Welcome to this installment of the BYT ME, where every frisé, sautée, filet and brulé is out for itself.
BYT ME GRADING SYSTEM:
0 byts = wtf? i did not sign up for dog-food.
1 byt = edible. would consider eating again if on deserted island or lost in space and running low on dehydrated food and ice cream astronaut dots.
2 byts = decent at best. might eat again if haven’t eaten in a few days and nourishment was between this and belly button lint.
3 byts = eh. would probably eat it again. definitely if handed to me if on verge of fainting from hunger and/or at end of a sloppy evening.
4 byts = tasty. missing something, but not much. would likely order again.
5 byts = heck yes.
I was excited to dine at Napoleon. Having walked past the renovated spot dozens of times, and having had a few decent éxperiences (French for experiences!) at its sister café, Café Bonaparte, in G’town (obv never on a weekend when the lines are out the ass), I was looking forward to coming across some decent French bistro food in the neighborhood. I find the fare at the other nearby bistros (L’Enfant, Bistro du Coin) overrated (except on Beajoulais Day or Bastille Day, when I stuff myself endlessly with buttery, garlic-y mussels and red table wine until my lips turn purple.) So. We entered Napoleon with high expectations.
I could end the column right here and say that my cadre of BYT Me experts and moi were a tad underwhelmed and gave everything about trois (French for 3!). We weren’t particularly enthusiastic about anything, rien du tout (nothing at all). Although, we wouldn’t reject the food if it was placed in front of us. For free. (Bonjour, $60 on a Monday night!?! Pardonez-moi!?)
BUT, I will elaborate, at least a little, if for no other reason but to get into the permanent ethers of the internets, this unforgettable quote from a certain pretty gay: “…unless it’s blue, then it’s poo.” Explanation en route (French for en route!)…Napoleon’s gimmick is its champagne cocktail menu. Between five of us we tasted justabout each decent sounding concoction: La Tropicale (mango nectar, champers; 4 BYTs, a favorite!); French 75 (bombay sapphire, lemon juice, champers; 3 BYTs); Femme Fatale (campari, orange juice, champers; 2 BYTs – too much campari made it too bitter); French Riviera (absolut vodka, blue curacao, champers – 1 BYT – flavorless and far too blue); Flirtini (cointreau, pineapple juice, champers – 3 BYTs); Champagne Napoleon (mandarine orange liqueur, orange juice, champers – 3 BYTs – delicious, if a little sweet). The major disaster of the evening was the Monte Carlo Imperial (bombay sapphire, crème de menthe, lemon juice, champers), which looked, smelled, and tasted like mouthwash. Vommisseur. (French for Vom.) Our first ever item to receive 0 BYTs – we sent it back!
The consensus on the champagne cocktails was: if offered again, we wouldn’t say no, we wouldn’t say yes…with KC’s classic addendum: unless it’s blue, then it’s poo.
Classiest food reviewers ever.
The food, as I mentioned earlier, was a bit of a let down. Rather than rating each dish, we decided on an average score of 3 BYTs, for the food, drink, and affordability. This was perhaps even a little generous; the ambiance gave it a boost. We started with two shared appetizers: the Napoleon Salad made of Jerusalem artichokes, red pepper, and watercress, with an olive oil, cilantro and lemon vinaigrette, and the Apple & Brie Crepe Chips. We also requested mussels to start, but those arrived with the entrees, thoroughly disappointing Captain Mother Svet who had been talking about mussels since her first sip of champers that evening. Hello!? We said appetizers! That’s English for APP-E-TI-ZER. Eh hem.
The salad, while slightly over-dressed, was actually quite tasty, with the Jerusalem artichokes adding a crispy punch, and the cilantro joining nicely with the lemon vinaigrette. The crepe chips, however, were entirely disappointing. I mean, there is beaucoup de potential in fried crepe goodness topped with sweet apples and strong, pungent brie – and somehow they managed to fumble this. There was absolutely no flavor involved, and the brie and apples had a very hard time actually staying on the chip. Sacre. Bleu.
The main courses were excellent mimics of the dishes one finds at an average corner bistro in the touristy parts of Paris. Which means they were, well, kind of blaaahhhhh. The Montmartre crepe, composed of wild mushrooms, scallions, ricotta, herbed goat cheese, swiss cheese, and topped with parmesan, left out…how do they say it…? oh yes, flaveur (French for flavor!). The crepe pastry was cooked well, and the parmesan was nicely crisped on top – but the stuffing of the crepe was blah, despite that it had all the makings of being delicieuse. I think it was overcooked. The Cote D’Agneau (roasted New Zealand lamb rack with potato gratin, sautéed spinach, and a fresh bay leaf demi-glaze) impressed us only for its side dishes. The lamb was rather flavorless and a little tough. The Boeuf a la Provencal (traditional beef stew from Provence with an assortment of vegetables, herbs, and bacon served over white basmati rice) was le pire (the worst) entrée (entree) of le soir (evening), with the bulk of the flavor coming from the bacon and basmati rice instead of the boeuf (beef). It is relevant to note that the original request was for the lamb stew, but they were out of it. Finally, we enjoyed the Canard Au Poivre, duck served with homemade fries & sauce au poivre. It relied a bit too heavily on the sauce rather than the flavor of the medium-rare-cooked poultry, but it was one of the better dishes of the evening. And the fries were perfect dipped in the moules sauce. Ah yes, the Moules – those were OK, but LATE, en tard!, as noted earlier.
Le dessert! The dessert was decent – we ordered two basic French crepes – the Juliette (lemon, butter & powdered sugar) and the Josephine (nutella, strawberries, bananas, whip cream & melba sauce). The Juliette was simple and exquisite – 4 BYTs. The Juliette didn’t have enough nutella – 2.5 BYTs.
Overall, we had a very pleasant time at Napoleon. We liked the vibe – from the dark red and black striped walls, to the classic-cum-Urban Outfitters purple chandelier, to the black leather banquettes, and authentic French wait staff. While the food was a bit of a disappointment, we will likely return – at the very least when in the mood for some champagne cocktails and mussels. And – this is the first restaurant to receive an official BYT e-thumbs up as a good FIDP – First Internet Date Place! So bring your next ‘spacer or CL hook up to Napoleon, whisper some petite riens (sweet nothings!) in his/her ear – and just remember not to order the Monte Carlo Imperial or beef stew, and you’ll be parfait (French for…ugh, you get the idea…)
Bec, your Jaded Palate, correspondent; jaded so you don’t have to be.
1847 Columbia Rd., NW
Washington, DC 20009