I love DC’s Mayflower Hotel for so many reasons. If you are in town – you have to visit, if only to walk through is gorgeous first floor.
First, it is an iconic DC hotel – regal, elegant, expansive. It opened in 1925 on Connecticut Avenue and it still operates in all its grandeur today. Second, many a famous person has graced its hallways. Harry S. Truman thought so highly of the place that he called it the second best address in DC. (the first being the Whitehouse.) New York state’s former Attorney General and former Governor, Elliot Spitzer, also known as Client #9 who got caught up in a prostitution scandal, met his ladies at the Mayflower. Third, it provides great service – the rooms are sumptuous and the bar is welcoming and cozy. So, to recap – its just amazing all the way around in away, casting its awesome shadow over all its neighbors.
But one, Le Desales. An impressive, in its own right, for its own reasons, french bistro, literally in the shadow of the Mayflower Hotel on the tiny street, DeSales Street, running parallel to the grand hotel.
I will now start my praise for Le Desales. I made reservations but my beloved and I were running about twenty minutes, I called ahead and let them know. They said no problem, see you when you get here. When we walked in the maitre d’ was talking with another customer who was making a fuss so we could not help but over hear. The customer was explaining that she had gotten “all dressed up” to go to dinner but now that she Le Desales discovered it was not white table cloth so was disappointed. I have truncated her complaint, she was far more verbose. The maitre d’ attentively listened to her compliant, told her that indeed her observations were accurate, it was a casual bistro and not a white table cloth restaurant. He then went on to tell her that there were plenty of white table cloth restaurants in the area and he would be happy to get her into one at that very moment since he knew all of them and would call on her behalf. She started up again; when he diplomatically said to her, would you mind if I helped these two guests? She said no and he turned his attention to us.
When I told him our name for the reservation, he immediately and sincerely thanked me for the call that we would be late. Then he took our coats and walked us to our table. We were seated at a quiet table, which was my request given that my beloved has a hard time hearing sometimes. The maitre d’ went back to his aggrieved, potential diner. (I later observed her eating at a high top in the bar area. So apparently to her mind, it made the cut.)
Our waiter appeared and presented the menus and, did not ask immediately what we wanted to drink but instead said he would give us a minute. I cannot stand it when within seconds of parking into my seat at a restaurant, before I can even look at the menu, the waiter is demanding to know what I want to drink. He brought us water, gave us a minute and then checked in. The drinks were perfect. My beloved ordered his beloved drink – the Old Fashion. It came out perfect in color, a gorgeous orange peel delicately floating between a large ice cube and the glass. From the menu, I ordered “Her Name was Lola” which had vodka, hibiscus, rosemary, grapefruit and soda. An interesting and refreshing take on my beloved vodka. It was tasty and I would and will order it again but must say the rosemary overpowered the other flavors such that I did not taste the hibiscus or grapefruit at all.
With our dinner we each selected our own glass of red wine with the help of the informed and decisive waiter.
Further testimony to the skilled and courteous nature of the staff as that when our waiter realized we were big water drinkers, he left us our own little pitcher on the table. And even further testimony to the staff’s skill – no one hovered, waiters who were not our waiter, checked in with us and cleared the table, and, the table was only cleared when we were really done and not still lingering over our final bites. And further testimony, when I asked if I should go with the venison or another meal, our waiter actually gave his opinion which I always appreciate. The staff was engaging and not stuffy. Evidence – when one waiter came to clear our plates and asked if we wanted to see the dessert menu, we said yes and she playfully said – “the chocolate tart – I am just saying…”
The meal was remarkable. So much so that I look forward to my return, again and again. We both ordered the french onion soup. The cheese was thick and had just the right bit of crispiness to it. The bread too was thick and flavorful. The onions were so melted that they almost had the consistency of the broth. Fabulous.
For my meal I had venison, with mashed celery root, crispy onion and cranberries. A group of flavors and texture that perfectly complimented one another. The venison to my mind was just a wee bit over done around the edges but was melt in your mouth in the center. My beloved had the half chicken with mustard. It too was melt in your mouth and was nicely paired with the mustard. The mustard did not overpower the chicken.
For dessert I did go with the chocolate tart, almond crust and espresso gelato. It was worth every calorie. The chocolate was dense, creamy. The crust was soft and tasty. The gelato was a delicate espresso flavor – it did not overwhelm the chocolate but paired perfectly. Speaking of pears, my beloved had the poached pear with vanilla gelato – also delightful.
The atmosphere is cozy and quiet. It brings the french bistro theme into the surroundings without being kitschy. The art on the walls is sort of french grafitti-like. The tables are wood and not too big so you don’t feel far away from your dinner companions. The chairs are room and comfortable.
For summer, the place will open up to patio tables – I look forward to many a meal or happy hour at those patio tables. This place was great.