On their business card, the Bistrot du Coin advertises itself as "French, Fun and Friendly" and it certainly is all three of these. I called at 5.00pm to make a reservation for four people and wasn’t immediately convinced of their claim to be "friendly" as the person on the other end of the line barked at me "to please arrive on time!"
A 15-minute walk from the Renaissance Hotel I was a little nervous about shouldering the responsibility of taking my colleagues to a French bistrot in DC but I need not have worried. The Bistrot du Coin offers simple, hearty French fare in a long hall that glows gold in the evening. We arrived punctually and at 6.30pm I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about as the place was far from full. However within half an hour the opposite was true and I was relieved that their staff had been so insistent that we arrive in a timely fashion.
Paper squares covered the small wooden tables and flag bunting stretched from one side of the restaurant to the other, possibly in anticipation of the new Beaujolais which they would be celebrating the night after our visit.
We ordered some Pinot Noir, salads and a French Onion Soup. The wine went down easy and we all tried a little of the soup with its wonderfully gooey cheese and stomach-warming broth. We then waited anxiously for our main courses, which included the Magret de canard au poivre vert and the classically French steak and French fries. I had ordered the duck, tempted not only by the duck itself but also by the accompanying potato-carrot gratin. I followed the chef’s recommendation on the menu and ordered the meat medium-rare and didn’t regret the decision. The small slabs of duck were cooked to perfection and despite the usual richness of this meat, I think I could have eaten this meal every night for a week and not tired of it. I also tried some of the steak and fries. There’s really nothing like eating French fries that are soaked in steak juice and washing it down with a robust red wine on a cold winter’s night. On the restaurant’s website they advertise themselves as a place "where you can eat good food at a fair price" and they really do deliver on that promise. My duck was pan seared, served with a dreamy potato-carrot gratin and draped in a light, creamy green peppercorn sauce. At $17.95, I really couldn’t go too wrong.
Somewhere during the course of the evening someone at our table ordered a crème brulee, which was a perfect way to round off the evening. Before we departed I took a trip to the bathroom and discovered the table football on the mezzanine level and suddenly wished that we didn’t such have an early start for work the next morning. Maybe next time.
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New York, New York
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by Jim Rosenberg
March 12, 2002
This place is the real McCoy -- we listened in on a smoke break out back with the French-speaking help and checked out the wonderful array of authentic kitchen utensils. The creme brulee is awesome here, the espresso will make you homesick, the wine goes well and it's a casual and wonderful atmosphere. We see it more as a lunch place than dinner and on nice days, you'll likely find the front opened to the street sounds and fresh air.
That said, there is nothing wrong with taking in dinner here; particularly if you get tired of dressing up and paying a 3-digit dinner bill for a couple. It's unrushed and a great place to hang and converse over a lingering meal. Feel free to speak French with the help, if you care to.
From journal Washington DC - Five Hotels; Dining
Washington, District of Columbia
February 28, 2002
The first things you should notice about Bistrot du Coin are the decor and atmosphere. BdC does an excellent job of replicating the look and feel of ages-old casual Parisian restaurant. The colors are gold (walls and lighting) and brick red. You'll hear lots of conversation - everyone at BdC seems to be in the mood to socialize and that goes for the friendly, engaging staff too.
I was excited to find my bistro classics from some of my favorite NYC French cafes here at BdC - tartiflette and onglet (hangar steak) - and when they arrived, I wasn't disappointed. During my first visit, my group of five (which included two Frenchmen) ordered a few dishes as appetizers. The tartiflette was incredible - the perfect combination of potatoes, bacon, cheese and onion. I easily could have eaten one on my own (and gained 20 pounds in the process!!), but this rich concoction was a perfect shared appetizer. The group also shared a bucket of mussels in white wine.
Most ordered meat as their main course. My onglet with frites was tender and delicious, served a perfect medium, as requested.
Prices are reasonable especially when given the quality of the food. I believe entrees top out at $20 (give or take a dollar).
The only downside I'd point out is that smoking is permitted in the main room of the restaurant. My years in NYC made me take for granted that smokers would be relegated to restaurants' bar areas or outside. I recognize that the French (and DC, for that matter) take the attitude that smoking = leisure, however I hate to be around smoke, particularly when I'm eating.
Sadly, it was already 12:30 am by the time we wrapped up our leisurely meal so I didn't have the pleasure of sampling BdC's desserts. Next time, for sure! And I expect I'll have plenty of "next time's" at Bistro du Coin.
From journal New to Washington, DC