get different opinions on some of the dishes we ordered. The only one we really weren’t impressed with was the escalope de veau and the foie gras parfait. To be fair, the foie gras parfait was actually a good dish, we just felt that it was mislabeled. Chicken liver mousse is not foie gras, so maybe give the dish a different name? 

Photo courtesy of Cecile Remington. Follow her on twitter at @petitefleur77

The dessert menu ~ At the end of a good meal, it takes an inspired dessert menu to make me want to order something more. I’m not sure Le Diplomate‘s current offerings are enough to tempt me quite yet.  The Napoleon seemed really interesting, but I can’t eat chocolate, so I’d rather order another cocktail. I have been following the pastry chef, Naomi Gallego, on twitter though, and I’m very encouraged by some of the pictures I’ve seen her post. And yes, I saw lots of macarons! 

The coffee ~ I first discovered La Colombe Torrefaction at their Tribeca coffee shop. Like Stephen Starr, La Colombe’s homebase is Philadelphia, though the owners (a Frenchman and an American) met in Seattle. I’m stoked to see their coffee make an appearance on a D.C. menu and I’m even more stoked that they’re opening an actual coffee shop in my neighbourhood.

The beer ~ Kronenbourg en tap? Yes, s’il vous plait! 

The cocktails ~ I love tennis and couldn’t resist ordering the Roland Garros (Beefeater, Bombier Maraschino Cherry Liqueur, lemon, lavender). It was good, but not as good as the Romarin (Absolut, rosemary, St. Germain and grapefruit). The Pamplemousse Pressé (sparkling wine, Combier, grapefruit and lemon) would make a great brunch alternative to a mimosa and was very refreshing on a hot spring evening. One of the waiters didn’t bring us water with our pastis, but pastis isn’t a common drink here and that’s precisely what soft openings are for 😉 

The service ~ I won’t judge Le Diplomate on service. Again, soft openings are there to sort out the kinks… besides, it’s a French restaurant, bad service would only make it more authentic!

Have you been to Le Diplomate yet? What are some of your early thoughts?

6 thoughts on “First Impressions ~ Le Diplomate

  1. I have gone a few times to grab a meal or a drink and the wait for a table has been too long and I haven't been patient enough to wait it out! I guess reservations are the way to go. I'm happy to see a positive review though. The food certainly SMELLS good, and I do like the idea of some sidewalk people-watching. Oh so Parisian!


  2. The tuna carpaccio was a very thin disk not with sparse what looked like salt crystals and very spots of greens. It was not seasoned. The cheese selection was not bad. My French friend said the duck terrine was not “fait maison” and I completely agreed. We wanted to try the desserts , the baba rhum and the almond dacquoise but we were getting cold sitting outside.


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