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Nov 10, 2007 05:57 PM

WestendBistro - Lots of Room for Improvement

I don't post much here anymore. I eat out a lot. I take the good with the bad. I return to the good, and I don't recommend the bad. But tonight's meal, in view of the anticipation, was such a disappointment that I can not leave it unaddressed,

Lovely setting in the the Ritz Carlton Hotel at 22nd and M street. Sleek, sophisticated, great lighting, good crystal and silver, lots of professional help...appears promising.

Wine by the glass is warm. Wine by the bottle is poorly chosen and warm as well. Service can barley find its way around the room. I resorted to begging before an extra place-setting could be cleared.

Arugula and Artichoke Salad was fine, if slightly overdressed. Calamari was diced into small squares, under cooked and under seasoned. Pate en Choute was a warm, loose, perfect pork sausage, enrobed in a laden, doughy casing with nothing else on the plate.

Mussels were clean and well cooked, but included discs of chorizo and smoked paprika in the sauce. Hardly traditional, and frankly, not at all welcomed by our party. Flat Iron Steak was cooked perfectly medium rare, but it's wane taste had us wishing they had a proper bistro hanger steak offering instead. Chesapeake Seafood Stew was a nice piece of bass with three clams and three mussels in a warm, wonderful saffron broth. Except that the seafood stew at BlackSalt is 1,000X better, it was fine. French Fries would not rank in the top 10 in city.

Black Walnut Tart for dessert was such a loser it was removed from the bill.

This is not Eric Ripert at his best. Right now, this restaurant is an afterthought, not a destination.

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  1. We finally tried Eric Ripert’s West End Bistro last night. The décor is sophisticated and inviting. Tables were comfortably spaced and the noise level was at a minimum. The overall ambiance is very nice and far better than a typical bistro.

    On an early weeknight, the restaurant was about half full when we left. The service was friendly, attentive, and professional. The wine list could use some rethinking, e.g., $200+ wines in a bistro?! But we found a modest but nice Bordeaux.

    I was afraid that my expectations would get in the way. Le Bernardin (Eric’s Ripert’s flagship seafood restaurant in New York City) is my favorite restaurant anywhere. I have eaten there many times and his approach is simplicity, elegance, and highly flavorful dishes. I didn’t expect the Bistro to be a mini-Bernardin but it is Ripert and I couldn’t shake my experiences with his food, which I can only say have sometimes been breathtakingly good.

    As an appetizer I had the tuna carpaccio, sensing this would lend itself to a Le Bernardin approach. It did. It consisted of ultra-finely cut tuna arranged on a plate to appear to be a single large round piece, dressed with olive oil and chives. It was almost Bernardin-good. It needed only a smidgen of citrus to cut the oil and add a spark. My GF had a salad with warm goat cheese, baby beets, and greens. It was very good as well but it too needed a touch of citrus. I recommend both dishes.

    I had the fish burger for an entrée. It was moist and flavorful. My GF had the beef burger. She said it was cooked perfectly and one of the best she’s had. The fries were lightly seasoned and quite nice but needed to be a bit crisper.

    For dessert, I had the ubiquitous “molten” chocolate cake. It was very good but hardly unique. My GF had the apple tart. The presentation was unique. It was small (perhaps 3 inches in diameter) with a thick layer of apples on a shortbread-like base. It was not the best apple tart we have had [La Chaumiere still reigns supreme there] but it was different and quite good.

    Dinner with two apps, two entrees, two desserts, and a bottle of wine was a modest $125 (pre-tip).

    We were both quite pleased and plan to return relatively soon try some other dishes [perhaps not the ones Pappy tried !]. Others have had mixed experiences, I have read, but we left happy and looking forward to trying it again.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Dakota Guy

      I'm surprised to see all the comments about the fries. I ate there Sunday and the fries were some of the best I've EVER had -- burn-your-fingertips hot, crisp exterior and floury on the inside.

      I won't elaborate too much on our meal as it repeats what others tried. I liked the salmon rillettes -- tasty, but not special. Hubs had six oysters, which were great. And both had the fish burger, which we both loved.

      No dessert, half carafe of white. Our entire meal was about $75 (before tip) which I found quite surprsingly reasonable.

      1. re: Dakota Guy

        Glad to hear the report on the fish burger since that seemed the most interesting to me. Is it served with any type of sauce?

        1. re: Elyssa

          a nice remoulade sauce (on the side)

      2. We went last Friday night and enjoyed it although agree that some kinks can be worked out.

        Cocktails were good. I had a pisco sour, husband had a bourbon concoction, and friends had a beer and a chocolate martini. All were good, but pisco was a small portion and served in a tumbler rather than a champagne glass as I'm used to.

        For appetizers we shared the calamari and mussels. Calamari was as Pappy described above, although I found it more flavorful than he indicates. I didn't like the little flakes though--I prefer my calamari in rings and tenticles. We really enjoyed the mussels, and to address Pappy's comment about the chorizo--the menu indicates that chorizo is in the broth. Mussel portion wasn't as large as what you get at Brasserie Beck, but we found them rather tasty and fresh.

        For entrees I had the veal cheeks, as did one of our friends. I agree with another poster in a different thread that the portion was small, but these were extremely tender and moist. The light mushroom broth was flavorful and a perfect accompaniment to the meat and pureed potatoes. My husband had the fettucini bolognese and it was great as well. The pasta tasted veryfresh and the meat sauce had a good balance of meats (probably a mix of beef, veal, and pork) and seasoning. Our other friend had the salmon, which was poached and served with asparagus. I'm not a salmon fan so I can't comment on that although she had specifically asked how it was cooked and the waiter said grilled (she didn't want it poached!).

        Other than the snafu with the salmon, the service was a bit off. Timing wasn't right--they brought out our entrees when we were still finishing our apps. So when we ordered desserts (we all wanted the molten chocolate cake so got 2 of the table and really enjoyed it!) we asked that our waiter wait 10 minutes to put the order in so that we could digest and finish our bottle of wine (a reasonably priced--under $40--pinot noir).

        For a bistro it was a bit pricier than I would have hoped, and despite some second-night service glitches we plan to return.

        Westend Bistro
        1190 22nd Street NW, Washington, DC 20037

        1 Reply
        1. re: KWynn

          How brilliant is Eric to serve staff meals (the fish burger) to the DC public!! lol.

          Sounds the place is hit/miss at the moment. But I have no doubt that Eric will straighten this place out.

          However, there are just SO many bistro's in area nowadays and West End will really need to be something special to justify the Ripert name.