Saturday, May 6, 2017

Et Voila! Brunch Review

Steak Sauce Bordelaise at Et Voila!

It takes a Herculean effort to get me out of bed on a rainy Saturday morning, especially on the heels of a bad cold. Crullers at Dunkin' Donuts? An Egg McMuffin? Not a chance. But Brunch at Et Voila!... the recently renovated Et Voila! in the Palisades? That, I could get up for. One shower and shave later, I was on my way. Does it live up to the hype? More importantly, was it worth getting out of bed for?

Et Voila! is a neighborhood restaurant with lots of charm, and a loyal clientele. That's great if you're a local, but how about a guy dining solo from Cleveland Park? The verdict's still out (they weren't rude, but far from friendly.) Luckily, the food speaks volumes (with one surprising exception) and judging by the full house, business is good. Let's get into specifics.


I announced my reservation, and was given a choice of sitting inside the dining room or the front bar area. Since no one was sitting at the bar (yet) I chose the latter. Compared to most restaurant bars, seating was quite comfortable, although I would have loved an umbrella hook at my seat (there's plenty of space, and you wouldn't notice it from afar.) The bartender appeared quite busy, juggling drinks and greeting patrons. He let me know about the day's specials, including the soupe du marché, Gazpacho ($10) which I eagerly agreed to. He offered still or sparkling water, and later a real drink (Bellini with Peach Puree, $9.)

Bread & Butter

The Gazpacho arrived quickly, and was... in a word, Heavenly. Creamy and cold with crunchy croutons and just the right touch of high-quality olive oil and chopped chives. I'm one of those rare folks who don't care for French Onion Soup, so I was delighted to have an appetizer alternative that didn't involve a salad (not that there's anything wrong with salad, of course!) Complimentary bread & butter was also served. The bread was freshly baked, warm and crusty, although the butter was extra cold/hard, which made applying it properly, a bit of a chore.

Bellini with Peach Puree

The Bellini was pretty to look at (even for a guy from Cleveland Park) and predictably tasty. I did have to wait a while for my empty bowl of soup to be removed, although I appreciated his asking if I liked it (which I obviously did.) Dishes throughout the meal were delivered quickly, but removed at (pardon the pun) a snail's pace. Barely a minute had passed, before my Steak & Eggs arrived. The meat was cooked properly (MEDIUM) but was a little chewy for my liking. Thankfully, it was dressed in a delectable Bordelaise sauce (a French classic.) Looking back, I'd have preferred a choice of egg (ideally scrambled.) My egg was fried, and slightly overdone. The greens were fresh and zesty, and the fries... double-fried as promised, with great crunch but a bit oily and light on flavor. Still, that crunch was enough to forgive having to reach for the salt shaker.

La Mousse au Chocolat de ma Maman

Dessert was a tough decision. My three finalists were $8 plates of Crepe Citron, Profiteroles (puff pastry with ice cream & chocolate sauce) and "Mama's Chocolate Mousse" for a dollar more. I chose the latter. Bad decision. It looked nice enough (minus the big chip on the side of the cup) but the mousse was bland with a thick texture. Mousse should be light and fluffy with visible air bubbles. This one didn't/wasn't. I took two bites of the mousse and one of the brittle. Funny, nobody asked me if I liked this dish, when they took it away.

To be fair, the bar was a little busier at this point; but I think it's important to ask a customer if something was wrong with a dish that was barely touched. Two other service shortfalls worth mentioning... Et Voila! offers a $30 three-course special. I had chosen the proper soup and entree, but strayed from the three dessert choices. Not the end of the world, mind you; but the extra dollar for dessert added $11 to my check ($41 vs. $30.) More egregious, the server earlier asked me, "What entree would you like?" before breaking away, to escort another customer to her seat inside the dining room. At least, apologize to me beforehand and excuse yourself (he did say "sorry about that" after, but the damage was done.) Looking back, I doubt these mistakes would have been made away from the bar.

As for the aforementioned verdict? It's hard to say. The Gazpacho was terrific (ditto for the Bordelaise sauce) but the service fell way short of expectations. Normally, I'd say one and done; but Et Voila!'s reputation says otherwise. Time will tell: Stay tuned.