For years I have walked by the old abandoned shirt laundry building on the corner of 14th and Q Streets NW and always imagined what an incredible space it could be should someone have the ability to dig in and flip it. Many restaurants have tried, and most have pulled out after a quick estimate of what it would cost to drain the fluids below the building, along with the many other projects necessary to get the location up to snuff. In comes Stephen Starr, Philadelphia restaurateur who had a vision, and felt that this space was something special. As a resident of the Logan Circle neighborhood, we have been anxiously awaiting the opening of Le Diplomate since it was announced back in July of 2011, and I am thrilled to welcome it to the Washington, D.C. dining scene.
Many of you know I just returned from a fantastic trip to Paris in December. I ate and drank my way through the city, and have been longing for the days of leisurely lunches with rosé champagne. Now I have a little taste of Paris just one block from my apartment. Le Diplomate is absolutely stunning at first glance, and it's unlike anything else we have in Washington. The restaurant is massive, yet provides so many opportunities for the diner: indoor seating with a classic brasserie feel, the glass covered enclosed terrace which evokes a conservatory, and the expansive outdoor patio along Q Street which is already packed to the brim in April, and is sure to be one of the most sought after dining locations all summer long.
As soon as I entered Le Diplomate I checked in with the hostess and then moved closer to the bar area as my friends and I waited for our table. Without even stepping up to the bar counter, a waiter approached us and asked if we would like to order drinks, and quickly presented us with menus. I was impressed with how attentive the staff was, and within minutes we were toasting to a great night out at D.C.'s newest restaurant. Shortly after we were seated, we got serious. My friends don't mess around with food and we quickly ordered the tuna carpaccio, macaroni au gratin, mushroom tart, the frisee salad, and the warm shrimp salad.
I hereby declare the warm shrimp salad as my new "go-to" dish. The light lemon and butter sauce is divine, the greens were topped with a lovely dressing, and the dish had slices of avocado which added a creamy mix to each bite. The crust on the mushroom tart was so flaky, I had pieces of crust all over my hands as I was eating the dish (exactly what you want, similar to the crust of a croissant). The macaroni was rich and delicious, and the frisee salad with duck confit, potatoes, and a poached egg was decadent and the perfect start to a delicious French meal.
We were already feeling fat and happy, but I wanted to go classic for my main course so I ordered the steak frites. The steak was cooked just right at medium rare, served with a butter sauce, and a plentiful serving of crispy frites. Just perfect. I also tried bites of the beef bourguignon and the trout almondine which with are now on my list for my upcoming meals at Le Diplomate.
Think we're done? Not even close. For dessert we ordered the milk chocolate pot de crème and the apple tart tatin with vanilla ice cream. The chocolate dessert was smooth and silky with crunchy bits and topped with whipped cream. While I enjoyed the apple tart, I expected it to be quite thin and flaky similar to what I have had in France, instead it was thick with huge chunks of apple. Still very good, just not what I had envisioned.
I must say I am pretty thrilled to have Le Diplomate just steps away from my home. It's definitely going to become one of my staple spots, and there is so much more to try considering they are open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. In fact, I am heading there for brunch this Sunday and am already eyeing the croque madame, quiche lorraine, and the array of egg dishes to choose from. I find myself longing for Paris regularly, and the atmosphere and food at Le Diplomate allows you to feel in that element, even if just for a few hours while enjoying a great meal.