A list of the most impressive chefs in town would have to include Michael Abt, if only because his kitchen nails every dish, every time I drop by — no small feat in a restaurant with 280 or so seats, patio included. The baguettes that start a meal? Divine. The oysters that ought to follow? As on ice in Paris. When I’m in the mood for escargots or an omelet, Le Diplomate, brought to town last year by Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr, is where I want to fly.
Those snails, capped with coins of puff pastry, are at once earthy and bright in their parsley sauce; that sunny, textbook omelet comes with a tart foil in its green salad. There is no better mushroom tart in town than the saucer of peppery pioppinis and creamy pecorino encased in a rich and flaky crust, and one of the best veal escalopes in memory is found here, under a blanket of chanterelles (in summer). Grilled loupe de mer strewn with gigante beans and crisp duck confit tweaked with orange gastrique make it easy to be happy here, too. Sound too good to be true? Your ears may beg to differ. One of the city’s most delicious destinations is also one of its noisiest.
Thankfully, food isn’t the brasserie’s only appeal. The staff — hosts, servers, sommeliers — treat you like a friend of the house, and the tented glass roof and green tiles of the Garden Room in the back offer the illusion of dining al fresco even when there’s a nip in the air.