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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Montmartre

Plaudits: Washingtonian 2011 Top 100 Restaurants, Washingtonian 2010 #89, Washingtonian 2009 #48, Washingtonian 2008 #40
Neighborhood: Capitol Hill

The Setup


In the area on a Saturday afternoon, Official Friend of DCWD Talia and I decided we needed to eat something. After passing highly regarded-by-Washingtonian restaurant Montmartre, we decided to pop in for brunch.

The Vibe

Montmartre seems fairly modern from its storefront facade, beige and glass-focused with a small patio out front. Then you step inside, where you realize there's a marked contrast between exterior and interior, which recalls a country home in France. Old distressed golden wood is everywhere, from the cupboards as you enter, to the furniture. This hallway which you walk through is separated from the dining area by french door-esque window dividers. The walls are a quaint sponged marigold yellow paint and decorated with art deco, while black modern fans hang from the exposed ceiling beams above. Seating is mostly two-tops, and everything is sort of cramped.

It might all have been vaguely cute and charming, but for the very shaky service. Our server seemed unfocused, maybe because of the high turnover. She also appeared confused about the menu, asking us a few times just which crepes we had ordered, even though there were only three options. Even then she had to come back to confirm the order, which she got wrong; she asked Talia, a vegetarian, if she'd ordered the ham crepe.

On top of that, I asked her for a side of creme fraiche, as the crepe I ordered didn't come with it, but one of the others did, and I just wanted a little on the side. She said no, insisting that the chef did not do substitutions (I didn't argue the point that it wasn't a substitution, just an addition in a small cup). So I asked another server if he could get a cup for me, to which he said yes, but never came back with it. Finally, I got a third server to get me a cup, at which point I'd pretty much finished my crepe anyway. Was it a little needy? Maybe. But for a relatively small request, their inability or unwillingness to help me out, in addition to the other issues, points to larger problems with the service.

The Food


Regardless, Talia and I both ordered the famous buckwheat crepes, me going for the smoked salmon, spinach, tomatoes, eggs, onions, and Swiss cheese filling, and Talia going for the vegetarian spinach, roasted tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, and asparagus. The meal was a study in contrasts of two dishes. My crepe was solid, a delicious buckwheat taste with good fillings, a wonderful savory taste that was augmented by the creme fraiche (you know, when I finally got it). The overeasy egg was a wonderful surprise and definitely a highlight.

On the other hand, Talia's vegetarian crepe was unsatisfactory in every way. The crepe was not crisp and rich like mine, but instead had a taste that she compared to mothballs. What's worse, the vegetables were barely cooked, and lacked any flavor whatsoever: the tomatoes weren't roasted, and the asparagus lacked any degree of softness. Even salt and pepper would have been a step up. And the brunch excuse I don't think applies here; if you're only going to offer a few dishes for a meal, then as a restaurant, I feel like you have to make sure everything is on point. The fact that there was such a gulf between our crepes is sort of baffling.

Or as the older couple next to us put it about their quiche, "it's not very good, is it?"

The Verdict


Bad service, and inconsistent food. Definitely did not meet the hype about it.

Food Rating: **
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 2 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Casual
Bar Rating:
N/A
Vibe:
Energetic
Cost:
$$$
(out of 5) ($50-$75 for two)
Pairing
: Too obvious maybe, but the Flea Market at Eastern Market is a craft heaven, and a wonderful date.

Montmartre on Urbanspoon

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