In the District: Bistro Provence

26 Apr

To be more accurate, this isn’t a District post; Bistro Provence is located in the small city to the northwest of us: Bethesda, Maryland. I like Bethesda a lot. I mean, it’s not the most exciting spot in the world and it’s more of a great day trip for tourists than a destination. And for DC residents, it’s really a nice city to spend a relaxed Saturday, just eating, walking around, eating, shopping, eating more… So we did just that.

I wouldn’t have heard of Bistro Provence without a little help from Thrillist and an eager boyfriend who loves to eat anything French. So we hauled it to Bethesda and made an early-dinner reservation on the spot. Other than the fact that we misinterpreted “casual bistro” as a “shorts-and-t-shirt” kind of spot and turned out to be embarrassingly underdressed, our experience was lovely, from the food to the service.

Asparagus pie with eggs, watercress and bacon

We started off with a savory clafoutis (a pie that’s normally sweet but this was an appetizer) with asparagus and onions baked frittata-style, topped with a poached egg, watercress and bacon. It was small, simple, yet absolutely delicious. The asparagus was perfectly cooked and the onion gave the right amount of sweetness to complement the kick of the freshly-cracked black pepper. And the bacon (who doesn’t love bacon of course?) just made the dish that much better.

Salmon with ratatouille

I love ratatouille (and not just because of the movie – ok, maybe the movie motivated me to try it for the first time last year) so when I spotted a dish with ratatouille I jumped on it. It was just grilled salmon on a bed of ratatouille. Sounds basic, but I loved it. The salmon flaked right off itself, giving no need for a knife. The ratatouille was robust and hearty, a lovely match for the fish.

Coquilles St. Jacques

The Bf ordered the Coquilles St. Jacques (which, sadly enough I’d only heard of previously in another movie, “The Nanny Diaries”). The dish turned out to be more than what the menu described: scallops and some sort of fish in a pool of broth of tomatoes and a yellow vegetable that I’d never heard of or seen before. It was topped with a toasted brioche covered in cheese. The overall dish had many flavors at once, from the sweet scallops to the tomato-based broth. Bf actually found it too sweet for his palate and we ended up switching plates. As much as I liked the dish, I was confused by everything going on in it. I almost wish I had opted to keep my original dish.

Warm chocolate fondant cake with caraway seed ice cream

Dessert ended our meal on a strong note (at least for myself). We ordered the “fondant au chocolat,” which was similar to a molten chocolate lava cake. It was small but very rich. I loved pressing into the cake with my spoon and having chocolate goo flow out. I enjoyed the spice from the caraway ice cream. It was a smart departure from the ubiquitous vanilla ice cream that’s often served with desserts like this. My dining-partner-in-crime, however, was completely turned off by the taste of caraway and tried his best to just enjoy the cake.

My boyfriend’s highly discerning palate aside, I was impressed by the taste and quality of the food. Our service was top notch: everyone was incredibly kind and attentive, not stuffy or pretentious as one would expect from an upscale bistro. We weren’t even dressed in suits and dresses as all the other patrons were, yet we were treated just as well. So expect warmth and comfort at Bistro Provence from both the staff and the cuisine. And the cuisine itself will make you discover new touches on traditional provencal tastes. It’s a lovely addition to Bethesda’s charm.

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