In reality, transforming D.C.’s decade-old Panache into its sleek, airy successor, Le DeSales, took roughly seven months. But striking the “relaxed, down-to-earth” feel seasoned chef Raphael Francois said he hopes to convey within the dramatically altered interior has taken him years to refine.
Francois said he’s been visiting the District for several years, always keeping in touch with Aziz Safi and Farid Nouri — the same friends he’s now partnering with on this latest project. “D.C. is a beautiful, booming city,” Francois said of his newly adopted home (he told Eater he’s now living near the U Street corridor).
Recruiting Francois, a culinary professional who’s worked in Michelin-starred kitchens for over 20 years, is but one of the major investments Safi and Nouri have made in this latest hospitality venture. They hired Areetoon Jayanan Architecture & Interior Design to reinvent the 3,100-square foot space. Gone are the red- and gold-trimmed accents of yore, replaced now with stark white subway tiles, blue velvet-lined booths and gleaming hardwoods. The 119-seat restaurant features a glass-enclosed cellar housing 300 bottles of wine, a serpentine-shaped bar with room for just over a dozen guests, and boasts French doors that, in warmer months, are expected to lead out to a seasonal sidewalk seating area.
Francois has constructed a menu with some of France’s greatest hits (pate and foie gras made the cut), as well as some personal touches. He’s excited to have patrons snack on raw vegetables bolstered by anchovy, kick back with a gourmet burger, or sup on crab and potatoes. He mapped out plans to add charcuterie and perhaps raw bar options in the future. “At some point I would love to add some oysters,” he said.
Beverage consultant Lukas B. Smith has formulated a drinks list featuring on-tap cocktails — including a signature Rickey composed of dry gin, lime juice, house-made gum syrup, dill, bergamot, calamus root, and neroli, all aided by a hint of carbonation — as well as locally sourced beer and cider. “Chef is a big cider head,” Smith said, citing plans to feature at least one cider on draft along with a growing roster of regional brews. Early contenders for the handful of draft lines (expect perhaps a dozen other beers in bottles and cans) include Rowdy Rye from Atlas Brew Works and Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne from Right Proper Brewing Company.
The restaurant is projected to open on March 29 for dinner service.