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May 7, 2007 06:45 AM

Cafe du Parc

This is the new brasserie/cafe in the Willard Hotel. The space is very nicely appointed, kind of an upscale bistro decor, with crisp white woodwork and royal blue banquettes. It should be noted, however, that this is a hotel restaurant, and a little bit of corporate-ness is visible. The staff is outstanding from the warm greeting at the door to the gracious welcoming from the waiter. When my son dropped a knife on the floor, someone came almost jogging out of the kitchen with a replacement on a napkin lined plate. The service was so "good", in fact, that starters came out minutes after ordering and the main dishes arrived before I had swallowed the last bite of my appetizer.

I wish the food was a little better. Gourgeres, brought to the table gratis, were warm and delicious. The Onion soup was rich and cheesey, but a bit sweet for my taste. A pate of long roasted beef and vegetables was homey, but plain. Roasted monkfish with a red wine sauce was perfectly cooked, but tasted a bit astringent. And my wife's sous-vide cooked, then crisped, pork was again, expertly cooked, but plain and even a little dry. Sides, which are offered free of charge, included terrific french fries as you would expect, and tastey but overcooked peas. Vanilla ice cream failed the kid test but espresso was great. First courses were about $7-10 and mains about $17-20.

Cafe du Parc is a wonderful addition to the city and I'm sure a welcomed alternative for hotel guests. Coming on the heels of Central and Brasserie Beck, however, it seems to come up a little short of a must-go for restaurant fans.

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  1. Thanks, Pappy. Cafe du Parc was on my list of places to try soon. I am surprised that the pork sous vide was plain and dry. I don't see sous vide cooking very often but it is usually moist and flavorful. Oh well, .... my GF will have to try something else. I noticed on their menu that they have pike quenelles in lobster sauce--a faovrite of mine that I can only find at La Chaumiere.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Dakota Guy

      I try not to mention LC on this board. God forbid others should find out about it. I'd rather have them chase all the new, trendy bistros and leave me and the other regulars at LC to ourselves. It's almost like a club that way.

      I had absolutely the best soft-shells there for lunch last Wednesday. Simply sauted in butter, evoo, a touch of garlic and a sprinkling of fresh herbs. Small, sweet, moist and delicious!

      1. re: Pappy

        Wow, bemoaning "trendiness" and writing "evoo" all in the same post! :-)

        1. re: Hal Laurent

          I forgot to mention that it was "yummy!" and the bill was less the $30 with tip. C'mon, ...give me a break here. I type with two fingers.

    2. We tried it last night, finally. We both enjoyed it very much. We ate inside [there is al fresco dining available]. The staf was very attentive and very friendly, although the two servers seemed overworked for the space; there were no busboys so the two servers had to do everything. The complimentary gourgeres were a nice touch. I had the gaspacho, which was very flavorful and my GF had the assiettes de petits plats, which was five tasting-size appetixers served on a cytting board. Four of the five were excellent. This appetizer could easily be shared. I had the shrimp with espelette pepper and she had halibut. The pommes frites were very good indeed.

      It is not a destination spot but certainly well worth stopping in you are nearby. By the way, if you drive, the WIlliard offers free validated parking if you dine in one of their restaurants.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Dakota Guy

        My favorite type of cooking is French food but I have yet to try this spot out. What is the price range for your meal? Also how does it stand up to some other restaurants in the area...particularly my favorite Bistro D'Oc!? :)

        1. re: Elyssa

          The price for two appetizers, two entrees, and four glasses of wine was $100 (pre-tip).

          Cafe du Parc offers a more refined cuisine than bistro food so a comparison is not appropriate. I have eaten at Bistro D'Oc many a time [it was my favorite bistro for several years) but I prefer Bistrot Lepic now and, given a choice, I would go to Lepic rather than Cafe du Parc. I also like La Chat Noir (very good value) and I hate Bistro Du Coin (waaaay too crowded and noisy). But that's just me. I don't care for Bistro Francais in Georgetown (too touristy) and Bistro Bis just doesn't have a bistro feel to it -- too hotel-like -- but the food is good. Montemarte and Montsouris are both good but I much prefer the latter to the former.

          1. re: Elyssa

            By the way, Bistro D'Oc is probably not long for this world. I haven't spoken to the chef/owner but I read in the Post a few months ago that that whole block was purchased by a developer who plans to demolish and rebuild the block. The tourist souvenir shops will be no loss but I hate to see Bistro D'Oc and the Waffle House both demolished.

            1. re: Dakota Guy

              Went there for lunch last Friday and let's just say I won’t be going back there. First of all, the menu was uninspired. Mussels? Chicken Roti with American sauce? For a starter I choose the pork terrine which was really just a pork rillette which was completely bland and under seasoned. It reminded me of the first time I tried making it. Others orders equally uninspired starters combining (what tasted like) canned sardines and chickpea crisps. Sure the lardon frisee (salad du parc) was good, but it's a freaking lardon frisee!! For main course I went with the pork belly frankly I was really shocked at just how bad it was. The skin (because it was unscored like it should have) was this hard impenetrable shell. The layer of fat underneath (once again because the skin wasn't scored to render the fat out) was way too thick and unappetizing. The sauce (what should be a natural garlicky jus) was completely bland. Also, what's with the pots with side dishes served on the side? Why not just serve salmon mousse on cucumber disks? The lunch dining room had the atmosphere of a geriatric cafeteria, and now that I think of it - so did the food. Avoid.

              1. re: MFoxM

                I couldn't disagree more. I have eaten at Cafe du Parc twice now and find the execution to be above par. I had the pork belly last time I went for dinner: it was delicious and far less fatty than I would expect from the cut.

                Perhaps your expectations were not in line with French Bistro, if you find it uninspiring to find mussels on the menu.

                1. re: Bonz

                  Actually, French bistro food is one of my favorite styles of food. That's the kind of rustic yet classic food that I both enjoy while out and have been cooking for the past 10 years. However, today's buchon should be updated classics and not boring (and bland) copies of them. I love mussles, I've had mussles just about everywhere. But when you want to set yourself apart from the rest of the culinary world, you better bring something a little more innovative then what they brought me. Pork belly should be a fatty cut. But when done right the skin is crispy but not a hard thick shell, the layer of fat rendered and melts in your mouth, the jus naturally thickened by the melted garlic and fat from the meat - what I had just wasn't CLOSE to that. Perhaps they had an off service, perhaps we have different tastes, but the bottom line is on that day I found the place less than pedestrian and I will not return.

              2. re: Dakota Guy

                Are you serious???? That would be HORRIBLE! Bistro D'Oc is one of my favorite go-to spots in DC. It is my favorite moderatly priced french bistro restaurant in the city and my boyfriend and I go there all the time...especially after seeing a movie at E Street Cinema. It's our favorite date. I hope this isn't true because it's a popular spot which would be a shame to lose.

          2. Couldn't tell if anyone's been to Cafe du Parc at lunch time. Am going there this Sunday and wondering how it is vs. dinner, if anyone has thoughts. (and I echo the devotion to LC's pike quenelles -- nothing better!)

            3 Replies
            1. re: Night Owl

              Hi! I was there for lunch last Friday -- Sounds like you're locked-in, so hate to tell you I didn't like it at all.

              Everything sounded good, but in actuality was pretty flat and uninspired. I second MFoxM's comments above (true confessions, I was at the same lunch he was). If you have to go anyway, what I had wasn't bad. It was a bit of a seafood stew - it had a nicely garlicky/tomato broth and excellent chunks of fish (except for the tuna, which was a scary block of grey nastiness).

              Still though, it would have GREAT at some pub with some good Belgian beers and 17 bucks. It was a mild shame at an elegant lunch with champagne and $23 bucks. I just expected more flavor, ya know?

              1. re: Feastradio

                Thanks for the feedback. Kinda bummed that we're locked in at this point. Thanks for the suggestion about the seafood stew!

                1. re: Night Owl

                  No problem -- sometimes, low expectations make for good times. Think people are so opinionated cause there's some real jewels in the same vein downtown. (i.e. Brasserie Beck)