Food critic

The following review appears in The Washington Post’s 2019 Fall Dining Guide.

There’s magic in the place around 6:30, a buzz that’s hard to explain.” says chef Francis Layrle. (Scott Suchman/For The Washington Post)


Francis Layrle is used to cooking for discerning palates. At the French Embassy, the Gascon native fed seven ambassadors. “I was doing what I wanted to do: looking for the best products,” says the chef, who arrived in 1973 and took over this kitchen near Washington National Cathedral five years ago. “Now, same thing: I’m looking for the best products.” When he can get it, there’s Dover sole, procured, he says, from “two little boats” that fish the waters in northern Denmark. Amish farmers from Pennsylvania bring him young carrots, watercress, delicate goat cheese and parsley root, which Layrle likes to use in soup. “I love vegetables,” he says, and a recent salad confirms: Sliced golden beets, tangy leeks and sumac-dusted yogurt make for an interesting concert.

Diners, many of them neighbors, head to the cozy bistro anticipating boudin blanc with soft roasted apples, juicy lamb T-bone steak, floating island. Then they linger, despite the cramped tables and the clamor. “There’s magic in the place around 6:30,” says Layrle, “a buzz that’s hard to explain.” The staff seems to know most everyone by name, people are air-kissing, and isn’t it nice to be served warm bread and see champagne, the real deal, offered by the glass? Magic indeed.

2.5 stars

La Piquette: 3714 Macomb St. NW. 202-686-2015. .

Open: Dinner daily, lunch Tuesday through Friday, brunch weekends.

Price: Dinner mains $24-$55.

Sound check: 74 decibels / Must speak with raised voice.


The following review appears in The Washington Post’s 2017 Spring Dining Guide.

The dining room that could pass for a neighborhood bistro in Paris. (Scott Suchman/For The Washington Post)

La Piquette: Your our local neighborhood Paris bistro


“Is everything to your liking?” a server asks. Indeed it is. My cheese omelet is tender, its greens are sharply dressed, and a glass of Sancerre is keeping me company in a dining room that could pass for a neighborhood bistro in Paris. Fostering the illusion are chalkboard menus, blood-red banquettes and a chef with a French accent: Francis Layrle, a Gascon native who fed seven ambassadors during his tenure at the French Embassy. Lately, entrees have bested the starters. Focus, then, on crackling duck confit, lemony skate wing and lamb T-bone rather than the dreary leek vinaigrette or a saffron-tinted mussel soup with too few bivalves. All’s swell come dessert, with attractions including apple tart and orange cake, the latter offered with vanilla custard sauce. The name is a joke; Piquette alludes to second-rate wine. Otherwise, this is a serious bistro that knows how to make its clientele happy. Dover sole at $50? Layrle hates the high price but loves being able to offer the delicacy to fans when he can.