Saturday, January 27, 2007

Anthony Bourdain's Restaurant Les Alles - Fighting the Good Fight!

If anyone were to be named the General of the Guerrilla Food Army to take back the American dining experience, it would be Anthony Bourdain. This is a quasi-review of his restaurnat, Les Halles.

My wife and I just returned from a three day vacation trip to Washington DC. As soon as she booked the tickets I went to the website of Les Halles in DC and made reservations. I must admit, I waited in such anticipation for weeks leading up to the trip; The White House and Capitol Hill are cool and all, but I couldn't wait for some authentic French Brasserie food.
We arrived ten minutes before our 7:30 reservation, and a rather attractive young lady with what seemed to be an Eastern European accent and a metro-sexual guy asked to take our coats. We were immediately seated next to a couple that would prove to be a ridiculous source of entertainment for me and a major headache for my wife who hates people who blabber on and on about nothing.
When our waiter appeared with menus I couldn't help but think that foreign accents are definitely to be expected in a restaurant like Les Halles. Considering the fact that
Philippe Lajaunie, one of the actual owners of Les Halles (Anthony Bourdain is just the executive chef, not an owner) proudly hails from Portugal, I was not surprised to find such an international treatment in their DC branch.
I ordered the Steak au Poivre ($21) and my wife the Poulet
Rôti avec Frites ($16). When my steak arrived I was blown away by the smell. The meat was a wonderful sirloin about as thick as an unabridged copy of War and Peace. It was absolutely encrusted with roughly crushed black pepper corns, and bathed in a cognac and dark veal stock reduction. My wife's chicken was perfectly roasted with a wonderful aroma of herb butter and a jus reduction sauce on the side. Our pommes frites were perfect. Believe me, I feel pretentious calling them pommes frites, but referring to these ideal crisp and perfectly seasoned sticks of potatoes as "French Fries"... I don't know, it just feels wrong.
The most shocking part of the entire meal to me was the small salad of fresh greens that came with both of our meals. It was perfection. There were no tomatoes or cucumber or anything else. It was just greens tossed with a
vinaigrette. Simple and understated. But at first taste, I knew that this is how I want every salad I eat for the rest of my life to taste. Even at the risk of overusing this word... it was perfect!
The Steak au Poivre is really very peppery. I never think of French food as being spicy like Mexican, Spainish, or
Portuguese food would be. But this stuff will really knock your socks off, in the best of ways. Until Les Halles I had always had Steak au Poivre in a reduced heavy cream and cognac sauce. I think the cream has always toned down the pepper corns' heat. At Les Halles, they really let the black pepper rip into you. It was almost religious. I felt like after many years in the forest, I had found home.
Needless to say, I enjoyed my meal. And with three beers ($4.50 ea.) and water the total was only $55. The atmosphere is inviting and Earthy. Everyone seems to smile, laugh and truly enjoy themselves. Some places just have an energy that invited you in. Les Halles at 1201 Pennsylvania Ave is just such a place.

8 comments:

StevePerkins said...

...I couldn't wait for some authentic French Brasserie food.

Well, it does sounds more appetizing than Italian Jockstrap food.

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Les Halles is the best restaurant I know in the world, I love all that are here, even water!

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