Stephen Travels

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Cafe Soleil, Washington, DC

Café Soleil (Washington, D.C.)

Appropriately located just about a block from Lafayette Square, Café Soleil brings a touch of France to the heart of the capital of the United States. With equably prompt and courteous service, and meals prepared with high-quality ingredients and offered at fair prices, this neighborhood restaurant has been serving three meals a day to business professionals, tourists, and national politicos for the past 12 years.

The interior exudes a tangible French feel, with murals of Parisian café society in niches above mirrors, separated by Old World sconces and Art Nouveau light fixtures. My table at the window provided an interesting juxtaposition between bustling D.C. residents outside and the relaxed atmosphere of French leisure within. I surrendered to the latter in order to enjoy a truly wonderful dinner.

Fork and KnifeTry This: Even though I’m not a fan, the aroma of steamed mussels served in a garlic white-wine butter almost tempted me into selecting that as my appetizer, but instead I opted for a generous salad of spinach, strawberries, feta cheese, granola, and raspberry vinaigrette. For your main course, you may like the tournedos of beef marchand de vin, served with au gratin potatoes, sautéed spinach, and au poivre sauce, but the pan-seared duck breast with gran marnier orange reduction, brown rice, and broccoli is hard to beat. For dessert, the chocolate molten cake takes a while to show up at your table, but it’s definitely worth the wait.