Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fabulous Brunch Food...If You Can Handle the Management Issues

This past Sunday, I had reservations to check out Napolean Bistro for brunch with B and a friend. We walked into a chaotic scene which found the hostess doing double duty as drink runner, a huge party of about twenty occupying half the space, and a swarm of people waiting for tables.

This French bistro, akin in both style and menu to Boston South End's Aquataine, has mostly French fare with an American spin. The food was wholly fantastic, but the service and wait time are absolutely horrid. And so begins yet another less-than-stellar brunch experience in DC. (On the off-chance any DC restaurateurs, if are reading this, I implore you, please get a handle on brunch -- surely the margins are high (?), the city is hungry, and we need some decent options!)

The sweet but totally overwhelmed hostess noted that our table may be a few minutes; not a huge issue. The problem was that our table was cleared and ready to go about ten minutes before we were seated and we were seated only after we pointed to our table inquisitively, to which the hostess nonchalantly and--certainly not in any hurry--responded "yes."

Why didn't we leave? We were all starving, having started our mornings like good DCites at the gym, the weather was hotter than hell, and we all assumed alternative options in this stretch of Adams Morgan, such as popular brunch spots Cashion's and Perry's had surely lengthier waits for walk-ins.

And wait we did. We placed our orders and were told the kitchen was backed up so to please be patient. Then one of the iced coffees emerged, sans spoon. About ten minutes later an orange juice (fresh squeezed) made its appearance. And then after being seated for almost an entire hour, with no nibbles or apologies, and after inquiring twice, our food arrived. And the mood quickly turned from hungry frustration to eating-induced jubilation.

B ordered a buckwheat crepe with a savory mushroom filling. Yum -- this was hearty, flavorful, rich, and balanced by the lightly dressed mixed green salad.

I opted for an omelet of egg whites in the foreground of the next picture. It does not look like much, but it was lusciously filled with brie and sun-dried tomatoes. The red potatoes were surprisingly good. And in the background, my friend's sweet nutella banana crepes, two served side-by-side, were portioned so as to be sufficient for brunch.

In spite of all the glitches and the fact that management really needs to get it together, the food here is reason to go back. Next time we'll show up earlier (surely before noon), and not at the brunch rush. Food-wise, this place succeeds in portioning where Belga Cafe, comparable in cuisine and style, fails; Napoleon provides European style breakfast/snack options in portions in inverse proportion to its namesake, which keeps one satiated for more than an hour.

Brunch came to $48 with three entrees, an iced coffee, a fresh squeezed juice, tax and tip.

And the quest for an all-around DC brunch contender for which you don't have to make reservations weeks in advance continues.

Napoleon on Urbanspoon

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