Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Le Diplomate

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I have been a fan of restauranteur Stephen Starr since high school when my parents first took me to his restaurant, Pod, in Philadelphia. At the time, Pan-Asian restaurants were unique, and Stephen Starr was just a Philly guy. Since then, he has expanded to markets throughout the country, but unlike some celebrity restaurantaurs, I have continued to admire his innovation and talent in designing beautiful restaurants, creating interesting menus, and hiring awesome chefs to cook delicious meals. Since my parents live outside of Philadelphia, it's always been a treat to go to one of Starr's restaurants when I go home. For years, one of of my favorites has been Parc, a French brasserie right on Rittenhouse Square. Needless to say, I was more than a little excited when Starr decided to model his first DC restaurant, Le Diplomate, after Parc. 

My first visit to Le Diplomate (and definitely not my last) was for brunch two weekends ago. The first thing that struck me was the beautiful design of the restaurant. Until about six months ago, the space that Le Diplomate now occupies was a boarded-up building. The transformation is remarkable. It literally looks like you sidled up to a cafe in Paris. It is adorable and I love it. 

Although we sat inside, I really enjoyed the blend of indoor-outdoor space. The window over our table opened up to sidewalk tables along 14th Street, and there is a large patio along the back side of the restaurant. This is going to be a perfect spot for outdoor dining and drinking this summer. I almost hate that I am telling you how great this place is, because it's already hard enough to get a table! But I cannot resist. 

When you first walk in, a waitress is slicing fresh baguettes by the bar. Another delightful touch. 

The first thing we ordered was a basket of pastries for the table. Although I am not usually keen on the idea of having to pay for your bread basket, this was no ordinary basket. The reasonably-priced assortment included  croissants, muffins, and pastries. Each was flakier and more buttery than the next. Do yourself a favor: splurge. 

Next we got the Salad Verte. It was a really light and refreshing blend of butter lettuce, watermelon radishes, haricot verts, and a gentle red-wine vinaigrette. With the amount of food we ordered, the salad wasn't totally necessary, but the vegetables were amazingly fresh, vibrant green, and served as a perfect palette cleanser between courses. 

I am a total sucker for any type of Benedict, and this particular occasion was no exception. So for my entree, I ordered the Salmon Benedict and was very happy with the outcome. 

The smoked salmon was plentiful, smoky, and not too salty; the eggs were perfectly poached; and my hollandaise sauce (on the side at my request) was the perfect creamy accompaniment. 

One of my friends, who is on a health-food kick (wrong place for that, ladies), ordered the egg-white omelet filled with ratatouille. PaleOMG is right! This dish was hearty, flavorful, and (arguably) "healthy."


On the complete oppostie end of the diet spectrum, my other friend ordered the Eggs Boudin Noir. This consisted of a skillet baked with polenta, blood sausage, asparagus, gruyere cheese, levain bread, and was topped with a poached egg. 

The richness of this dish was unparalleled, but it was worth every bite. I don't even like blood sausage, and I had to resist every urge to keep my fork on my own plate. This dish was definitely a winner. 

My friend Jenna visiting from SF- loved her meal! 
The nice thing about Le Diplomat's menu (and brasseries in general) is that they really offer a great variety of items. They can totally cater to different diets, palettes, and moods. I am already excited to go back and check out the dinner items later this summer. 

Welcome to DC, Stephen Starr. I hope to be seeing a lot more of you. 

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