Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A little bit of France

The block around the Cleveland Park Metro has several restaurants I visit regularly, including Indique and Dino. Though Lavandou has been around for years, this was my first visit. Having Bistro du Coin and La Chaumiere at walking distance also made me reconsider the trek more than once.

Lavandou is everything a neighborhood French restaurant ought to be - friendly, well-priced, and with lots of potential patrons gawking through the picture window. We were there for brunch but upon sneaking a peek at the (entirely French) wine list, I found a nice selection of bottles, half-bottles and glasses. The specials board announced No Corkage fee Mondays and All You Can Eat Mussels on Tuesdays. Though they seemed to be a bit short-staffed (drinks took especially long) we were seated right away and the bread basket made a speedy appearance.

As as its name and decor attests, Lavandou features Provencal Cuisine - the Southern, Mediterranean region of France celebrated by painters and chefs alike. The dishes are less heavy than other French eateries in DC, and a strong emphasis is placed on olive oil, sea food, and aromatics. The four of us had the Easter Prix Fixe, three courses for 37 USD (tax, tip and beverages not included).

For a first course we ordered fresh duck pate, asparagus with truffle oil and parmessan cheese, and coddled eggs with cheese, cream and salmon eggs. Coddled eggs are not for the faint of heart - they are cooked in simmering water, in their shells or in ramekins, until set. The texture is a step above of a raw egg, but the flavor is wonderful, especially as it offset the creaminess of the dairy. The salmon eggs added little in terms of flavor, but they were definitively there, texture-wise. I spooned the mixture on the toast points provided and kept my gaze away. The pate was fresh and had the texture of tuna salad. The asparagus was just right for Easter and its promise of spring.

For second course, we ordered a linguini with sea food (mostly mussels and shrimp), baked salmon on a bed of leeks, and lamb steak. The sauce for the linguini was the best part of the dish - the flavors were balanced and the tomato tasted incredibly fresh. The pasta was made on the premises but was slightly overcooked (which, granted, is a matter of preference). The salmon was well-cooked but the leeks were confusing. They were billed as a fondue (as opposed to the more famous Swiss variation, this is a preparation of vegetables cooked over low heat until very soft and reduced to a pulp. The fondue included the green parts of the leeks and, for some reason, was very citrusy. I love having lamb for Easter, but this was my first time encountering a lamb steak. The portion was generous and perfectly seasoned, a straightforward portion of protein with no flourishes or extra sauce. I enjoyed every bite.

For dessert we ordered stuffed apple beignets, choux, Grand Marnier and chocolate crepes, and the themed dessert, "Ouefs a la Niege," also known as Floating Island. As with the rest of the meal, this is more about aromas than high technique. The beignets were the simplest - battered apples, deep fried with a side of compote. The crepes were basic but made with good ingredients, and the choux were as light as dough can possibly be. The floating island consisted of meringue floating on vanilla bean custard, a refresher after all that lamb.

With that wine list and the promise of all you can eat mussels, I will never talk myself out of taking the metro again.

3321 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington D.C. 20008
(202) 966-3003
Lavandou on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Leah said...

What a great review Lorena! You are making me hungry :)