Neighborhood: Cleveland Park
Desperately needing a catch-up, Official Friend of DCWD Juli and I met up for dinner at Lavandou.
Lavandou is a tiny restaurant that tries its best to transport you to the French countryside; whether that succeeds or not depends on if you've ever actually been there. The touchstones are there, but perhaps not the authenticity; while other places (say Montmartre) do a better job of faking it, this just feels grafted.
The decor is like a country inn, with cobblestone walls, and a large mural on the left of cafe tables, sunflowers, meadows, and script writing. Seating is an assortment of four-tops in the front window space, then three more rows of half-booths in the main area, one a row of half-booths. Much of the furniture is wood and thatched straw, with red and orange tablecloths. That color scheme repeats itself, ocher and beige dominating. Light is provided by a few simple chandeliers, and a small three-seat bar is in the back. Overall, charming if a little dated.
It being the absolute stereotype of a French restaurant, Juli thought it best to order accordingly: French onion soup. Simple, classic, hard-to-mess-up... and they didn't really.
For her main course, Juli had mussels, served with gruyere, rosemary, and light cream. I guess if you were a ravenous gruyere fan this might have ended differently, but for me, this was a little off-putting. In a bowl of strong flavors, the gruyere KO'd every other possible taste in an aggressive way the creaminess barely came through.
On my part, I had duck confit, served in a rosemary and lavender sauce with soft polenta, and a red bell pepper ragout. This was a back-and-forth dish for me. On the one hand, the duck was cooked decently and the polenta was a treat, topped by potato crisps. On the other hand, I couldn't shake the feeling that the dish was good, but lacked that critical element to be great. Perhaps it was the sauce: decent, but just not super.
Decent French food, but only for the neighborhood.
Food Rating: ** 1/2 (out of 5)
Date Rating: 2.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Casual
Bar Rating: Quiet Drinks
Cost: $$$ (out of 5) ($50-$75 for two)
Pairing: Nowhere in the area, but if you find yourself looking for a free date, head over to 13th and V for a free screening of National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets in the Harrison Recreation Center park.