Words by Allison Desy and Kaylee Dugan, Photos by Nicholas Karlin
Perched on H St and 15 St, Sofitel is the kind of places you’ve walked by a million times. The luxury French hotel chain bursts with energy, there’s always a slew of folks checking in, checking out and just lounging in the small lobby. The Sofitel’s restaurant, ICI Urban Bistro, is a respite from this energy. Small, minimal and modern, the restaurant exudes serenity. Although, that might be because it was mostly empty.
If you’re looking for a place to grab a business lunch or dinner, a place where someone else is going to pick up the tab, Sofitel is an excellent choice. It seems pretty easy to get a table during the day, and I can’t imagine it’s that difficult at night (although there might be an influx of hotel guests).
Because we’re boozy, we started off with a round of drinks. The Cannes Cachet features Absolut Elyx, Lillet Rose, lemon juice, honey and Campo Viejo Cava Rosé. A light and sweet drink, it’s definitely a patio pounder. Or maybe go with The Liaison, made with honey harvested on the Sofitel’s roof. The Liaison tastes like Thanksgiving in July in the absolute best way possible. Martell Blue Swift mixed with lemon juice and house made honey syrup is reminiscent of a home filled with the scent of baking spices. The drink is finished with a little ginger beer, which is always an effervescent win in my book. The lack of a garnish was originally a bit of a visual disappointment, but the flavor of the drink more than made up for it.
Sofitel’s appetizers are chilled and incredibly refreshing, just the thing to order after sweating through your blazer all day long. If you’re a meat eater, go for the Yellow Fin Tuna Tartare. Paired with a cauliflower puree and pickled Amish vegetables grilled in almond oil, it is the combination of the vegetables acidity and the richness of the cauliflower that makes this dish pop. You can always trust the Amish to do food the right way. The tuna itself is just fine, but put together, it’s a gorgeous combination.
Not interested in fish? Check out the Strawberry Burrata Salad. While I wouldn’t consider myself a connoisseur of burrata by any means, I have definitely consumed my fair share of this creamy, delicious cheese dish in my lifetime. Sofitel’s burrata salad begins with a light base of arugula and sliced strawberries, which is topped with a healthy portion of fresh burrata and finished with a light drizzle of aged balsamic and strawberry vinaigrette. This dish is balanced in terms of texture, thanks to some crunchy marcona almonds, as well in terms of flavor. The slightly acidic sauces cut through the prominent creaminess of the dish and add a pop of tartness to an otherwise one note burrata. There were also some pansy petals mixed into the arugula base. I ate some of those even though I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to or not. They tasted floral (obviously) and I enjoyed that.
Sofitel’s summer menu is heavily inspired by the flavors of Provence, and no where is that more apparent than their entrees. If you want to dive all the way in and go full seafood, you can’t go wrong with a classic Bouillabaisse. A combination of fish, mussels, scallops, shrimp and marble potatoes all drenched in a fragrant saffron broth, paired with crunchy slices of bread for dipping. It’s a lot of food. Of course, there’s always the Branzino (sans head) if you’re looking for a cleaner approach to fish, but if you’re going out to eat French food, we think you might as well go all the way.
The star of the show was the Moulard duck breast. Roasted with Brussels sports, rainbow carrots and a poached pear all covered with a delicate sweet wine glaze, it was bursting with flavor and cooked to perfection. Not to mention, the plating was straight out of a dream. If you’re going to eat anything at Sofitel, order the Moulard duck breast.