The Starting Block
I'll let the restaurant menu descriptions speak for themselves:
Onion Soup Les Halles
rich broth with sweet onions and sourdough croûtons topped with gruyere and emmenthaler cheese
Endive Salad Chardenoux
julienne of endive with caramelized pears, peppered walnuts, blue cheese and walnut-red wine vinaigrette
My onion soup was a classic french onion soup with a very flavorful broth. Nothing groundbreaking here, just good soup. I didn't get to taste B's endive salad but it looked like a slight variation of the standard field greens salad.
The Main Event
pan roasted sirloin strip with pommes frites, mesclun salad and red wine shallot butter
Lamb Shank Bretonne
slow cooked tender lamb with garlic, rosemary, creamy polenta and flageolet beans
On the waiter's recommendation I ordered the steak frites. I really ordered it so I could try the pommes frites to see if they were as good as the fries I adore at Brasserie Beck. They were good fries, but lacked the flavor (and dipping sauces) of the Beck fries. The steak was served with red wine shallot butter which added an interesting flavor but I didn't use much of it because I couldn't justify slathering my steak in butter. The steak, ordered medium rare, was cooked to perfection.
B ordered the lamb shank and it was a huge piece of lamb. He'll have to comment on the dish because I prefer to keep my lamb interactions limited to petting zoos. Something about lamb's flavor just doesn't sit well with me.
The Finish Line
Tarte au Citron
crisp tart shell with lemon curd, sweetmerinque, lemon confit and raspberry coulis
Black Forest Torte
chocolate genoise, chocolate ganache, rich vanilla bean mousse and morello cherries
I was feeling adventurous and passed up my usual creme brulee pick in favor of the lemon tart. The meringue on top was more like marshmallow in texture (a good thing in my book) and balanced out the extreme tartness of the lemon curd. I usually don't eat crust on my desserts but I finished the entire tart shell because it tasted more like a shortbread cookie than a bland pastry shell. Great dessert! B had the black forest torte which was a nice combination of rich chocolate decadence and light vanilla mousse.
Overall, we had a very good meal at Bistro Bis but nothing stood out as very imaginative. For those who do not like to venture far out of their food comfort zones, Bistro Bis provides a satisfying safe haven.
Second Thoughts from B
First off, I loved the space itself. There are a lot of new restaurants in downtown DC that have chic, modern interiors but lack any sort of personality or definitive style. I thought the modern spin on the art deco classic design was very interesting and pleasing to the eye. As for the food, I think the pastry chef was the star. While I don't have any complaints about the main food, it was the desserts that stood out. Personally, if I'm going to a top end restaurant (and paying for it) I like interesting food that has complex flavors. The dishes at Bisto Bis were well executed but not particularly memorable.
Note: In fairness, B had a bit of a head cold which could have influenced his opinion of the food.