Date Nights at Bistrot Lepic

More than 15 years ago, I moved to Georgetown just a few blocks from Bistrot Lepic, then only a couple of years old. I was very excited about, though inexperienced with, traditional French fare, so I went the first chance I got. It was a date and in my mind it plays sort of like the German dinner in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. We were kids pretending to be adults. I may have had a fake ID. I definitely had lamb and red wine. We sat in that brightly lit, shoebox-sized dining room and had a gay old time. My date’s credit card was rejected.

I moved away and ten years passed. I now go to Bistrot Lepic once or twice a year and it’s only partially out of nostalgia. The food can be wonderful. The ambiance remains puzzling. That downstairs space still has the feel of a stilted dining room in a retirement community–hushed with flat, bright lighting. Several years ago, they added an upstairs wine bar that feels like what those octogenarians downstairs would think “the kids”–say people in their 50s–would like. It’s got an island lounge-y vibe on a school-project-panorama scale. Beware, occasionally there is live music. I always sit upstairs, and 15 years later, I still feel like a kid.

Then there’s that sometimes wonderful food. Tragically Bistrot Lepic has a seasoning issue–occasionally blah-ly under, other times inedibly salty–but when the kitchen gets it right, what a delight. There’s the best escargot I’ve ever had, and often I piece together a meal from many small plates–pate, onion tart, seared foie gras, smoked trout salad. But last week, right after those snails, I had one of the tastiest racks of lamb ever, with creamy potatoes and haricot verts. And classic French like that will always be worth a date.

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