First Look: Stephen Starr's Le Diplomate, Washington DC

Le Diplomate's sprawling dining spaces, patios, and bright awnings are a welcome addition to 14th St. [Photographs: Brian Oh]

One of the highest profile of the spate of spring openings in D.C. is Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr's Le Diplomate on 14th street. A sprawling corner brasserie in the space of what was once an abandoned eyesore, Le Diplomate is meticulously designed to evoke cafes and bistros in Paris. From the sun room and canopied patio to the Tour de France antiques lining the walls, the attention to detail is readily apparent. The sprawling Gallic menu covers everything from fresh baguettes baked in-house to updated takes on foie gras and steak frites.


Fresh baguettes are baked in-house daily

Chef Adam Schop's menu is replete with traditional brasserie fare, segmented into Fruits De Mer, Hors D'oeuvres, and Entrées. The raw bar showpieces are the Plateau dishes, Petit ($60) and Grand ($120). Either a single platter or a gargantuan, multi-tiered feast, the Plateaus are menageries of lobster, crab, shrimp, and oysters. The Grand Plateau is an impressive sight and an even more impressive feat to take one down.


Only the Petit Plateau; the Grand is a three-tiered version of this

Among the appetizers is the aforementioned Foie Gras Parfait ($14), a scoop of smooth chicken (yes, chicken) liver served alongside a fennel spread and thick slices of toasted brioche. A lighter start is the Radish Crudité ($6.50)--radish slices served with butter and the same brioche.


Foie, fennel, and brioche

Entrées include that brasserie stalwart, Steak Frites ($28), consisting of a thick pan-roasted hangar steak served with a mountain of twice-fried frites that do double duty soaking up the residual steak juices.


A thick hangar steak and a mound of frites

The beverage program is similarly inspired by brasserie tradition and simplicity. Along with beer and wine, the cocktail list ranges from specialty house mixes to classics like negronis and Sazeracs. Flip to the dessert menu and you'll find an ice wine and green and yellow Chartreuse (something not commonly found on menus here).

14th St. has quickly become the current restaurant hot spot in the Capital and, even so, a table at Le Diplomate is a commodity. Critical and public reception of Le Diplomate has been glowing and the crowds are arriving en masse. If you can't land a reservation at Le Diplomate, click over to the slide show for an extended sample of dishes to hold you over.

Le Diplomate 1601 14th St. NW, Washington, DC 20005 (map) 202-332-3333;