Primrose

Primrose inhabits a dumpy-looking space on 12th Street NE in Brookland that used to house an equally dumpy-looking Peruvian chicken joint. I never ate there, but I still felt a pang of nostalgia when I saw that they had closed, and then a similar pang of excitement with a tinge of white guilt when I saw that they had reopened as a chic wine bar. Naturally, I made reservations right away.

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You wouldn’t even know this was open if you didn’t gaze longingly through the tinted windows. The only sign of new life here is this sweet-ass mosaic outside their door. On the other hand, there are plenty of signs of life on the inside, where not only is it hopping with people, it’s also decorated with the feathers of about a hundred birds. Behold the carnage:

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This place is adorable! The bar is decorated with the classic shade of turquoise and in what may very well be an extremely offensive stereotype, all the waiters wear striped shirts. Let’s just give them all jaunty berets, hand-rolled cigarettes, and off-putting nihilism while we’re at it.

My husband was a little overwhelmed by their list, and started off trying to order the merlot but was rebuffed by our server: “Actually, I really hate this merlot. Can I bring you a different wine?” In a world where we actually know anything about wine, this might have been seen as condescending, but we live in the real world, and here in the real world, we are veritable wine ignoramuses, so his suggestion was well-received. My husband enjoyed the Viti Vini Bebi that arrived, saying it was “bold and intense.” (And yes, apparently the plural of ignoramus is ignoramuses. I looked it up).

I very much appreciate the slower pace of service at Primrose. It’s not slow because they’re forgetting you; it’s slow because they want you to relax and enjoy the thing you have in front of you. It made the meal so much more enjoyable.

We weren’t going to get an appetizer, then we waffled toward the cauliflower, but then the couple next to us had a cheese plate put down in front of them and I knew I had to have it. Confusingly/Europeanly, the cheese plates are listed under the desserts on the menu. “Well, let’s just get it for dessert and be fancy,” I said. But then I recanted at the last minute because I knew I couldn’t wait that long for cheese. It arrived a few minutes later. I regret that I didn’t have a photo of it because I inhaled it, like, immediately. It looked basically like every other cheese board you’ve ever seen, so I’ll just let you imagine it. The three cheeses were a hard. crumbly, nutty cow’s milk cheese, a cow/sheep blue blend that was fairly mild, and a semi-soft cow’s Camembert that was not as gooey as it usually is but very creamy. They were accompanied by apple compote, delectable cardamom-spiced dried apricots, and house-pickled vegetables.

We had another nice digestion break before the entrees arrived. And when they arrive, did they ever arrive in style. I had the trout:

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Could this plate be any more beautiful? The beets were soft and sweet, the sorrel cream was mild and creamy, and even I, a notorious potato-hater, liked the blue potatoes. The trout itself was extremely plentiful and cooked to crispy/flaky perfection. I couldn’t be happier with this meal.

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My husband had the short rib wrapped in pastry. For short rib, the meat was a little dry, but still flavorful. The roasted parsnips were spicy and sweet, and it had those strips of crunchy sweet potato on top that made my husband do an Italian chef-style hand kiss.

I think the slower pace and great food we had already had definitely influenced our dessert decision. Under normal circumstances, we’d probably forego dessert, but my husband was talked into getting a flight of aperitifs (admittedly, it didn’t take very much convincing), and we heard tell of the madeleine cookies with custard dipping sauces. We were supposed to choose only one sauce, but when we couldn’t settle on it, our wonderful waiter brought us two: the espresso and the pistachio.

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The madeleines were so cute! They were soft and buttery, although not warm, and were good vehicles for these delicious custards (which were good on their own, and the two flavors made a solid custard suicide). The liqueurs were all wonderful: from left to write is cognac, calvados, and armagnac (I preferred the calvados, but they were all wonderfully unique). I don’t remember the last time I was so happy and satisfied at the end of a meal.

Price: $60+ per person, worth every penny.

Bottom line: Primrose isn’t just an asset to Brookland, it’s a great new addition to DC’s restaurant scene. I hope its off-the-beaten-path location doesn’t deter people from checking it out. I can’t wait for summer nights on their patio. Bonus: after-after dinner drinks at Right Proper around the corner!

Bistro Bis

Restaurant Week seemed like the perfect time to check out Bistro Bis, which has been on my list for a while. It just never seemed like an appropriate time to check it out until I could get three courses for, like, the price of one normal appetizer here. So cross this one out and here I go!

I’ll forego talking about the drinks because they were kind of unremarkable. Normal beer list, pricey wines, some original cocktails at DC prices. Everything was fine (I did drink two cocktails, after all), but it’s not worth the effort to post a picture, although I have to say that the server brought my cocktail out in a mini shaker and poured it right into the martini glass in front of me, which always makes me feel like royalty.

First of all, I love that their Restaurant Week deal allowed us to get basically whatever we wanted from their normal menu, which enabled everyone to get something completely different. Here were our appetizer selections:

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Starting on the top left, my husband has been working from home all week due to a bad cold, so this guy was super excited to order the French onion soup. It was your regular French onion soup, except I could smell this delicious stinky cheese even sitting on the other side of the table from him. It was all I could smell, in fact. The cheese was melty and crispy; the broth was full of onions. I loved it. It was worth my getting his cold just to try it. In the top of the photo is the endive salad, which I almost ordered for myself. I love the bitterness and crunch of the endive with the sweet, candied walnuts and pears. On the right was the Salade Panache. The apricots lent a nice sweetness and I’m partial to manchego. It was a good salad, but ultimately just a salad. On the bottom of the photo was my pick: the salmon cru. The carrot puree was particularly good; the green apple puree took me a little while to get used to. The salmon was only lightly cured and therefore not overly salty, but it was cut nicely and very tender. The cabbage and carrots on top lent a nice texture as well. It was also a perfectly-sized appetizer, especially for one person.

After tasting our entrees, though, I now believe in sorcery. Everything was so good in its own way. Between the four of us, we had the walnut-crusted scallops, the beef Bourguignon, the lamb shank, and the duck confit, which I will admit was my order because ever since I converted from being a vegetarian to being a meat-eater four years ago, I’ve been notorious for ordering duck any time it’s available. It’s like chicken, but not a horrible disappointment to eat.

Anyway, let’s start with the beef. So tender, so fall-aparty, in a rich wine sauce. It was a fantastic beef stew, and it came with these mashed potatoes that were so delicious even I liked them, and potatoes just are not my thing. I’m pretty sure that they were at least 60% butter. Butter is unequivocally my thing.

The lamb shank was heavenly. The meat had that lamby flavor but it wasn’t overwhelming, and it went really well with the cinnamon-y chickpeas on the plate. Lamb is so hard to get right, and this was incredibly melty and not even a bit chewy. I have nothing bad to say about it. I even chomped down the caramelized crust pieces my husband left behind.

20180126_192850.jpgSpeaking of not-my-thing: scallops. The nasty marshmallows of the sea. But in this case, I could roll with them. The nut crust gave them a texture that was decidedly less marshmallowy, and they were cooked really well, not chewy at all. The accompanying sweet potato puree was delicious.

Finally, the duck: I always prefer my meat boneless because I like to have the shortest route possible between my plate and my mouth (bonus points if the meat is already cut into small pieces!) But this duck fell right off the bone, and was served with beans and a spicy tomato-based sauce that worked well to cut the fattiness of the meat. Duck wins again. No regrets here.20180126_192838.jpg

20180126_200334.jpgFortunately–or unfortunately for my waistline–Bistro Bis’ restaurant week deal included an individual dessert for all four of us, which was highly unnecessary. Like the ingenious, crafty people we all are, we once again coordinated our dessert choices to include the widest possible variety. Represented here were: Apple Croustade, Citron Tarte, Torte au Chocolat, and Paris-Brest pastry. I think the winner of this round would depend completely on who you asked. I really enjoyed the apple croustade, mainly because the pastry crust was so flaky and buttery, and I really liked the raisins in the filling. My husband thought the Paris-Brest’s pastry dough was overcooked, but it was filled with a delicious cream that I can’t complain about. The chocolate cake itself was slightly dry, but had a decadent mousse topping. And the Citron Tarte was good if you’re into that sort of thing: tart, crusty, meringue.

Price: $50 per person during Restaurant Week, probably a solid $70 per person at all other times.

Bottom line: I was not disappointed by anything at tonight’s dinner. That said, I think Restaurant Week is the perfect time to go here since the price was actually reasonable. For a regular Friday night, I might choose Le Grenier instead since it has a much more local (read: cheaper) vibe.