Are you a nerd? Not a comic book nerd or a film nerd, but a French nerd. A francophile. Do you obsess about French New Wave? Do you listen to Yelle and Edith Piaf on repeat? Do you worship at the alter of Alain Passard and Paul Bocuse and Daniel Boulud (yes, I did just google “famous French chefs” don’t give me shit, it’s Thursday and my brain isn’t working anymore)? If yes, you’re in luck. Opaline, downtown D.C.’s newest brasserie opens today and it’s a French nerds paradise. It’s also a nice spot to stop and inhale a plate of endive and a croque monsieur (more on both of those later).
The good news is that even if you’re not the right type of nerd, Opaline probably has something on the menu that’s up your alley. There’s a even a full raw bar for the folks that just want to mainline sushi. While I’d never want to stop anyone from ordering two (or three…) dozen oysters and calling it a night, let me guide you a little bit here. If you’re looking for an appetizer to share, get yourself an order of the steak tartare. Served on a grilled piece of heavenly bread, the tartare includes a mix of onions, capers, dijon and comes with a a picture perfect egg yolk right in the center. Spread that puppy around, take a big bite and immerse yourself in the meaty goodness.
Although, as much as I like the steak tartare, the real shining star of the appetizer section (from the things I tried) was the beet and endive salad. I hate recommending salads, because nine times out of ten salads are boring as hell. Whenever I do write about them, it sounds like I’m talking about the salad because I have nothing else good to say about the restaurant, but it’s really just a great salad. The crunch of the endive combined with the creamy bleu cheese is a match made in heaven. Throw in some perfectly chilled beets and add a smattering of walnuts (for even more crunch) and you’ve really got something going. Plus, you can easily eat it with you hands. Just use the endive to scoop up that good beet / bleu cheese / walnut mixture. No utensils required.
So you’ve destroyed the salad, you fell into a slight meat coma with the tartare and you’re ready to move onto the main courses. You can make a couple of good moves here, but they entirely depend on what you’re looking to get out of a French dining experience. If you have a large group and you don’t mind sharing (at least a little bit), the bouillabaisse is calling your name. It’s a fragrant pot filled to the brim with perfectly cooked seafood that’s made to be the shining star at the center of the table.
But if you’re alone, the croque monsieur is a damn good bet. Made with a mornay sauce, it’s a little cheesier than you might be used to (that’s always a good thing in our books), but it’s great classy dive food. Put any combination of cheese, bread and meat together and it’s going to be a hit. Pair it with one of Opaline’s cocktails and you’re looking at a great drunk food combo.
Dessert-wise, we only have eyes for one thing and it’s the refreshing as hell pavlova. With feather light bites of meringue and a mixture of strawberries and pineaple, it’s the perfect light ending to a heavier meal.
D.C. already has some stellar French restaurants (Mirabelle, Let Diplomate), but if you’re looking for something a little less serious than Mirabelle and way easier to get into than Le Diplomate, Opaline should fit nicely into your rotation.
Opaline is located at 806 15th St NW. They’re open from 6:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. Monday – Friday and 7 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.