L’Avante Garde

Image: Truffles, truffles everywhere.

Last Updated: June 2023


Make no mistake.  L’Avante Garde is an indulgence.  You will pay a premium for the experience, but, if you can afford it, it is worth the splurge.  The team from L’Annexe, the cocktail bar next door that has always had pretty good food, built out this space to focus on the dining experience. The pair was supposed to open at the same time (that would explain the mystery of what L’Annexe was annexing), but the pandemic thwarted that plan.  The extra time was put to good use.  Owner Fady Saba recruited chef Gilles Epié who has decades of high-end experience under his belt. 

They do not skimp.  In describing the food sourcing, they sound like a throwback to the pre-locavore days. “The meat and most of the vegetables are sourced stateside as far away as California, but the butter, foie gras, truffles and some of the fish are shipped from France.”  Foie gras and truffles do make it into several dishes.  There are two foie gras preparations among the appetizers, the more decadent one is the bombolini encasing a whole slab of foie with the donut drenched in wine sauce. Though it will be interesting to see if the rich and earthy accents emphasized in winter get replaced by more sunny Provençal approaches as seasons change. On our last visit, rabbit with spring vegetables made an appearance.  The rabbit was wrapped around herbs and served with a light sauce.  In contrast, the risotto had spring peas but also truffle and loads of cheese to make it quite hearty. The food is on the right side of the line between very good and excellent.  The cream sauce on the cod, pungent with truffles, mixes with the bed of leeks to accent the fish (see photo at top). The dish is not just in balance, it is in harmony.  A special one night was white asparagus with three pieces of raw tuna atop, dressed with pimentón, cracked pepper and mint with a light balsamic dressing underneath.  The warm asparagus and tuna melt together, each adding distinctive flavors.

The bread service is large slices of sourdough with butter.  Perhaps a bit rustic to go against the grain, but fitting the indulgent theme.  (See the photo at the top of this Eater preview, for example.)

The desserts are done by Stéphane Grattier of Boulangerie Christophe, which also does the bread. They reflect a pastry bias.  Three different variations of mille-feuille were on the menu on the last visit – chocolate/pistachio, mocha, caramel/rum-raisin.  The visually-impressive giant macaron with a fluffy cream center and berries also tastes ethereally good.

The wine list is not extensive but is well constructed. It is also expensive, with only a few bottles dropping into double digits (though corkage is $50 reportedly).  Sommelier Samantha McCrimmon comes with deep experience on both the distribution/wholesale and service side of the wine industry, including stints out west at high-end resorts.  She knows her list well and for those willing to trust her recommendation she can steer you to a great pairing. Cocktails center on premium ingredients too.  It can push the price up to $30. They are very well conceived and executed under Hakim Hamid, who is beverage director for both this place and L’Annexe.

A couple steps up at the entrance, the space unrolls past a bar and then tables on either side all the way to the back where a larger room opens up.  You might want to bring a cardigan, because the air flows are randomly placed and may be direct on your back.

Other Guidance: The Washington Post accessibility rating: “The steps, narrow entrance and heavy door discourage wheelchair use.” The place is fancy, so feel free to dress up, though it is not required. It is French, heavy on butter and cream, so GF can pick their way around, and vegetarians might find a couple things, but vegans will have a very tough go of it. And there is this on bottom of the menu: “No alterations possible to maintain integrity of our Chef’s original version of each dish.”

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Cuisine: French
Neighborhood: Georgetown
Address: 2915 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007
Website: https://www.lavantgardedc.com/
Reservations: Resy

Other Critics/Voices:

Washington Post: Tom was won over on his first visits.

Washingtonian: An old-school review from Ann Limpert March 2023.