Image: Secret charm down a side-street.
Last Visited: May 2019
Faux French accents set the jolie mood in the ground-floor of an old office building across from The Mayflower. The food is far from faux. It is very good. The plates have composed elements that are presented in a manner that indicates this side-street spot is aspiring to something more than merely servicing a few expense accounts. Le DeSales serves classic French bistro fare with slight twists and lots of care.
Raphael Francois, the chef, is well-trained and has worked his way through some of the best kitchens in the world – including picking up two Michelin stars in London. His last stop was at La Cirque in New York. Now he runs his own shop (and was also consulting for a place in L.A. at last report). The food is honest, pure, and builds on classic French without being hamstrung by tradition. The results are meals that satisfy, warm the cockles, and mix in delightful surprises. The menu can include standouts like beats with avocado puree or pork loin with carrots and preserved lemon from the fall menu. The last visit was highlighted by tagliatelle with rabbit with greens, currents and chicken jus sauce. Like Cezanne’s apples, the kitchen will often put whole ingredients on the dish and let them talk to each other without much ornament. The steak “bavette” comes with grapes, shallots and watercress. That is not a sauce, the grapes are simply cut in half, the shallots served whole alongside the piece of beef. The white asparagus with jambon is just that and nearly nothing else. The crème brulee or pear tart are French at its classic best.
Service is solid and smart. The wine list is limited but covers the bases well. A few treats and a few affordable gems can be found. It is clear the wine directors have taken pride in this list as it has developed.
The room is a little loud. The ceiling is low, and, if the bar is busy, voices echo throughout. On nice days, the windows open up and sidewalk seating is added for diners and drinkers. For those working downtown or off Dupont, this is a short walk away – and it is worth taking the walk.
Other Guidance: Dress is nice jeans or better. GF, V can pick out a few items, but it is still a French menu.
2.5 Tom: 2.0 (positive, and it looks like a better burger would have gotten the obligatory .5 added)
Washingtonian: No coverage since preview in 2017.
DonRockwell.com (NOTE: Francois did not depart).