La Voile - better than ever, and a small rant on wine value
Hadn't been to La Voile in nearly a year, so I was excited to get there this week and see how it had settled in. And I was even more excited to have a meal that was just about perfect from start to finish.
Flawless seared scallop salad, with fresh greens and a really tangy lemon dressing; perfectly prepared sweetbreads in an outstanding pan sauce; a thoughtful cheese selection; the French bread was appropriately not-too-crusty, all the better for mopping up the array of outstanding sauces.
Value was decidedly paradoxical. On one hand, entree prices primarily in the low-to-mid 20s seemed perfectly fair for the quality. On the other hand, the primarily French wine list, while impressively well-chosen and fairly extensive, didn't seem to have much in the way of good value. The majority of reds seemed to fall in the $70 - $150 range, with a handful of choices just south of $50, nearly all of which struck me as pretty severely marked up. I feel incredibly lucky to be in a life situation where the very occasional well-selected $150 bottle of Burgundy at a restaurant is feasible, even welcome, but given the relatively casual feel of the other elements here, the high wine markup seems jarring and out of place. It seems to me that the rest of La Voile's vibe is all about serving great French food, but taking care to avoid putting it on a pedestal; but the wine list seems to intone, "this is FRENCH wine! Worship, be grateful, and ask no questions!" This, I could live without.
On the other side of the spectrum, when I ate at L'Espalier last weekend I was pleasantly surprised to see that the wine list, although of course it extended into quadruple digits, also had plenty of selections in the $30-$50 range. I don't know how much they were marked up, though.
I rise in support of your rant! I agree whole heartedly with all of your points. I really like everything about La Voile , from the room to the service and generally warm hospitality and the food which has always been lovely and well priced. However, the wine list is unecessarily out of whack with the dinner menu. I don't mind that it is limited to French appelations, after all it is a very authentic Provencal themed restaurant. I just can't accept the fact that there are almost no selections in the $30 - $50 ranges when there are plenty of French wines in the $10 -$ 20 retail range so even with a stiff mark up there should be more affordable selections. It is because of this issue that I only visit the restaurant on a rare special occasion when it could easily be a more frequently visited place. (and that second bottle of wine might occasionally be an option if this was resolved).
I've seen a number of crazy wine lists like that lately. The biggest culprit, no doubt because they had much loftier ambitions when they opened, is Marliave. That wine list is obscenely top-heavy. I love those meatball sliders, but know better than to spring for a $90 red to go with them. They've got to get on the Silvertone tip if they hope to compete for that crowd.
Great review, finlero.
I really like La Voile for what it is--rustic, authentic provencal French with an all-French staff--and am glad that early inconsistencies have grown into a solid meal.
I'm not sure if we had the same seared scallops--I have not been in a few months--but I love the seared scallop dish I had. And the sweetbreads there are delicious. They are my favorite thing on their menu, and my favorite sweetbread dish in town.
I have to agree on the wine. My usual DC is, like me, into wine and we really enjoy their wine list, but find it top heavy. I'm never quite sure if its just missing items in the lower prices or if its over-priced. We've had some excellent red southern Rhones there that were great in both a value sense and in absolute terms--but not cheap, so there are relative values to be had.
This time of year, we enjoy their patio, too.
My only wish is for more local, higher quality ingredients. I'd love to see some top-notch beef and local greens, but that might be hard at their price point.