For a girl who loves France so much, I sure have been writing a lot about Italy lately. I think clearly it's time for another trip to Paris...or Burgundy for oeufs en meurette. The problem is, Christmas is coming and I must save some money. I'm sure I'll go back to France eventually (I always do), but in the meantime, I can at least trick my taste buds into thinking they're there, when really I'm just having a fantastic meal at West End Bistro in Washington, DC.
Located inside the Ritz-Carlton, this restaurant is the least hotel-y feeling one I believe I've ever encountered. It's at once sleek and cozy, with big booths and low lights. Naturally, the service is flawless and the scene is sophisticated. But it's what comes out of the kitchen that interests me most. I've eaten at West End Bistro twice now--once for dinner on my birthday and another time for a special lunch--and on both occasions I left feeling like Paris had just whispered in my ear.
Chef Eric Ripert, who also owns the famed Le Bernardin in New York, is one of my heroes. First of all, he's a nice person. This is evident in his new cooking show, "Avec Eric," which airs on PBS. And second, he's a culinary master. There is simply no other way to state it. Try the tuna carpaccio with lemon and chives at West End Bistro, and then try to disagree with me. Or order the pristine skate with brown butter sauce, and do your best not to weep when it's gone. If you don't fancy fish, you might consider braised short ribs. It's a decadent dish, but it won't ruin the rest of your day, stomach-wise, the way that a lesser version would. The meat is luscious, the mashed potatoes rich, and the glossy sauce totally absent of grease. I love it.
Much of the food at West End is generally not light, but portions are properly sized. So while plates and bowls may not be overflowing, it is for this reason that I love Ripert's food, and why it reminds me so much of France. Plenty of butter, absolutely fresh ingredients, and no small measure of attention to detail. In other words, c'est formidable.