Wednesday, May 1, 2013

La Madeleine Food Review

Duet Magnifique at La Madeleine

My tastes run simple; and if you asked me to pick just one restaurant to frequent, I'd select La Madeleine (a chain establishment... shudder!) Great prices, rustic food and warm atmosphere are just three reasons it's my favorite (free bread & water, frequent promotions and stellar customer service round out the list.) That said, my latest visit (which just happened to be for review) left me unusually disappointed.

I love a late lunch (anything after 2) and decided to visit the Bethesda location at 7607 Old Georgetown Road earlier today. I received a lukewarm greeting by the hostess, who took my order without much enthusiasm. I ordered my usual... a Duet Magnifique, a half sandwich (French Dip, without cheese) Tomato Basil Pesto Pasta Salade and a cup of Tomato Basil soup.  One thing that really bothers me is when the order take fails to put my soup order in, requiring me to ask the soup guy myself (often requiring some kind of explanation.) It's not the end of the world, but it's one of those rare inconsistencies I encounter more often than not. To his credit, the guy in charge of soup couldn't have been nicer... greeting me in French and wishing me, 'Bon appetit.'

Things got worse however, as I made it down the line to the cashier. Here's a rundown of our conversation. I said, "Hello, how's it going?" She replied, "Anything to drink?" I told her I'd like a glass of water, to which she cooly replied, "$9.21" No hello, nothing. I gave her a $10 bill and said thank you twice, but got no reply. Even worse, she looked straight ahead, avoiding eye contact altogether. If she worked for me, she'd be looking for a new job. I can only wonder why her inability to be civil is allowed by her supervisor(s.) Something to work on.

Complimentary bread

Lucky for me, I didn't have to interact with Ms. Personality anymore. On to the food! La Mad provides not only free water, but an assortment of breads (with butter and preserves.) As much as you like! I'm dangerous when it comes to bread, so I kept it to three small pieces. Besides, I had a cup of the best soup in town to fill me up. It's cream-based, so even a cup adds up; but it's oh so good. From there, I had a 15-minute wait for my entree (another anomaly... it usually takes half that time.) There were only about 10-12 customers in the restaurant at the time, so it's stranger still. Thankfully, the guy who brought it to my table was friendly (extra wait instantly forgotten.)

That's a sandwich?
My half-sandwich was more like a quarter today, perfect for dipping but stingy. I'd never been given so little (and I've literally had this over one hundred times... Told you I liked this place.) Come to think of, I've noticed smaller portions the last 4-5 times out (maybe it's a bad trend.) What little bread there was, was overdone, crunchy and loud. As with the rest of my lunch, one negative was negated by a positive: The pasta salad was out-of-this-world as usual. Sometimes I order a large portion by itself to take home.

The atmosphere is without equal: It's one of the few places I could stay over an hour in (My brother and dad often join me for a long (1-2 hrs.) lunch... how French for three Irish-Americans!) It's as close to a genuine French cafe as you can get in Bethesda or anyone else in the U.S. for that matter. I'm sure it will be better next time... At least I received a good-bye when I left (It's all in the details, isn't it?)