Omar Popal of Napoleon Bistro shares his Valentine’s Day tips

February 14, 2014
omarmain

As the co-owner of Napoleon Bistro and Lounge — the romantic French bistro in Adams Morgan — Omar Popal has seen his fair share of first dates and anniversary dinners (1847 Columbia Road, NW; 202-299-9630, napoleondc.com). Recently, he expanded the intimate Champagne lounge in the basement, where a secret door leads you to a mixed-use gallery, Cru, that’s sure to get steamy.

What goes on at Cru?
The literal translation means raw. Everything other than the bathroom and the bar will change according to the event. It’s raw because whatever we decide to do in the space will encompass that space. We’ll host musical concerts as well as pop-up art shows. Right now we have work from two local artists, Decoy and Cory Oberndorfer, on the walls.

Why did you choose to have a focus on Champagne and sparkling wine?
Most people don’t know that sparking wine can be had with dinner and it’s just as robust and encompassing as a wonderful red or white. Part of the reason we decided to make the downstairs a Champagne bar was to educate the consumer and expose them to boutique  and small family-owned vineyards. Plus, there’s nothing more French than Champagne.

Do you see people committing any Champagne no-nos?
The most recent one was someone ordered a Champagne and Red Bull. But to each their own! We’re in the hospitality industry.

Is there a glass of something you recommend to impress your Valentine’s Day date?
One of my favorite sparkling wines right now is a cava made in Spain called Mont Marcal. It’s from one of those under-the-radar houses and it’s not expensive at all ($9 a glass).

You must host a lot of couples.
We’ve seen it all — from first dates to anniversaries to proposals to wedding dinners. We’ve seen couples who have met here and have their anniversary dinners here. They tell us they got married because they met here. We have this one guy who brings all his first dates here. It’s great. If I didn’t own the place, I’d bring all my first dates here, too.

Have you ever overheard any bad pick-up lines?
I’ve heard this one guy say, “Excuse me ma’am, you’ve dropped something,” as he walks past a woman. And the woman will say, “What?” and he’ll say, “Your smile.”

What’s happening at Cru and Napoleon on Valentine’s Day?
We’ll have a four-course menu at Napoleon prepared by our two-star Michelin chef Gerard Pangaud ($49 per person, including one glass of Champagne). At Cru, we’re screening love-themed films as part of the Les Lutins Short Film festival ($10, films repeat every hour on the hour). There will be Champagne, macaroons and caramel popcorn.

Holley Simmons is the dining editor of The Washington Post Express. When she’s not reporting on local restaurants and tastemakers, you can find her sewing a dress from a 1950s pattern or planting a windowsill herb garden. Contact her at holley.simmons@wpost.com.
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Holley Simmons · February 14, 2014