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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Tue–Thu 11:30am–2:30pm
Tue–Thu 5:30pm–10:00pm
Fri–Sat 11:30am–2:30pm
Fri–Sat 5:30pm–10:30pm
Sun 11:30am–2:30pm
Sun 5:30pm–9:00pm

Features Outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted

Capitol Hill
327 7th St. SE
Washington, DC
(202) 544-1244
A quaint, unpretentious French bistro that delights American palates while expanding them, too

Montmartre is an unassuming delight. Located near Eastern Market, it’s small and set back from the street—the kind of place that can be easily missed. But it isn’t often missed; it’s quite crowded, a testament to the accessible charm of its menu. The place exerts a simple, homey elegance: walls are painted a Provençal yellow; dark wood furnishings butt up against each other (it does get cramped); and outdoor seating makes for great entertainment.

The food is unfussy, rustic French, but with New American efforts toward balance and presentation. (Note that this is a gentle and natural influence, and not the concerted effort that foreshadows fusion and foam.) The treasures of the French bistro are here in such dishes as mussels in a pastis broth; buttery, garlicky escargot; and duck-leg confit. Calf’s liver is a favorite here, with appropriate balancing accents—on one visit, notes of blackberry and blue cheese. A chilled cucumber soup is refreshing, with a touch of cream and a pesto drizzle on top. A few pieces of fresh mozzarella tease and frustrate with their restraint. Likewise, the quiche is lighter than many Americans might be used to.

At brunch, most dishes are paired with fancy local greens, and the presentation is always pretty. Consider the eggs Florentine: instead of a heaping mess of egg and sauce and English muffin, Montmartre’s version includes two pretty pearls of poached eggs, with rich and runny yolks, atop a generous bed of sautéed spinach. Instead of toast, there’s the basket of crusty baguette that accompanies every meal. As part of the ongoing celebration of offal, there’s a brilliant array of pâtés and rilletes, served with cornichons and mustard. Or try a smoked-salmon terrine, which is dotted with small pieces of mushroom and makes a great accompaniment to a Bloody Mary (what doesn’t?).

The waiters come across as green as the arugula: they can become harried and careless during rushes. On the other hand, the vibe isn’t trying to be four-star hotel-service French. Montmartre’s finishing touch is a winner: the dessert tray is filled with a delectable assortment of lemon and berry tarts. Here, the restaurant caters to a weakness shared by both Americans (who love pie) and French (who love to linger).

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