I had dinner at Le Diplomate for my girlfriend Katie’s birthday on 5-28-2017. Look, I really wanted to love “Le Dip” since everyone adores it. And I get why they do: it’s scene-y, it’s sparkling, it’s fun. But while most D.C restaurants are turning towards really special, unique, immersive experiences, Le Diplomate came off feeling cold and impersonal.
Atmosphere: 3 out of 5
Food & Drink: 3 out of 5
The restaurant is situated in a prime corner location on 14th Street. In the picture above you can just barely see the patio on either side of the entrance.
This is the view of the bar from the entrance. The restaurant is huge and gorgeous with impossibly tall ceilings. That makes for a pretty loud space but it lends to the feeling of electricity in the air. Note the Tour de France memorabilia lining the ceiling.
This is the view looking left from the entrance. The decor really has an iconic French vibe.
This is a separate little dining room at the far right of the restaurant. How beautiful is that green tile?
This is the bread station between the entrance and the bar. Don’t worry, I later tried it all.
And here’s the bar where we had drinks while we waited for the rest of the party to arrive.
Kir Royale (champagne, creme de cassis). When in France…this was delicious as always!
Romarin (Sobieski vodka, St. Germain, rosemary, grapefruit). This tasted like candied grapefruit and wasn’t overly acidic.
Once seated we got right down to ordering the wine. I will say ordering the food was a little difficult because the waitress would not give us any recommendations. Maybe she’s trained to do that but she kept saying these were her preferences and might not be ours so she couldn’t share them with us. It just stinks because I always rely on the servers to guide me– I mean who else knows the menu better?
Eventually we made some choices and then got to dig into that great bread we saw earlier. The cranberry nut bread was my favorite but the baguette and sourdough were good as well. The most fantastic part was the butter: salty, whipped, and delicious. I guess it’s those Normande cows!
Assorted oysters. These were well-chilled and tasty. Rather than a mignonette they were served with what tasted like a malt vinegar-based sauce.
Little post-oyster hot towel action. These were a nice touch. Less so was the fact they never did give us share plates for our appetizers. We were left using bread plates and you know my love of a fresh share plate.
Escargots (parsley, garlic, butter, puff pastry, champignon de Paris). These were really good. Instead of the usual chunky garlic in the sauce this was totally blended into almost a puree. It was also milder than the alternative, which went well the buttery puff pastry.
Warm shrimp salad (lemon beurre blanc, avocado). The beurre blanc sauce was of course the dominant flavor in this dish.
Coq au riesling (spätzle, vegetables). This was the Sunday special so there wasn’t a very detailed description. The chicken was lovely and quite moist but there was a somewhat overpowering bacon flavor. The spätzle had a great texture and wasn’t as dry as some I’ve had recently.
Trout amandine (toasted almonds, haricots verts, lemon brown butter). The almonds had a really great toasted flavor, which was delicious when combined with the brown butter sauce. The trout itself was a little mushy and the skin wasn’t very crisp.
Moules (marinière style). These were plump and tasty. My only complaint was how herbaceous it was. It seems like a bouquet garni may have opened in the preparation and not been removed–I’m pretty sure that’s a bay leaf in the picture above.
Not pictured: my friend’s soft shell crab dish that he sent back because it was cold.
Frites. These were crispy, salty, and delicious.
A candle for the birthday girl!
These moist little blueberry cakes were great for sharing as a birthday dessert.
But good thing I left room for the ice cream cart!
Wonderfully delicious raspberry sorbet in the cutest little Memorial Day Weekend cone.
Overall dinner with my friends was fun but the restaurant itself was disappointing. Maybe if I had different expectations, like a great place for a boozy brunch, this would be perfect. Nobody was unkind, nothing egregious happened, and restaurants have off days. But I wanted to make a connection with the food, people, or place, and that just wasn’t happening.