Le Paradou.

Saturday night, my husband and I went to Le Paradou, located on Indiana Ave, NW in Washington, DC, to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Of course whenever there is a special occasion, I consult Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurant List and then go to Opentable.com to see who has a table available. My methodology of choosing a restaurant is always lengthy and extremely critical. At first I considered Citronelle, since it’s rated #1 and I have never been there, but after looking at the menu, and seeing how expensive it is, it looked like either we could eat dinner there to celebrate our anniversary or we could have Christmas, but not both. I also wanted to try CityZen (#2) but there wasn’t a table open until the new year. Restaurant Eve (#6) would have been great, but I have been there so many times for lunch that I just thought it wasn’t “new”. The Inn at Little Washington (#7) would break the bank. 2941 Restaurant (#8) we have already visited, and loved, but I wanted to go to someplace that I have never been before. Marcel’s (#9) again, like the Inn, had no openings. So I decided to move down the List … well all the way to #15.

Last Tuesday, I logged in to consult my guru (Todd Kliman) on his weekly online chat. I asked him about my choice of visiting Le Paradou. Our conversation went like this:

Todd,
It’s been a while since I have been online and been able to participate in the chat, but I just had to ask you about my upcoming dinner reservation at Le Paradou. My husband and I are celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary and I know absolutely nothing about this restaurant. I know that it is on the Top 100 Very Best List, otherwise, I wouldn’t even bother 😉 … but what else can you tell me about it? The chef, the service, best dishes, some juicy inside stuff? Dying to know. Hope all is well. Always a pleasure, Lisa D.

His Response:
Hi, Lisa. Welcome back, and happy anniversary!

What can I tell you? I can tell you that Yannick Cam is one of the best cooks in the city, and that his roots here go back a long, long way. In the ’80s, his restaurant, Le Pavillon, was one of the city’s top dining destinations. I can also tell you that you can expect — well, no, that I can’t tell you. The restaurant runs hot and cold. It can be brilliant at times and uninspired at others. Or — one visit is sublime, the next leaves you wondering whether it’s the same kitchen.

Best dishes? That depends, as I said, but his foie gras terrine with stewed apricots, his roasted lobster with Sauternes, his gazpacho with lobster claw, and his duck breast with foie gras tart, are all good bets.

Good luck, and be sure to check back in with a report …

So last night, I think that I would say that the restaurant wasn’t have an “off-night”, but who knows. I am not nearly the expert that Todd is about such matters.
We were pretty happy that upon our arrival to the restaurant, there was a space right in front. We were delighted to not have to use the valet. When we go inside, I noticed immediately how the Christmas Tree by the door wasn’t decorated in the back. All of the decorations were on the front. Pretty humorous, if I don’t say so myself. The host was very pleasant when “checking-in”. Of course, we had a reservation. The bar area off to the right of the entrance wasn’t bustling yet. When we tell the host our name, he says, “Oh, this is for you,” and reaches into a drawer and pulls out a yellowish-brown folder with Paradou written on it. My husband and I looked at each other, both confused. Apparently, my father and his lady purchased a gift certificate for us to the restaurant.
The main dining area is very large full of large round tables and boothes.
So we are sat at our table in the private dining area. It’s in the back of the main dining room. It is the area that if someone has a large party, that room can be closed off to the other diners. It was the room of the restaurant that has the very large hand blown chandelier.
We each ordered an appetizer and we shared a bottle of Evian. I was surprised to find out later that the water was $9. Before the appetizers came, a small gift from the kitchen came out and the bread basket. The compliments of the chef was a single shrimp on top of some Sweet Bell Peppers Sauce. This was fine for one bite, but if I were to order this as an appetizer from the menu, I would be disappointed. There was nothing really to the shrimp. The only seasoning was the sauce that the shrimp sat upon.
There were more choices for appetizers than there were for anything else, well except for the wine list that was as thick as a telephone book.
I ordered the Raviolis de Crabe, Pince de Homard au Beurre Fin de Tomates, which is Crab Ravioli with Lobster claw, tomatoes, and butter. It was served in a large bowl with small thin raviolis on the bottom covered in large chunks of crab and lobster meat. In the butter sauce, you could taste the garlic and there were little tiny bits of tomatoes. How they cut those tomatoes so small, I’ll never know. The butter sauce was so delish that I dredged my dinner roll in it. Ben ordered the Noix de Coquilles Saint- Jacques Enrobées d’une Feuille de Jambon de Parme, Truffes d’Hiver et Coulis de Poivrons Doux. Presented beautifully on a large square platter, the Scallops were wrapped in the Parma Ham, Black Truffles and Sweet Bell Peppers Sauce. I am not a fan of peppers … as I am allergic, but I did try one of the scallops, also something that I don’t ordinarily like, but these scallops didn’t taste like scallops. They were soft and tender and didn’t taste “fishy” to me. Plus, anything with bacon I love. Well Parma ham is close enough to bacon.
For the main course, I really branched out. I ordered the “Estouffade de Lapin aux Olives Niçoises et Romarin, Galette de Champignons Farcis” This ‘Estouffade’ of Rabbit with Olives, Rosemary and Stuffed Mushrooms Tort was exquisite. I have never had rabbit before due to ethical considerations, but I have to admit that this was the best meat that I have ever tasted. The rabbit was tender and succulent. I only found one piece that was dry. I had only minor difficulty with the small bones. I don’t recall ever really enjoying eating turnips, but I ate every single one that was on my plate. The texture was soft but not mushy. It was almost like a small ball of mashed potatoes. The small Olives Niçoises were delish also. There were only a few scattered around the rabbit, but they too, were quite delectable.
My husband ordered the Osso Bucco aux Carrottes Glacées, Graines de Cardamon et Safran. At the time, I did not know that Osso Boccu was veal. It was only I could go and look it up that I learned exactly what it was. Nevertheless, this dish was cooked perfectly. In my experience, Veal is usually chewy and sometimes tough and I avoid it usually for this reason (and also the ethical considerations, again). This wasn’t. It was very tender and the Cardamom and Saffron sauce was an excellent accompaniment.
For dessert, I ordered the Pomme Confite Façon Tatin, Crème Chiboust Vanillée, Glace Cannelle. It was presented well. The most interesting thing about the dessert was this thin sugary spike that stuck out of the ice cream. It was very crispy and reminded me of a creme brulee. It was served in a small votive with layers of the Vanilla Chiboust Cream and Cinnanom Ice Cream on the side. Wonderful, memorable meal. A nice place to spend a special occasion like a wedding anniversary.

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