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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Daily 7:00am–10:00am
Daily 11:30am–2:30pm
Daily 5:30pm–10:30pm

Features Date-friendly, good wines, outdoor dining, Wi-Fi
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


Capitol Hill
15 E St. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 661-2700
Bistro Bis
Worthy of its buzz, this airy, sophisticated spot lightens up the French classics

With its high ceilings, pleasant atmosphere, and a constant lively soundtrack of tinkling flatware and excited conversation, Bistro Bis has captured the crème de Washington. The food is well-executed, the service is attentive and easygoing, and comes across as neither stuffy nor boring. It’s no surprise that so many of the Hill’s heavy hitters dig this place, which is located just a hop from the Senate side of the Capitol.

It’s hardly the Michelin-star mythos where the maître d’ will fall upon his sword should your flambé extinguish en route to your table, but the French classics are all accounted for, judiciously updated (that is to say, hardly) and beautifully presented. Pâté de campagne comes studded with gems of cornichons, pistachios, and fatty, gelatinous pockets. It is a veritable fugue of texture and flavor. Onion soup is wonderfully fragrant with a restraint that gives it depth but not heaviness, the broth beefy and clouded with billowy gruyère. Trout is cooked with crisped skin and glistening with oil. Though filleted, it is every bit as flavorful as it would be whole. At times, it can endure a medieval oversalting, but mistakes like this are an exception rather than a rule.

Bistro’s sweets exercise a similar, refreshing restraint. Where French desserts can easily become a sloppy nightmare of butter and sugar, here they are treated with deference and a deft hand. Crème brûlée offers a more complex flavor than the usual globs of burnt vanilla cream. The custard is deep and just sweet enough to allow you to finish the entire thing without destroying your pancreas. “Tarte au Citron” pairs a miraculously dense and compact layer of crust with a puckery curd and peaks of toasty, airy meringue. It is a textural masterpiece, and evidence of the kitchen’s commitment to excellence.

The wine list is gorgeous; a high-dollar tour of France’s best regions, with a few under-$50 bottles sprinkled throughout. Some bottles are even a steal (we won’t say which because we hope it’s still there when we go, but it rhymes with Man Doll.) There are many restaurants in DC that aren’t worth the hype. Bistro Bis deserves every bit of its loyal clientele. Even the biggies.

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