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Best French?

Will be in DC for meetings and we are looking for a good French restaurant. We will be staying near Dupont Circle but we are open to something that's a relative easy cab or metro ride. Quality of food is more important to us than the price.

Thanks in advance for your help and suggestions.

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  1. That would be Citronelle in Georgetown. Expect to drop $100+ per person just on food but you will definitely have dined at one of the very best restaurants in DC.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Ericandblueboy

      Citronelle is wonderful.

      But if you are looking for something much more affordable I recomend Bistro D'Oc for traditional french bistro/Parisian cuisine.

      I hear Marcel's is wonderful as well. (Also pricey)

      1. re: Ericandblueboy

        I like Marcel's better than Citronelle. It's also a little closer to Dupont than Citronelle.

        1. re: Ericandblueboy

          That is ridiculous. 1) Citronelle is not French. 2) Citronelle is not that good. 3) Citronelle is beyond affordable 4) Citronelle has many not so good tables, and if you are not known, you are likely to get one. 5) The attitude of the service at Citronelle can make for an unpleasant meal. And that review, mind you, is from someone, who is slightly known there and can afford it.

          Across the street, however, is the most authentically french restaurant remaining in the city (not bistro/brasserie). It has probably some of the best food in the city. And it is easily the best "price performer" in the city. The waitstaff is a treat. And the only bad tables are in an "secondary" dining room up front, while the rest encircle a wonderfully warm and romantic 360* fireplace.

          While I loath to mention it in public for fear I won't be able to get in, and at the risk of sounding Joe Hish, the answer to the OP is clearly La Chaumiere.

          1. re: Pappy

            I love La Chaumiere. It is cozy and very friendly. There's no bar area, so if you get there and have to wait you get smooshed in the hall between the coats and the bathroom, but the food is worth it! I had a very yummy meal there on New Year's Eve.

            1. re: Pappy

              I love La Chaumiere. I don't think it's quite as good as Marcel's, but it's not quite as expensive either. I'd pick either of them over Citronelle based on my one (and only) visit there.

          2. Marcel's to me is more like classic French cuisine than Citronelle. Although both are good, I actually prefer Marcel's if I am craving French.

            Bistro Bis I have to say though does have some very good French food, as well. Their escargot is the best I have had, and they have wonderful entrees and brunch, as well.

            Le Paradou has very good more modern French cuisine, it to me is also a little more French than Citronelle.

            Citronelle has amazing technique but to me it is more a French chef using his knowledge of French cooking and pastry techniques to make wonderful modern French/American foods (fried chicken, etc). Central his Bistro is a little more French to me in that it serves what you would find in many French bistros in Paris, but it also has an American twist.

            There certainly are also cheaper options, but if price is not an option I would go to Marcel's if price is a semi-factor I would go to Bistro Bis.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ktmoomau

              I haven't been to Citronelle but I second the other three recommendations as I've had excellent meals at all. I agree that Marcel's is classic french - and delicious. I like the small portions of a variety of very rich and flavorful foods there. But if you want a unique presentation of escargot (i.e. not the garlic butter sauce) definitely go to Bistro Bis. All in all, I think you would have a great meal at any of them.

              1. re: ktmoomau

                I totally forgot about Bistro Bis. They have my favorite brunch in town. Everything I've ever had has been excellently cooked and full of french flavor.

              2. I'll just agree with the advice you received. Citronelle is spectacular, but is really French technique on Modern American food. And beyond expensive.

                Marcel's is amazing, classic French haute cuisine, and incredible service.

                Bistro D'Oc is great for French bistro food.

                1. French is one part of the DC restaurant scene that is pretty disappointing. Anyone posting about quality over price should not be pointed to Bistro d'Oc, which I think is average for DC.

                  Citronelle is my one suggestion. But if you are looking for traditional fare, you won't find it there either. It is 'Cuisine Inventif.' No French on the menu and probably none spoken by the waiter either. Once you have Cheese Soup (excellent, BTW) on the menu, I am not sure you qualify as a French restaurant, even under the Inventif category.

                  Anyway, here are the websites you can check out the menus yourself. The chef at Marcel's is Belgian, not French.

                  If you cannot get a reservation at Citronelle, you can still eat without a reservation in the lounge, albeit ordering from a limited (but wonderful) menu.


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Steve

                    Steve, I agree that Wiedmaier is Belgian, but Marcel's is all French. There might be a Belgian influence on a special now and then, but the menu speaks of Paris to me.

                  2. I like the bistro experience the best when eating French. Hands down the best of those is Montmartre in Eastern Market, right near the metro stop. Wonderful french country food, good wine, a cozy and warm atmosphere and no typically Gaelic hauteur you might experience sometimes at a formal french restaurant. And the price is right. A close 2nd would be Lavandou in Cleveland park. Same type of atmosphere, provencal food, and good service and good prices. c'est magnifique!

                    1. I've tried all of the places listed above with the exception of Bistro d'Oc. Each has a very different feel, so it depends on whether you're looking for a place to entertain clients, a special someone, or just looking for a good meal. My order of preferences would be: 1) Marcels (a bit Belgian, but mostly French; great food and service); 2) La Chaumiere (cozy, country French, the type of place with copper pots on the walls and exposed wood beams); 3) La Paradou; 4) Lavendou (cozy, friendly service, solid dishes).

                      I disqualify Citronelle for being more American/French new/experimental than classic French. Not to mention their cold service and steep prices. I recommend it at some point, but not if you're looking for something quintessentially French. I also would disqualify Montmatre and Bistro Bis because they're not that close to Dupont (not that far in a cab, but you've got pretty good choices that are much closer).

                      1. The different replies here make me curious. I'm assuming everyone has been to France and eaten and many different places? Restaurants in France vary in different regions and cities. Normandy uses much butter and cream, Brittanny has the best moules frites in the world, and in the south tomatoes are the prevalent ingredient. Cheese is different all over the country. Soo.. saying one restaurant is more authentic than another is hard to do... there are good and bad restaurants in France, too.

                        Some of my favorites are La Fourchette in Adams Morgan, Bistro du Coin on 16th, and Bistro Francais in Georgetown. In some ways they are just as good as any restaurant that is actually in France. And, in some ways there are restaurants in France that you may not like at all.

                        For me it is the bread... there is only one place that I know of in the US that even comes close to authentic French baguette: Lingos Market in Rehoboth Beach.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: lukeinva

                          Cooking throughout Europe is not only regional, it can be micro-regional. It is pretty amazing how traditions developed, etc. In the case of tiny regions like La Thierache or the Marais Poitevin in France, some dishes are limited to about sixty or so tiny villages.

                          Having said that, I love eating at the Lounge at Citronelle, and I think it is interesting to question if it is indeed a French restaurant. Clearly it is not a Traditional menu, but I further believe it is a different menu than what is being created even by the "Inventif" restaurants in Paris. Chef Michel Richard clearly goes his own way, and at this point his food, IMO, comes simply under the category of delicious.

                          As for the other French restaurants in DC, I have not been to La Chaumiere, but I have been to all the others mentioned. Bistro Francais has a large menu, and quite a few good things on it. You can go both wrong and right there. When I worked at the French Embassy, we took many a French visitor there. I don't think much of any of the others. Le Lavandou used to be excellent, but went downhill when it changed hands. Recently, there have been some good reports.

                          In the suburbs, La Bergerie in Alexandria has a good trad menu. Though it's been quite a while since I've been there.

                          1. re: Steve

                            Steve, have you eaten in the restaurant proper at Citronelle? My dislike for the place is based on one visit, where our treatment seemed to match Pappy's description of "someone who isn't known there". And I could have gotten past that except that the food didn't wow me nearly enough for the amount of money I spent.

                            1. re: Hal Laurent

                              No, I never have. Only the Lounge, where the service is excellent plus you can go casual plus you can order a la carte and not spend so much. No reservations needed, either.

                              From my observation, though, I can appreciate the pitfalls in going to the formal dining room. As where in the lounge I can skip the entree and go for an appetizer and soup, you are more locked-in downstairs. In many cases, you are missing the best part of the meal which is the soup course. No other restaurant in DC creates such spectacular soups, in flavor or presentation.

                              Here is my suggestion: before catching a movie in Georgetown sometime, saunter into the lounge. If you only have time or inclination for an appetizer or dessert, then order one and stop right there. If you like it, go on to order something else. You can decide how much to spend and how much time you have.

                              1. re: Hal Laurent

                                I have eaten in the restaurant and having been there rarely still received excellent service. I also thought the food was great I had the beluga lobster and skate. I had to leave quickly after dessert was served and asked the Hostess to have my car pulled around when dessert came and they politely had it ready with my coat already pulled from coat check. The servers were also excellent at guiding me through the menu. I think it is very worth it, but I love it in the way I love mini-bar for the experience. I however, think the food is different from even the inventif style of French cuisine, Chef Richard I think really fell in love with american food, his obsession with crunch, fried chicken, burgers, and the like.

                                I have eaten my way through France as I had the luck of studying abroad there, and visiting many times. The cuisine is very regional, although there are some things that are staples everywhere.

                                That is why I stated that to me Marcel's is like an old school top notch restaurant in Paris, or something you would find more North. Bistro Bis is certainly closer to Parisian mixed with some influence from the Eastern Coast.

                                We don't ave many places that represent Southern France well, at least not that I have been to.

                                And LukeinVA if you are looking for the closest thing to a french croissant Pastries by Randolph has the best, I also think they are closest to the best baguette in NOVA although you would think you could find it in Bethesda as they have a large French population.

                                1. re: ktmoomau

                                  There are a lot of great suggestions here. My favorite DC French restaurants are:

                                  - Bistrot Lepic: cozy, charming Provencale cuisine; very nice wine bar/lounge as well, located in Upper Georgetown (short cab ride away from Dupont)
                                  - Bistrot du Coin: lively ambiance w/ classic bistro menu, located in Dupont Circle (service is sometimes an issue)
                                  - La Chaumiere: a bit stuffy, but good classic French cuisine (excellent chocolate soufflee), located in Georgetown
                                  - Lavandou: casual neighborhood restaurant (in Cleveland Park convenient to metro) w/ an emphasis on Provencale cuisine (check out its websites for nightly specials)
                                  - Bistro Bis: a bit Americanized, but still w/ a good menu, convenient to Union Station metro stop (a bit far from Dupont compared to the others though)