The theme of this week was eating at places we've normally avoided. The first was Ellington's on Eighth (review to come later) and the second was Montmartre. We decided to go to Montmartre on Wednesday to give us a well-deserved night out. We avoided it earlier because it seemed like such an occasion restaurant. However, once there we saw a lot of the customers just in their khakis and button-down shirts we knew this was a place we could go to as our pocketbook, rather than our willingness to dress up allowed. One person nearby even took off his tie at the table. You will spend some cash here but you won't lose your shirt. None of the entrees on the menu were over $20.
Even with the freezing temperatures, there was a line for tables. Luckily, we called ahead for reservations. I immediately fell in love with the decor. It was French country that wasn't about chintz and doilies. I loved the wooden rafters and mustard color of the walls. It seems like a majority of the staff were French or native French speakers and the chef (who we could see in the open kitchen) looked like he stepped off the pages of Gourmet. I was surprised J and I were seated at a four-top considering the line, but appreciated the space. I immediately fell in love with our server when he asked if we wanted bottled water or Tap.
We made it worth his while because we ordered A LOT. We both started with soup, mine being the Cream of Chestnut with Bacon and J's being the Ginger Carrot. This as the perfect starter for a night like Wednesday. I loved mine. The aromatic saltiness of the bacon paired well with the earthy sweetness of the chestnuts. J's was wonderful too but it wasn't out of the ball park good. The strong flavor of ginger reminded me of Thai curry while in itself is not a bad thing, but just wasn't a revelatory set of flavors.
You know what did hit it out of the ballpark? The bread. It's seriously the best bread I have eaten in DC. I was transported back to the month I spent in Fontainbleau (a suburb of Paris) where I would wake up early to get baguettes for me and my friends. It was around 6:30 am and the baguettes were coming right out of the oven and I was greeted with a cheery "bonjour Monsieur" from the person behind the counter and I replied with a "bonjour Madame" in an equally singsongy voice. I felt like that black and white photo of the little child in the basket of a bike carrying a baguette on a French country road. Ok where was I? Needless to say, if the bread can get me going about French baguettes, it's good bread. That's all I'm saying.
For our entree, I ordered the rabbit and J (on the advice of Chowhounders and egulleters) ordered the hanger steak. I had a Chateauneuf de Pape to go with my rabbit and J had a Sauvignon Blanc, both on the advice of our server. This was classic Frnech country food. Both meats with a heavy, rich sauce that was a reduction of the meat juices and wine. J's had an accompaniment of roast fingerling potatoes with lots of rosemary and mine had the stew vegetables and an herbed pasta alfredo. I truly loved the straighforward, yet complex flavors of both of the sauces. With the alfredo and the sauce, I would have like the dish to be a bit less intensely seasoned but that's really just nitpicking. While mine was memorable, J's was totally out of the ballpark. The meat was flavorful but tasted like itself and not the sauce or the marinade. I asked for extra bread to dip into his sauce.
Both of us were stuffed to the gills but it felt wrong NOT to order dessert. I ordered the blueberry tart and J ordered the mixed fruit tart to go. They both came with creme anglaise. Even eating them two hours later (when we could even think about food), we could barely taste them because of the strong memory of our entrees. If I were to do it again, I'd forgo the starter because of the heartiness of the entree.