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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Sat–Mon 5:00pm–10:00pm
Tue–Fri 11:30am–10:00pm

Features Date-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


Cleveland Park
3321 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 966-3002
A lovable French bistro that sings a familiar tune, and hits every note

People spend a lifetime looking for the perfect neighborhood joint—that little French or Italian bistro that they can call their own, the one where the servers know your name, your order, and your birthday; the one where the food is comforting, constant, and unpretentious.

Lavandou does a pretty good job of trying to be that place. Located in family-centric Cleveland Park, it avoids that dreaded DC after-work-crowd feel. The restaurant is typically populated by lovers warming up to their date night, groups of friends catching up, and the occasional odd couple grabbing a bite (including, on our last visit, an older gentleman and his much younger companion discussing how they were going to tell the man’s daughter—older than said companion—about their relationship. Good luck with that one…)

The space is classic, with an open window looking out onto the street, wooden tables, and Provençal oranges, yellows, and purples. And although the décor can feel tired and clichéd at times, the atmosphere is mostly low-key and friendly. The service tries to be the same, although you’ve got to take the bitter with the sweet: the lack of hovering sometimes leads to excessive periods of time without a semblance of waitstaff.

When it comes to food, Lavandou hits the mark time and again. Other restaurants could learn a few things about salad by eating one here. Crisp, fresh baby greens and vibrant tomatoes might come lightly dressed in a sharp, correct vinaigrette. And the poster child of all French bistros—steak frites—proves to be quite wonderful as well. The fries taste homemade, if partly for their inconsistency: while a few wind up slightly soggy, most are fried to a golden crisp. Forego the traditional ketchup and dip them instead into the pool of the meat’s rich red-wine-and-shallot sauce. The incredibly tender hanger steak boasts defined grill marks and an ideally red center. Although the generous portion may be difficult to finish, we doubt that your self-control will win this battle. As for dessert, the quintessential crème brûlée is as expected—no surprises here.

And that’s the point of Lavandou. It’s a nice feeling, at times, to know exactly what you’re getting. Familiarity is perhaps the most powerful of all selling points in the restaurant business.

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