The chocolates at Locolat Cafe in Adams Morgan are displayed behind glass, like art in a gallery. To resist them would be difficult for any cocoa fanatic.
But in this case, filling up on chef Niel Piferoen's bite-size confections would be a shame, because then you might overlook his sandwiches and other baked creations.
In conjunction with his wife, Ada, and father, Geert (a master chef), Piferoen opened Locolat in June 2008 with a focus on chocolate, breakfast pastries, coffee and waffles with a few cold sandwich options. Since then, the cafe inspired by the chef's homeland of Belgium has filled out its menu to include savory waffles, panini and more.
The pastry puff pockets look like giant turnovers on first glance; Piferoen stuffs them with lunch-worthy options. The creamy filling of the leek pocket ($7.85) lacked heft, although its somewhat soggy effect in no way detracted from the pocket's golden flakiness.
The Passendale cheese panino ($7.25) and cold sandwich of smoked salmon and grilled vegetables ($8.25) both benefited from thin baguettes with satisfyingly crunchy tops. Piferoen imports the bread from France. The dressing spread on both sandwiches, however, is house-made. The chef said the recipe comes from his mother, who created it "by accident" when she was trying to make something else. He counts mustard, mayonnaise, olive oil and prosecco among the ingredients. We thought its slightly pungent flavor paired especially well with the panino's mild, semisoft cow's-milk cheese and peppery arugula.
No surprise: Waffles are a popular order at Locolat. We bypassed the Brussels version in favor of the Liege ($6.15), with a more cakelike structure than what Americans might typically expect in a Belgian waffle.
"It's a waffle we eat on the street, on the go," Piferoen said, which might explain why it held up remarkably well in a takeout container on a return trip to the office. It was modestly adorned with confectioners' sugar; the sugar pearls in the batter provided a pleasant crunch.
If dessert is in the cards, we recommend the eclair, whose interior is generously filled with pastry cream that is not too sweet ($3.25). The individual almond-laced pear tart ($6.25) tastes as good as it looks and is large enough for two.
Piferoen and his wife say they want people to know that Locolat is more than just a chocolate shop. When asked which item on their menu is the hottest seller, the chef answered, "The funny part is, everyone has their own specific thing they come for," whether it be waffles, panini or something else.
"We can't really say," Piferoen said.
Neither can we, and that's a good sign.
- Becky Krystal (Good to Go, September 22, 2010)