3124-28 M Street
Washington, DC 20007
THE WORK GODS who watch (and laugh, I'm sure) over both my schedule and Mint's rarely align our Day-Off Stars on the same day, but with such a rare event happening tomorrow a road trip was in order. City of choice: Washington, DC.
Suspecting our options for food arriving late on a Monday night would be few, I attempted to plan ahead. A quick Google search turned up at least one helpful page--this message board post at Epinions.com (I value personal opinions highly). The comments about Bistro Francais seemed the most interesting. Done and done. Fast-forward four hours.
Bistro Fancais sits smack on M Street in Georgetown. To our surprise, at nearly midnight the atmosphere was upbeat with perhaps a dozen tables occupied (a good sign, anywhere, that you've chosen wisely.) We were shown to a table along Bistro's side wall rather then up on its more crowded dining platform. You would do well to ask for the same. It looked a wee bit cramped over there.
Looking at the menu, our attention first went to the daily specials, priced mostly around $20-24. Standard French fare. We then noticed the "Early Bird Special" (available 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.), offering wine, soup or appetizer, daily entree, and dessert all neatly bundled for $19.95. Clearly the way to go.
We both ordered soups to start, and I chose the rockfish with mushrooms, eggplant and shrimp in tomato sauce for my entree while Mint opted for sole in a lemon butter sauce with potato and leek souffle. Having ordered, we sat back and noticed for the first time the flickering candlelight on the table. Curious, I fiddled with its glass cover, removing it and finding not a candle, but an electric light bulb pulsing orange.
With absolutely no disrespect, Bistro Francais suddenly morphed from a chic bistro into the French cousin of the lazy Italian diners we frequent for good, quick (and cheap) meals, and this transformed our expectations accordingly.
Our soups were good, the service excellent, and our meals were enjoyable as well. The fish might not have been remarkable, but it was damn tasty, and Mint's leek souffle, in particular, was delicious. Most of all--it was casual.
Had we not noticed our electric candlelight we might have expected a far more formal affair and been disappointed with the result. Bistro Francais should by no means be disappointing. It's good food kept simple and, open late, accessible.
MIKE EATS NEXT TIME: The Early Bird Menu being available from 10:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. is currently on The List of Greatest Things Ever.