Sunday, May 22, 2016

Bastille Restaurant & Wine Bar Brunch Review

Oeufs Benedict et Croissant (Crab)

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for neighborhood restaurants. Odds are, you won't find a California Pizza Kitchen or Chipotle standing solo amidst a quiet block of townhouses. The reasons are many (lack of foot traffic, parking, etc.) However, there's always room for a family-owned establishment, that strives to win you over with homemade everything, friendly/stellar service and a little word I like to call accountability. Off nights are rare; and if you're (really, really) lucky, you may discover a culinary home away from home. Bastille Restaurant & Wine Bar is such a place.

I live in Cleveland Park, where we have about two dozen neighborhood eateries; but trust me, it's just not the same. Owners Christophe and Michelle Poteaux have created the sort of cozy, upscale hybrid you have to drive out of your way to get to... unless you're lucky enough to live in Olde Towne Alexandria. Saturday brunch provided the perfect excuse to venture out (Metro to Braddock Road on the Blue/Yellow line + a short two block walk.) Was it worth the trip?

Bread & butter

Bastille is actually quite spacious, with a vibrant cafe-bar, warm dining room and lovely patio (closed yesterday, due to rain.) Three uniquely different environments, each utilizing a top-notch kitchen led by Chef de Cuisine Salvador Alvarez. I received a kind greeting from the host, and was seated at a corner table for two, by the window. It was almost full, and had an appealing buzz (save for one noisy kid across the room, who thankfully left 10-15 minutes later.) The crowd was mixed (20-somethings, families, older couples) and the overall atmosphere... homey. An assortment of French music played quietly in the background. Absolutely no complaints.

Beignets de Crevettes

My server Jennifer got me started with French bread and a generous salty knob of butter, plus a rundown of the day's specials. This included mushroom soup and an Eggs Benedict entree with crab (normally it's served with salmon.) I was leaning towards Bastille's "Chicken & Waffle," but how do you say no to eggs and crabmeat, served on a split French croissant? Short answer. You don't. You do, however order a second entree (please don't judge me) of Gauffres Traditionnelles... Two Brussel-style waffles with Crème Chantilly, fresh raspberries and Virginia maple syrup (a steal at only $10!)

Gauffres Traditionnelles

Before I elaborate on how delicious both entrees were, I'd be remiss not to mention my Beignets de Crevettes hors d'oeuvre ($9/3 pieces.) Especially when you consider it was my favorite part of a near-perfect brunch. Menu items are in French, and I urge you to brush up on a few important translations (beignets = fritters, crevettes = shrimp) before ordering. Each beignet was served atop a bed of creamy guacamole (with a little kick to it) and a thin lime wedge. Expertly fried, they weren't at all greasy; and the shrimp was surprisingly delicate, which (when combined with the guac) resulted in the most amazing fluffy texture. Toss in piping hot, and you have one of my favorite appetizers of the year.

Housemade Granola

Entrees were next (served simultaneously, at my request.) My first bite was duck fat potato wedges, which packed a nice hit of flavor, but were bordering on cold. Normally, not a big deal; but the rest of the dish was visibly hot (steam,) so it bears mentioning. As for the Eggs Benedict, all I can say is "Wow!" Swapping crab for salmon adds richness, and using a flaky croissant (instead of an English muffin) is sheer genius. The egg and Hollandaise sauce were perfectly prepared, and first-rate. It comes with a nicely dressed Watercress salad, but it's probably more for show than a necessary component to the plate.

House-baked cookie (Oatmeal)

Moving on (yes, I eat fast) Bastille's Belgian waffles were generously sized, dusted with sugar and toasty. The syrup was to die for (adios New Hampshire & Vermont, I'm buying closer to home from now on) and the housemade cream and vibrant raspberry slices... superbly light and sweet. You could easily order this for dessert, and walk away happy ecstatic; but it makes an excellent choice for brunch, especially if you're avoiding meat/seafood. Slap two strips of bacon next to it, and I'd order it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Dessert seemed like overkill at the time; but looking back, I was wise to order it. The Housemade Granola ($6) bears little resemblance to what you're used to getting elsewhere. For starters, it's served on a plate, instead of a bowl (A+ for presentation.) It's also downright healthy; but you wouldn't know it, considering how tasty the Greek yogurt and raspberries are. A++ for Bastille's raspberry glaze (lush leaps to mind.)

Don't ask how, but I found a tiny bit more room to accommodate a single (no ice cream) house-baked oatmeal cookie. It was just the right size (when did cookies get sooo big anyhow?) and not too chewy/not too soft/packed with deliciousness. I make a pretty good cookie at home. This was better.

Service was terrific throughout, and featured timely delivery/spacing of dishes, frequent water refills and speedy removal of cutlery, plates and my personal favorite (scraping away crumbs, in between courses.) Jennifer was enthusiastic, friendly and knowledgable, without an ounce of pretension. Never once, did I have to ask for anything: She was on top of every aspect of my meal. Talk about impressive. Apparently, this is how you run a neighborhood restaurant. Lucky neighbors.