This spring I am setting off for an exciting vacation in the UK and France, so I was recently inspired to check out Napoleon Bistro, a French restaurant I have passed many times and have been intrigued to try but, like so many things, had never quite gotten around to it. But a visit from my mother gave me the perfect excuse.
Having seen the place packed on many occasions, I was surprised to be able to get reservations on OpenTable only 45 minutes before we had dinner, but perhaps with so many restaurants popping up all over Adams Morgan, the U Street Corridor and the Atlas District some of the older restaurants may be suffering from neglect. Either way, I was pleased because I was also already starving.
One thing I love about French restaurants is the selection of mussels (or moules if vous parlez francaise). We went with the Mourles Marinieres as our starter. Steamed in white wine and seasoned with shallots and parsley, these mussels were slightly sweet, juicy, and without a hint of brine. The portion was just right, big enough for two to split in order to whet the appetite (and quiet the more intense rumblings of my stomach) but not so large as to spoil my main course.
While waiting on our meal to arrive we sipped on champagne cocktails. Their cocktail list was quite impressive, coming up with over 10 tempting beverages featuring champagne. These were not your garden variety mimosas but truly unique offerings. A bourbon drinker, I opted for the Kentucky Cream Soda which featured Makers Mark, Vanilla, and Champagne. My mother opted for the Ruby Red which consisted of Grey Goose L’Orange, Pama Pomegranate, OJ, and Champagne. Both were completely different and taste. The champagne served the role of a slightly sweeter tonic and really worked well.
Although the menu had many entrée options, several of them felt more Italian than French (which I thought was a bit odd, such as the veal scaloppini and the tortellini alfredo), so we both ordered crèpes and we decided to also split a salad to make sure we got our daily veggie serving. The Salad Nicoise came with a large portion of seared tuna, which was fantastic. The salad itself contained calamata olives, French beans, potato, boiled egg and greens.
While delicious, we actually didn’t need the salad at all as our crèpes came with a side salad as well, which was not mentioned on the menu. Feeling a bit like little piggies with so much food we dug in. Crèpes really have to be one of the most versatile and delicious foods. Served in all shapes and sizes with innumerable fillings, the options are limitless. I chose the Monmartre crèpe, filled with wild mushrooms, scallions, goat and swiss cheese. Light and airy, this was an excellent choice if I do say so myself. The mushrooms were slightly, but not overly pungent, and the goat cheese complemented it well. If I hadn’t had an extra salad I felt compelled to eat, I probably would have finished the entire meal. But even though I ended the meal quite full, because of the portions and the lightness of the food, I didn’t feel uncomfortably stuffed.
All in all, it was a really enjoyable dining experience. The prices were moderate, but the food was really worth it. The tuna had been prepared exactly to my liking, the mussels were certainly some of the best I had sampled in a while, and both crèpes (mom opted for a spinach and feta filled Santorini crèpe) were really excellent. But with all that food, I left no room for dessert. However, with sweet crèpes, mousse, and crème brûlée to choose from, I will certainly take a trip back specifically to try these sometime in the near future.