I suppose it is about time for me to review OUR restaurant, the one where Jasper proposed to me, where we spend most of our anniversaries and special occasions - Marcel's. It is a romantic, old world, French restaurant. Marcel's gives you the ability to choose how many courses to have in your tasting menu - 3,4,5, or 7. You may chose multiples of a dish, choose all appetizers, all desserts - whatever you want! You may also order a la carte, but I wouldn't recommend it. You will want to be able to try many things. The Pre-theater 3 course menu is also a wonderful option (remember that you will have an amuse bouche and several additional sweets in addition to the 3 courses). If you valet your car, they will arrange to drive you via towncar to the Kennedy Center, and bring you back after the show. You can even opt to have the dessert course when you come back after the show. The wine list here is, of course, impressive. Leave yourself in the hands of the excellent sommelier - he knows what he is talking about.
The absolute best thing on the menu is Chef Robert Wiedmaier's signature Boudin Blanc - a fluffy, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth, mousse filled white sausage. I get this absolutely every time I come. If there is foie gras on the menu, get that too - they know how to do it right. Usually it will be served on top of brioche, which is good for sopping up all that blackberry or truffle sauce - yum. Jasper loves the Diver Scallops, I love the raw fish crudos. Anything with lobster, especially if it is with pasta, is fantastic. The cooked fish courses are consistently good (especially turbot), as are the snails, when they are on the menu. The entrees are always good - I typically go for lamb, duck, veal, or anything involving phyllo pastry. Jasper tends to go for the beef. Sometimes I skip the entree entirely and order everything from the beginning of the menu. Sometimes I don't even get dessert *gasp*! Though, of course, they are very good. They change constantly, so I can't offer any specific review, except to say that I have never been disappointed on the few occasions I have chosen sweets over cheese. The cheese course is top of the line with cheeses like Roquefort and Taleggio, and accompaniments like honeycomb and Sauternes syrup.
I know that this review is a bit vague, so the next time that we go, I will bring back a report of exactly what we ordered to give you a better idea. Trust me though, this is a special restaurant, and special things will happen to you here.
By the way, Chef Wiedmaier practices the philosophy of using the whole animal. His other restaurants include Brasserie Beck, BRABO, The Tasting Room, and Mussel Bar.
Bastille is set off of the beaten path in a largely industrial area of Alexandria. The restaurant itself, however, is warm, intimate, and bistro-like. They have a good wine list, including a large selection of reserves, imported and artisanal beers, and artisanal sodas.
The couple we came with had eaten there before and steered me towards the shrimp and calamari beignets - and rightly so. They were hot, crispy outside, tender chunks of seafood inside, and served with a sheep's milk yogurt and harissa dip. Jasper had the organic chicken liver mousse with cranberry gelee, which was also very good.
As an entree, I had the bouillabaisse - made with big chunks of cod, shrimp, scallops, and mussels; hearty winter vegetables like carrots and parsnips; and a tomato broth. Jasper had perfectly seared scallops on a creamy black truffle risotto. Our companions had the salmon, and the hangar steak - served with bordelaise and a huge pile of fresh french fries.
We added a cheese course for an extra $12. I love all and any cheeses, but the highlights of this course were the house made spiced raisins and the Black Pepper d’Affinois cheese - a French double cream (like brie).
For dessert I had the ginger spice cake with vanilla mascarpone and spiced banana and raisin compote with crunchy walnuts. Jasper had the Valrhona chocolate pot de creme. Both were excellent. Our companions had the sweet potato crème caramel with cranberry compote and caramel corn.
After having just eaten at the French La Bergerie the night before, I would have to say that I vastly recommend Bastille as the better restaurant. I would definitely make the drive to Alexandria to eat here again.
La Bergerie is an old world, old school, classic French restaurant. The main dining room looked lovely and comfortable with cushy booths and romantic chandeliers. We were sat in a nook off to the side, however, crammed with other tables and brightly lit. From what I could see of the decor from our location, it was old world with brick arches, brocade wall paper, and tapestry chairs. Our server was hurried (due to the rush of restaurant week, perhaps) but knowledgeable and friendly. He selected a wine for us based on our preferences. The wine list was extensive, of course, this being a French restaurant.
I was going to order the escargot, but the server steered me towards the fruits de mer au gratin, saying that we could get the escargot anytime and the fruits de mer was only for this week. The presentation was lovely, using a large sea shell as as bowl. The scallops, shrimp, and mussels were tender and served in a creamy mushroom bechamel sauce and topped with cheese. It was very good, but did taste somewhat like tuna helper - if tuna helper had gone to Henry Higgins and been taught to be more elegant. Jasper had a juicy venison sausage on a bed of perfectly cooked lentils with a red wine sauce.
I was confused and conflicted over my entree. The salmon was perfectly cooked and well flavored, but topped with a bizarre, dry, green patty that tasted somewhat like potatoes and herbs. It was served on top of a creamy polenta with a good texture, but way too much dried herb flavor. To one side there was a smear of some sort of non-flavorful sauce, to the other was a few random green beans which were perfectly cooked but under-seasoned. Jasper's steak au poivre (his favorite dish) was well cooked, but not peppery enough for his tastes and the sauce was not creamy, as it should be. He also had a smattering of well cooked, unseasoned green beans. His "frittes" (french fries) however, were very good - thin and crispy and served with ketchup!
After a disappointing entree, I was floored by dessert. Jasper had a creme brulee and I'm sure it was very good, but I paid no notice because I had heaven in front of me in the form of a souffle. Airy and eggy and fluffy, served with the traditional Grand Marnier (this time mixed into a fantastic whipped cream) - what more could you ever want?!
La Bergerie is for lovers of the traditional. I expect the population most nights to be in the older age range. I would hope that on another, less busy, night that the atmosphere would be very romantic.