Petite Cerise

Image: Lamb

Last Updated: July 2023


Petite Cerise offers excellent takes on French cuisine at a non-outrageous price point.  Right down to the white tile it gives off neighborhood bistro vibes, while clearly outperforming such a modest association.  The first hint that they are shooting for something more is the staff dressed in French workcoats of beige or blue.  Whether it be decor, presentation, bread or wine, details matter here.

The food is rooted in French tradition but not limited by it.  Just as Jeremiah Langhorne plays with New American ideas at The Dabney, he does the same with French cooking at Petite Cerise.  That starts with his approach to the menu where he resisted including the obvious and focus instead on overlooked dishes from various parts of France.  That means, at least for now, no steak frites or French onion soup.  What might be served is a dish swapping out asparagus for Chinese broccoli as a vegetable side, with traditional hollandaise that comes with a big dollop of whipped cream to mix into the sauce before pouring over the greens.  The sweetbreads were presented in the familiar crispy coating but dipped in a cherry BBQ sauce that was racy with tartness. While the sweetbreads came atop a puree, many of the dishes come with main ingredient over a pool of sauce. A reminder that in the French kitchen one of the senior positions is saucier. The menu is subject to changes based on ingredients.  The navarin of lamb on our first visit was replaced by pork when we returned a few weeks later, and gone completely from the menu as summer temperatures arrived in force. It all leads to a certain excitement, realizing that something interesting is afoot even before you see a plate before you.

The spot is open all day with breakfast service starting at 9:00.  The breakfast is just as solid as the dinner, with decadent crepes and a fluffy omelette with goat cheese.  As for lunch, Nevin Martell in WCP had this ode to the sandwiches: “Manifest’s toothsome, tasty country loaf is the foundation for the croques. Sturdy slices are fried in clarified butter, dolloped with béchamel sauce, buried in Gruyère and Comté cheese, and baked to create a crispy, crunchy lattice around the edges. In between these golden bookends are sheets of honey ham and more béchamel; the madame version is finished with a sunny-side up egg.”

While Langhorne’s stamp is on the place, he installed a trusted hand from the Dabney, Madeleine Lewsen, to be executive sous chef. It took a while to get this place open, but it is hitting on all cylinders in its early days.  

The wine list is fun and French.  There are many options under $100.  The bar is sophisticated, but somewhat limited in its choices.  The bartenders are skilled.

Located on the 7th Street side of the Convention Center in a converted two-story corner building.  The bar, open kitchen and tables against the window take up the first floor.  There are a few uncovered seats outside too. Upstairs two large dining areas spread out on hardwood floors.  The upstairs can be louder than the seats near the bar.  Testing the “fees are annoying” crowd’s patience the menu notes that, “Due to the increasing costs of goods, services, and labor, a 5% service will be included on each check.”

Other Guidance:  There is no evidence of an elevator to get to the second floor.  The Post Accessibility guidance is, “tight curtained entryway; ADA-compliant restrooms.” The menu leans heavily on meat and fish.  There are a couple vegetarian dishes, but its slim picking and vegans are pretty much out of luck. GF can find more than enough to make a meal. It is a bistro.  T-shirts and jeans mix with date night couples dressed up.

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Cuisine: French
Neighborhood: Convention Ctr/Mt. Vernon
Address: 327 7th St. SE, Washington, D.C. 20003
Reservations: Resy

Other Critics/Voices:

Washington Post: Tom approved of the food, but not the noise level in his first review.

Washingtonian: Preview

Washington City Paper: Nevin Martell’s positive review.