[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ive years ago, the 14th Street strip was a wasteland of forgotten delis, pawn shops and the Black Cat. Today, old buildings are replaced by shiny new condos, restaurant-cum-bars-cum-dance clubs and even a Chipotle that’s slated to open this year. I mean, what’s yuppier than farm-raised, organic fast-gourmet burrito bowls? As I sat sipping my Lillet on the rocks at Le Diplomate’s outdoor patio (I’m not buying into the yuppie thing at all), a dining companion reminisced, “I remember bringing my shirts here to get dry cleaned.”
Other neighbors easily recall the chipped facade that had so long been dilapidated, the old and gutted dry cleaner taking up so much real estate now effortlessly replaced by Le Diplomate. Stephen Starr, with a name only acceptable from the Studio 54 era, is the Philadelphia restaurateur responsible for the remaking of 14th and Q.
His arrival in DC has come with a great deal more flair and fashion than anyone else this past year–save perhaps for the folks behind the Mari Vanna empire. But flair and fashion is now what 14th Street is all about, and with Le Diplomate now officially serving dinner and weekend brunch, you can savor the new 14th Street with one of these oh-so-très-chic dishes:
- Everyone at my table thought we were getting bread pudding when I ordered the roasted sweetbreads ($16.50). Oh, my dear mignons! Lo and behold their faces when the sophisticated chicken-nugget-looking pieces arrived, beneath large slices of shaved radish. Served in an earthy, buttery morel sauce and fresh peas, these are the best sweetbreads I’ve had, and a MUST order for the table.
- I’m not one to suggest non-alcoholic drinks on the regular, but give the Citron Presse ($4) a shot. Like everything else, the French seem to gussy up their version of a lemonade with sophistication and a certain je ne sais quoi. Hot and sexy summer nights, I’m ready for you.
- Beef bourguignon ($24) comes to the table as it has always been: hearty chunks of meat, beautifully caramelized pearl onions, and potatoes and carrots cooked to perfection, drowned in a dark brown sauce with just the right hit of red wine flavor. Plus a side of the most buttery mashed potatoes. No wonder Julia Child stayed in France for so long.
- It’s easy to overlook the skate grenobloise ($26) in favor of the aforementioned beef bourguignon, classic moules frites, steak au poivre, or even the duck confit. But the skate, with “lemon, capers, lemon,” stands out in all its brown butter and briny olive glory.
- Okay, I’ll be honest. I like saying the word “pamplemousse” because it sounds like a 50’s hairstyle or breed of Alaskan deer. This classic French dessert is given a more illustrative name, the grapefruit coupe glacée ($8). It’s intensely delicate and refreshing with grapefruit sorbet and cinnamon cream, light and effervescent, and is a prime example why French women don’t get fat.
Photo: Jessie Chien Bryson
1601 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20005