Dissatisfied with French small plates

I grew up eating a lot of French food. Examples include quiches and Niçoise salads. When I learned recently from my mother that Bread and Chocolate has a small plates section on its menu, I was pleasantly surprised. I had never heard of French small plates before.

But I noticed many international elements in that section. In general, the restaurant has a lot of French food items, but it also covers other countries in its menu. The nagging question was, how French is this going to be? Going to Bread and Chocolate’s branch in the Foggy Bottom area, I got my answer. The menu is still a little disorganized, so if you want mesclun salad or some form of a quiche, general manager Eugene Kouadio said that those are still small plates. The audio interview is mostly in French, which you can listen to here. However, I also provided a translation of the interview: Translated interview for French small plates blog post.

I ordered lentil-filled blinis that are topped with a yellow curry sauce. Compared to other small plates that I’ve eaten for this blog project, this plate was larger than usual and I couldn’t eat more than one small plate.

Lentil-filled blinis

Blinis filled with French green lentils (Photo credit: Selma Khenissi)

The filling was French for sure, with green lentils and chopped-up garnitures inside the Russian pancakes. It would’ve made more sense if the blinis were crêpes. The sauce is harder to figure out. The Northwestern region of Brittany is starting to develop a reputation for using spices well, so that might explain the curry powder taste.

Where: 2301 M Street, Washington, DC 20037
Cost: Inexpensive (My plate cost $8)
Recommended drinks: N/A

What the…?

The food experience was OK. I just wish that the small plates experience focused on more authentic French foods, especially regional specialties. If I had to make the effort to learn about the different French regions in high school, then this regional diversity should appear in the food as well.

Baltimore resident Annie, who goes to French restaurants every three or four months, expects a decadent culinary experience. She loves duck confit and orders it frequently. But she only has a general knowledge of French cuisine.

One of my classmates, Amy D., suggested that I check out Petits Plats in Woodley Park because the name, when translated literally, means “small plates.” The head waiter, Jeff, said that the menu doesn’t have small plates, but is supposed to be an affectionate term for normal-sized dishes.

I was looking forward to eating the Burgundy snail appetizer because I had good experiences in the past, including one involving a package of store-bought snails that was in my family’s freezer.

My experience at Petits Plats was bad. I didn’t check the reviews before I went there, but they probably wouldn’t have helped me anyway. The Yelp and Opentable reviews were mixed.

The waiter, whose name on the check was Saliero, didn’t ask me if I wanted water or not. He just assumed that I did. That would have been fine if I actually got water. Instead, my drink tasted like a mix of water, sparkling water and lime juice. I asked him what this was, and he thought it was just water. When my drink was refilled, it was definitely normal water.

The snails were really disappointing. If the snails are curled up and taste like earthy shellfish, then they’re safe to eat. These snails looked like rigid corpses and completely lacked flavor. I should’ve stopped after the first one because those snails made me feel unwell from Sunday evening until Tuesday morning.

The butter parsley sauce tasted okay, but it completely smothered the snails when the dish was presented to me.

Burgundy snails

Burgundy snails (Photo credit: Selma Khenissi)

The only things that I liked about the restaurant were the bread and olive oil. I know many restaurants offer bread with either butter or olive oil, but this part of the meal was very French.

The olive oil contained chopped black olives and looked like a riff on black olive tapenade. I appreciated the nod to Southeastern French cuisine. The bread was also well-prepared. People who grew up eating baguettes will have extremely high standards when it comes to bread texture. You need that crunch. These baguette pieces met those expectations and I wished there were more of them.

But I left the restaurant feeling like I ate a lot of grease. That wasn’t a good feeling.

Where: 2653 Connecticut Avenue, Washington, DC 20008
Cost: Moderate (My plate cost $9.50)
Recommended drinks: Extensive wine list, but I wouldn’t recommend any pairings because of the risk of food poisoning

 

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