The history of rock ‘n’ roll is paved with classic partnerships: Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, Bono and the Edge. So, when record-exec-turned-restaurant- manager John Warner decided to open his own establishment, he knew he’d need a top-notch collaborator to create a culinary smash hit. He didn’t have to look very far: David Ashwell was the chef de cuisine at Brasserie Beck, where Warner was managing at the time. The two formed a partnership and penned a love song to French cuisine: Cleveland Park’s Bistrot Le Zinc, which opened in mid-July.
Vision: “I’ve always been an amateur Francophile,” Warner says. “Paris is the greatest city in the world.” Most of the dishes here taste like they were imported directly from the City of Light, thanks to Ashford’s well-executed sauces, including a winning beurre rouge (red butter) that accompanies the roast chicken breast and a cabernet reduction that comes with the steak frites.
Eats: Put aside any childish fears when ordering an appetizer, because the escargot ($12) is the way to go. The buttery snails are shucked from their shells and placed in a rich burgundy sauce that rings a braised Granny Smith apple injected with creamy Stilton blue cheese and topped with fresh parsley and roasted wild garlic. There are eight entree choices, including the pan-seared red snapper ($24) with a golden basil brioche crust crowned with a small oval of eggplant tapenade. This rests on a shelf of whipped chive potatoes, which is surrounded by a moat of red pepper reduction. The dessert menu is small but well executed. Try the delightful poached Bartlett pear ($10) stuffed with candied roasted walnuts, which is placed in a puff pastry shell before being draped with a healthy dose of Kirsch Sabayon (frothy brandy sauce) and a sprinkle of cinnamon. An oval scoop of creme fraîche ice cream completes this memorable finale.
Drinks: In keeping with the traditional bistro cuisine, only French wines are for sale. There are 30 options, which vary in price from $29 to $165. If you’re feeling bubbly but don’t want a whole bottle, choose from a dozen champagne cocktails. The Montpelier ($9) adds a dash of thyme-maple syrup to a glass of sparkling wine, while the Nelson’s Blood ($9) marries tawny port to the fizzy vino.
Atmosphere: Iconic photos of Bob Marley, Muhammad Ali and Winston Churchill preside over this cozy eatery, where the open kitchen produces pleasing aromas to entice the crowd of families, friends and first-date couples.3714 Macomb St. NW; 202-686-2015, Lezincdc.com. (Cleveland Park)