2813 M Street NW
La Chaumière has graced the Georgetown dining scene for some thirty-four years… And, judging by a recent visit, I trust that it will live to be a hundred.
The exterior is rather unassuming, just a simple maroon awning announcing the restaurant’s presence. But there’s magic across the threshold. The rustic interior comes replete with timbered ceiling, huge hearth, diminutive service bar, and agrarian accoutrements adorning whitewashed walls.
And the cuisine is as classically countrified as the décor. Operated under the partnership of chef Patrick Orange and business manager Martin Lumet, La Chaumière’s menu reads like a who’s who of traditional French dishes: pike dumplings in lobster sauce; tripe stewed in Calvados; chicken and pork sausages with sautéed apples; calf’s liver sautéed with shallots; traditional cassoulet “Toulousain" (lamb stew with sausage and baked cannelloni beans); duck breast with black currant sauce – and all turned out with incredible flair and finesse. No matter what your preferences may be on a given evening, if you have an abiding love for French culinary classics, you will not be disappointed.
My wife’s evening began with the Terrine Maison, the chef’s pâté. Pâté is French for “pie” and generally has reference to various ground meat preparations. A pâté may be silky smooth, or, as a country pâté, coarsely textured. In my wife case, it was the latter presentation, which she much prefers. And the representative served up here was a tasty combo of pork, veal, and chicken; beautifully seasoned, it was companioned by gherkins and niçoise olives.
My salad promised arugula; but what materialized from the kitchen was spinach. That hardly mattered, however, as this greenery had everything going for it. Pristinely fresh and well trimmed, it was aided and abetted by pear slices, earthy gorgonzola, and spiced pecans. But it was a sassy pomegranate vinaigrette that provided the real knock out punch.
When it came to our main courses, seafood was the order of the day. My wife literally swooned over the incomparable Fricassée de Pêcheur, a fish stew, which also included clams, shrimp, mussels, and scallops; with all the constituents swimming contentedly in an addictive broth seasoned with aïoli.
When it is on the menu, I find it impossible to resist Dover sole. Expensive, to be sure; but, when it is prepared properly, nothing can touch its divinely firm & flavorful countenance. And that was certainly the case here. Presented à la meunière – dredged in flour, sautéed in butter, and finished with butter, lemon, and parsley – it was pure seductive simplicity.
Desserts continued the kitchen’s exemplary work with the two house specialties (which must be ordered at the beginning of the meal): hot apple tarte à la mode with caramel sauce and chocolate or Grand Marnier soufflé. The former – another of my wife’s absolute favorites – exhibited a perfectly flaky crust (not the least big soggy), apples that were just sweet enough, a generous dollop of vanilla ice cream, and a delightfully decadent caramel sauce.
Whereas the aforementioned apple tarte would surely qualify as quintessential French comfort food, my chocolate soufflé was a study in ethereality. Soufflés are notoriously tricky, often deflating the moment they hit the table and then, having reached flat-as-a-pancake status, assaulting the palate with a texture that is positively reptilian. Thankfully, there are no such worries here. The kitchen turns out a representative that is an unmitigated joy for all the senses and benchmark in every respect.
Tucked away on bustling M Street, La Chaumière attracts a clientele, as you can well imagine, that is highly diverse. But all comers have one very important thing in common: their passion for lovingly prepared and presented authentic French cuisine.
The Artful Diner
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Diner is an independent, freelance food writer. His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.
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