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Tom Sietsema Falls for Le DeSales

What the critics are saying this week

The main dining room at Le DeSales.

The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema visits recent arrival Le DeSales, a restaurant that “trots out familiar dishes in fresh ways.” Set inside a “civilized dining room,” the spot across from the Mayflower Hotel replaces Mediterranean-themed Panache.

The restaurant’s owners recently reimagined the interior and introduced a French accent: The low ceilings feature recessed lights, a big communal table beckons near the front window, and a serpentine bar “deserves to be more crowded than it is at the moment,” he notes.

Chef Raphael Francois most recently worked at Le Cirque in New York and tells Sietsema he’s “more interested in serving the food of his youth, albeit with restaurant flourishes.”

“Ask for the pistachio-veined pâté, made using duck and chicken liver, and a slab comes to the table with the usual condiments (cornichons, mustard), but also a manager holding a big jar of pickled cauliflower or onion, pieces of which he retrieves with long tweezers and places on the meat board. Jolted with peppercorns and juniper berries, the vegetables act like spark plugs on the bourbon-stoked pate. Their journey from jar to plate, with what looks like a surgical instrument, also turns heads as surely as any birthday candle.”

One of the “curiosities” is the shredded crab salad, topped with fresh tarragon and “all but hidden” beneath pureed potatoes. “If Neptune ate shepherd’s pie, this would be it,” Sietsema declares. “I like it enough for a few bites, but the dish tilts rich for a first course.”

Classics with a twist include the bavette, dry-aged beef that’s been marinated in house-made Worcestershire sauce. Ringlets of fried shallot add crunch to the entree, while halved grapes contribute juice and color.

Two misses include the quail with prunes on a “bed of soupy wheat” and a hamburger skewered on a steak knife that’s “more dramatic than delicious.” Get ready for lots of new faces, as “one server might take your order, another might bring you the food, yet someone else might pour your wine (a little too fast, alas, as if to hasten the sale of a second bottle).”

The creme brûlée is “good and proper.” Sietsema suggests splurging on the chocolate tart, the chef's grandmother's recipe that’s served on a buttery crust and topped with espresso ice cream. [WaPo]

Economist, author and ethnic dining enthusiast Tyler Cowen is all about Indigo this week, calling it “the most neglected Indian restaurant around, and you don’t even have to go to the suburbs.” He adds that “everything here tastes real.” [TCEDG]

D.C. Modern Luxury’s Nevin Martell reviews the Voltaggio brothers’ chic steak house in MGM National Harbor, deciding their first restaurant together is “pure magic”:

“Tuna pretending to be steak tartare comes topped with a giant parchment-thin potato chip dotted with sunbursts of emulsified yolk. Small cubes of the fish are dressed with mustard and onion, which add an uplifting pop to the dish. The brothers’ take on the classic wedge salad features half a head of iceberg face down in a bowl. Tomato jam hides in the folds, while the eye can see pickled red onions, panko-light bacon bits possessing the airy crunch of dehydrated beef, snowy Gorgonzola powder and ranch dressing perked with Old Bay. Though the textures sometimes surprise, the flavors are joyfully familiar.”

The playfully-named umami cereal features fried maitake mushrooms and a yeasty-beer-y emulsion atop steel-cut oats cooked in mushroom and kombu broth.

The star is Creekstone Farms beef, whose steaks are meant to be eaten family-style. The dry-aged cuts, Martell notes, feature subtle tones of funk and earthiness. Spice things up with one of three house-made sauces — the “most memorable” being the Asian-accented A1 amped up with gochujang and soy sauce.

Meanwhile, the sides are “pure decadence.” and include elbow macaroni “lavished with a creamy cheddar”; sauteed spinach hides under airy white cheddar espuma; and plump Parker House rolls accented with bits of sea salt. Beverage director Dane Nakamura’s cocktail list “pays homage to the classics” from the Mint Julep to a cosmo.

There are lots of hits on the dessert menu, but the standout is an upside-down lemon tart, “accompanied by clouds of whipped maple, crunchy shards of fennel-laced stained-glass candy and a restrained lavender ice cream.”

In short, “the Voltaggio brothers aren’t looking to reinvent the iconic steakhouse experience. Instead, they aim to refine it for the 21st century. The prime results are a cut above.” [Modern Luxury]

FROM THE BLOGS: Bitches Who Brunch checks out Joselito Casa de Comidas, while Rick Eats DC eats at Arroz, and Been There Eaten That tries Stable.

Le DeSales

1725 Desales Street Northwest, , DC 20036 (202) 506-6856 Visit Website

MGM National Harbor

101 MGM National Ave, Oxon Hill, MD 20745

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