Atmosphere: Whitewashed, crisp and pretty with a lovely solarium-cafe.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:30 to 11 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:30 to 11:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., Sunday.
Price range: Around $5 for light fare like quiche; dinner, $8.95 to $12.95.
Reservations: Advisable any night, but particularly on weekends; management suggests you call two days ahead for Friday or Saturday night.
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard.
Special facilities: Street parking only; accessible to wheelchairs; no highchairs or boosters.
In Georgetown, where French cafes are legion, the cooking often good, and the prices often high, it is a pleasure to find a restaurant like Tout Va Bien, where the quality of both ambience and food is worth the price.
Some of these establishments are cafes in the Parisian manner, with light food and drink available at all hours: commotion and bustle are their hallmark. They are good places to people-watch, but you can forget conversation. Others are more like restaurants, with waiters who serve you rather than stop in mid-flight, and a fuller menu, all of which costs you more. Tout Va Bien has something of the best of both worlds.
It is possible to get simple food at dinnertime, as well as a well-prepared three-course meal. Moreover, Tout Va Bien's location and pretty decor make you want to linger, in the French manner, over a leisurely meal. Tout Va Bien is set on the quiet side of M Street. A few blocks away, both street and sidewalk traffic are hectic, but here the nearby canal encourages ambling, and the pace is slow.
The original dining room, painted white, with small tables and bentwood chairs set around a fireplace, is set off by leaded glass panels in the entrance and a series of attractive art posters in vivid shades. Along with fresh flowers, they are all that is needed to set off the simple interior.
In a small adjacent dining room, skylights, brick and plants offer a different but equally charming environment. Tout Va Bien, like many French restaurants, is not the place for small children, but it is a delightful way to introduce older children to the pleasures of simple French dining.
We began with a house salad for our daughter, and split an order of hot antipasto ($3.50)--the same dish, our waitress said, as vegetables a' la greque. The dish was different from the usual melange of vegetables, briefly cooked in a highly seasoned bouillon. It combined carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms and onions in a nicely seasoned tomato sauce--a fine start for the meal. The salad was simple greens in a good creamy vinaigrette.
Although fairly simple, the menu is tempting. Since Tout Va Bien is next door to Cannon's Fish Market, we knew that seafood unquestionably would be fresh, and our waitress recommended it. She also said that liver ($9.25) was a frequently requested dish. We opted for liver and also ordered gigot de volaille ($10.25), a house specialty.
Our daughter chose a croque monsieur ($4.50), an expertly turned out version of this favorite French sandwich. Ham and Gruye re cheese are sandwiched in pain de mie, the whole thing toasted and spread with more shredded cheese, which is broiled briefly to a golden brown. It is a perfect light meal, with a small serving of house salad. Our daughter's only complaint was that the waitress did not tell her when she ordered salad that some would accompany her sandwich.
The liver was cooked to a delicate turn and came in a nice mushroom sauce.
Tout Va Bien may do seafood well, but it probably doesn't do anything better than its gigot de volaille, a dish in which a simple chicken leg is treated as royally as one might a whole leg of lamb. A chicken leg is boned, stuffed with a delicious mixture of ground veal and mushrooms, and glazed with a mushroom-morel sauce. The veal, chicken and mushroom flavors marry so well that the finished dish neither looks nor tastes like simple chicken at all. It was wonderful: a dish to return for.
But don't stop there. If you pass up dessert you will miss one of the better tarts in town. We sampled strawberry and kiwi, both perfect concoctions of flaky pastry, delicate cream and luscious fruit, a memorable end to a lovely meal. Our bill, minus tax and tip, was $39.85.