French Bistro Favorites At Le Chat Noir
By Nancy Lewis
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Cool autumn nights make me want to snuggle up to a bowl of French onion soup in a tiny French bistro, or brave the crisp night air to line up for a crepe on a Paris street corner.
At Le Chat Noir just north of Tenleytown, you can find both the soup and crepes, without the wintry bluster. Opened in spring 2005, the menu at Le Chat Noir (Black Cat) combines the best of Nice and Normandy. Owner Samuel Ziar is from the former; his wife, Mary, hails from the latter.
The space on Wisconsin Avenue is small. The main dining room has church pews as banquettes, shimmering curtains sprinkled with paper "leaves" covering the rear wall, gold-painted tin ceilings and crisp white tablecloths topped with crisp white paper. And just like a proper Paris bistro, the glass front doors open out onto an enclosed patio, all in dark shades. The whole place seats about 50 people; the close table spacing means you probably will end up best friends with neighboring diners.
The immediate Tenleytown neighborhood supports several restaurants. The Metro is a couple of blocks away; that's a good thing because street parking can be difficult to find.
The menu contains many French stalwarts: duck pt, a quiche of the day, steak and frites, veal scallops flambeed with Calvados apple brandy (the Normandy influence), and pissaladiere, an onion and anchovy tart (the Nice, or Provence, influence).
And then there are the amazing crepes (again the Normandy influence). The savory pancakes are made with buckwheat flour and are true French-style crepes -- 12 or 14 inches across, and folded decoratively to encase one of several fillings. The sweet crepes are made with white flour. Take a bite and close your eyes and pretend you are on the Boulevard St. Germain.