Words by Austa Somvichian-Clausen, Photos by Olivia Trexler
Washington, D.C. is a city designed by a Frenchman, so it comes as no surprise to see French-Belgian Chef Raphael Francois take the District by storm at new, modern-French bistro Le DeSales. Francois comes to D.C. from New York City’s famed Le Cirque, and earned two Michelin stars at Hélène Darroze before that.
Taking a stroll down DeSales Street, a tiny alley-like street linking busy Connecticut Ave and 17th Street NW, and you might suddenly find yourself in Paris. At Le DeSales, baskets of pink and white flowers hang from the rafters outside, and high top tables inside are full of people enjoying food, wine, and some quality people watching.
Walk inside and the space opens up to a well-lit dining area with leather bound chairs, bordered on the right by intimate booths. A wall of wine sits in the back of the restaurant, encased by glass.
My meal at Le DeSales started out with a drink, of course. The Sazerac of the Americas is a house blend of Armagnac, Ilegal Mezcal Joven, Peychaud’s Bitters, and Kübler Absinthe. An architecturally inspired cut of lemon dangling from the rim, the drink was smoky and strong, and allowed for the complex flavors of the Armagnac to shine through.
A bountiful platter of charcuterie soon followed, and then the appetizers came. The Burrata was brought wrapped in arugula leaves like a present. Translating to “buttered” in Italian, it was rich and creamy, and nicely complimented by the peppery notes of the arugula.
When the Foie Gras was placed in front of me, with a mango puree of sorts and leaves of romaine, my first thought was: there’s no way I could eat all that. I did, of course. It is an extremely healthy slice of Foie, but so melt in your mouth delicious that you can’t stop smearing more onto your bread.
For my main, I got to try the Lobster & Fries, with Dugléré sauce (a buttery sauce made with tomatoes and parsley), and Comté cheese. The lobster was fresh, meaty, and plentiful. My one complaint was the size of the fries, which were fairly large chunks of potatoes.
My meal was completed with a chocolate tart paired with espresso ice cream. It was absolutely delicious; but that being said I’m a huge sucker for both tarts and anything espresso. The pastry shell was buttery and crunchy, and the flavors of both the chocolate and the ice cream were multidimensional and rich.
I paired my dessert with the 2011 Château Guiraud Sauternes, a full-bodied Sauvignon Blanc that was perfect for sipping with a creamy-fruity taste.
Side note: if you would like to try one of the best Chardonnays that you’ve had in a long time – order the J.A. Ferret Pouilly-Fuissé.
Le DeSales is a welcome addition to the D.C. food scene – bringing Washingtonians the perfect place to enjoy classically rich French dishes such as Pâte de Campagne, but also offers a surprisingly well-priced happy hour, with wine and beer starting at $6. You may have to Google half of the ingredients on the menu, but it is a safe bet that you will get something delicious regardless of whether you know what it is or not.