I recently spent three days eating around Paris, yet I can’t stop thinking about the food I dispatched before takeoff: at the new Le Diplomate in Logan Circle. In significant ways, the sweeping brasserie from Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr speaks with a more convincing French accent than much of what I encountered abroad.
Starr’s 30th establishment isn’t even a month old, but already many of its 200 inside seats are claimed on a regular basis. Part of the allure is its design, which puts you in a Parisian frame of mind with a bakery’s worth of fresh breads on display, curved lipstick-red banquettes, golden lighting and a zinc-topped bar. The Garden Room, off the main dining area, lets you pretend you’re dining alfresco, thanks to a tented glass roof and shiny green tiles. (The French script on the wall translates as “the whitening of the shirts,” a reference to the dry cleaning service the building once housed.)
Less Gallic is the service: knowledgeable and brisk, genial and efficient.
Are competitors nervous? They ought to be. The garlicky steak frites at Le Diplomate alone is worth a detour. The beef is thick, ropy and juicy; the twice-fried french fries taste truly of potato.
There’s more where that came from. Foie gras “parfait” brings a fluffy scoop of emulsified chicken liver, foie gras, butter and spirits served with thick toasted brioche and a spread of prune and fennel on a slender board. The starter is tres bon. Grilled loup de mer comes with strips of silky-soft bell peppers that are so good, the grace note ought to be offered as a side dish. Plats du jour run from lavender roast duck (Monday) to Dover sole meuniere (Saturday, and count me in).
Only a small cast-iron pot of flat-tasting snails interrupts one night’s dream of a dinner, which ended with a light and lovely grapefruit sorbet dressed up with cinnamon whipped cream and lacy cookies.
Executive chef Adam Schop, 37, was one of a dozen cooks interviewed for the top job. He beat out three French chefs in the process.
Poor them. Lucky us. And good luck landing a table.
1601 14th St. NW. 202-332-3333. www.lediplomatedc.com. Main courses, $12 to $27.