The following review appears in The Washington Post’s 2018 Fall Dining Guide.
Here’s why it’s so hard to book a table at a decent hour at the city’s most popular French restaurant: the bread basket, generously filled with three flavors, including country wheat; the waiters in their long white aprons, there when you need them and quick to describe any dish to your satisfaction; a setting of pressed-tin ceilings, blood-red banquettes and honeyed lighting that could pass for a brasserie in the country of inspiration. Then there’s the food, textbook versions of onion soup, steak frites and apple tarte Tatin, plus daily specials that will make you glad to be there on, say, Friday for spot-on bouillabaisse. Who in town makes a lighter foie gras mousse, or a finer duck a l’orange, the skin of the leg fried so that it shatters under your teeth? Noise is the cochon at the party. Otherwise, I recognize the attraction of fans including Gérard Araud. If it’s good enough for the discerning French ambassador, it’s good enough for moi.
Le Diplomate: 1601 14th St. NW. 202-332-3333. lediplomatedc.com.
Open: Dinner daily, weekend brunch.
Price: Mains $14-$38.
Sound check: 84 decibels / Extremely loud.
The following review appeared in The Washington Post’s 2017 Fall Dining Guide.
Le Diplomate buzzes, bustles and satisfies
Some advice for anyone looking to relive a favorite Parisian brasserie in Washington: Le Dip (as insiders know it) probably has what you crave. Oysters on raised platters of ice and seaweed. Cheese puffs that you can’t stop inhaling. Lamb navarin, morsels of fork-tender meat in a sauce sweetened with orange and Grand Marnier. The fish lover will find trout paved with slivered almonds; the vegetarian will be impressed by the casserole of fluffy couscous studded with chickpeas and vegetables cooked just so, then moistened to taste with mushroom broth. A bottle of Gigondas feels right for dinner. So do earplugs. We’d love to stay for profiteroles or floating island, but the clamor of the crowd drives us into the street for relief. Still one of the hottest tickets in town, the 260-seat Le Diplomate, alas, also remains one of the loudest.
The following review was originally published as part of The Washington Post’s 2016 Fall Dining Guide.
I didn’t eat in Paris this year, but I did something almost as pleasurable: dinner at Le Diplomate, the best all-around French restaurant in the city. No matter where I point my finger on the list, my chances of plucking a winner in this bustling brasserie, outfitted in red banquettes and antique mirrors, are as sure as champagne with oysters. Salad Lyonnaise is a model of cool (frisee), rich (lardons) and saucy (egg), and a drop in temperature finds me here, tucking into beef bourguignon with the most winey of reductions. Skate beneath a carpet of capers underscores the beauty of the fish once thought of as trash. Le Diplomate nails almost every detail, be it bread or drinks or dessert. (Splurge on apple tarte Tatin.) The one inauthentic note is the service. It’s warm and gracious, in the best American tradition.
The following review appeared in The Washington Post’s 2015 Fall Dining Guide.
Arriving at this nonstop celebration still quickens my pulse and whets my appetite, what with the thunder of laughter and the sight of iced shellfish towers. But the place I once considered my pet after a week in Paris is either sleeping on its laurels or in need of a vacation. How else to explain a salty reduction circling the roast chicken and a tough steak, interesting now only for its glorious fries? Or profiteroles that nail the crisp pastry but not the chocolate sauce, sweetened as if by Hershey’s? Little of that sounds like a fan talking, but the rest of my last meal was a triumph: pristine oysters, sublime dorade and potato coins in parchment, a beautiful and boozy baba au rhum. Did I mention the swell cocktails? The considerate host? Le Diplomate’s slips are outweighed by its splendors.