Hours: Lunch, Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., dinner, Monday through Saturday, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Price Range: Entrees $8 to $12 Atmosphere: A calm cocoa-brown elegance, suggesting French countryside. Credit Cards: MasterCharge, Visa, American Express Reservations: Not taken for lunch, absolutely necessary for dinner. Special facilities: No special menu for children but those under 12 will be accommodated with special portions and lower prices. Accessible by wheelchair, and they have a few booster chairs.
There are times when two minutes in the line at McDonald's seems like too long, and then there are times when the light falls in the windows just right and you and your most meaningful associate want to linger for hours over a French dinner.
Then there are times when you want to combine the two. You could call it the ridiculous and the sublime, or you could call it getting the kiddies out of their blue jeans and taking them to a nice place for dinner. Remind yourself how character-building it is, bracing really, to acquaint them with the tablecloths and fine food. And who knows, you and your loved one might be able to share a meaningful glance or two while the little ones are distracted by the chocolate souffle.
La Miche sits in elegant cocoa-brown; repose on a side street of the Bethesda shopping district. Though the street itself could have been taken from the set of High Noon, La Miche is definitely uptown.
We're not talking here about any old restaurant that throws a piece of soggy quiche in the microwave and declares itself vraiment francais. La Miche serves elegant food in a suave French provincial atmosphere. And it does so with considerable friendliness.
Though La Miche has abandoned its Sunday afternoon policy of providing a separate half-price menu for children, the management will see that children under 12 are accommodated, either by serving them half portions or by allowing them to share full portions with sibling or parent. Dinner entrees are from $8 to $12.
We had a chance to try two appetizers. The first was melon with Parma ham ($4), which is thinly sliced and salty. The presentation was elegant, and the melon perfectly sweet and ripe.
We also tried an endive salad ($2.50.) The endive wasn't as sweet as it might have been, but was carefully prepared with chopped walnuts and green onions and dressed with a walnut oil and vinegar dressing.
The appetizers as well as the entrees change from day to day and include some unusual ones (chicken livers in Madeira sauce served in a brioche, for instance) as well as the more predictable (pate, for instance.)
We tried three main courses (one child wanted two appetizers for her dinner, and the waitress didn't finch, either).
One was a faux filet of beef, a steak similar to a strip steak, served with a wine sauce and two small, steamed potatoes. The steak was perfectly done, the sauce subtle and smooth with a finesse that only serious chefs can muster. When you consider that there are restaurants out there that will serve you leaden steak with greasy sauce and tinny potatoes for $12, La Miche's $12 price tag for this dish seems like a bargain.
Stuffed salmon in a pastry crust ($10.50) elicited a few minor complaints; the crust was underdone and the fish mousse stuffing a little too fishy. But underdone, buttery, nicely glazed pastry has to be judged differently from underdone, vegetable-oiled, microwaved pastry and given points for the effort. The salmon itself was extraordinarily tender.
A T-bone of veal was our son's choice. The size of a large pork chop, the veal was crisp and buttery on the outside, still juicy inside. It was served with a lovely bearnaise sauce fragrant with tarragon. The veal was of superior quality and the dish cost $12.
A special treat at La Miche is the bread: crusty loaves made in the kitchens of its downtown Washington relative The Bread Oven. This stuff is the nearest thing in town to French bread, and La Miche seems to employ several people whose sole task is to keep it flowing. A nice idea.
Dessert in the form of chocolate souffle is another special treat. Chocolate souffle can be a heavy proposition, chocolate being naturally weighty, but at La Miche the chef has mastered lightness, and the delight is compounded by serving these dark brown clouds with a creamy custard sauce. You order souffles ahead of time and they are not cheap -- $3.50.
But they seem cheaper in comparison to the dish of Haagen Dazs ice cream at $1.95. It's great ice cream, but how much can the overhead be on a solitary dish of ice cream?
The service, mostly by young ladies in La Miche T-shirts, is both elegant and relaxed. They must be seriously trained because our waitress shyly confided to us that this was her first day -- and she had managed like a smooth old pro.
This is clearly not the place to take the soccer team after practice, but for families wanting to glory for an evening in the nice things money can buy, La Miche has food to please even the most learned gourmet without scaring off the shyest 6-year-old.