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L'Auberge Chez François


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If you're expecting innovative, L'Auberge Chez Francois isn't for you.

That being said, I've never had a bad meal there. It's particularly nice in summer - they grow a lot of their own heirloom vegetables on site, and their tomato salad is particularly good. They've got plenty of classics on the menu like lobster in Sauternes, choucroute garni, and chateaubriand, but they'll occasionally throw in an unusual special like antelope which is worth ordering.

Service is excellent, and they're very good at making someone feel appreciated on special occasions without being embarrassing. They've also got seating in the garden, which is lovely - that might be a nice choice if the weather looks like it'll cooperate.

"Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!" --Eddie Izzard
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Extremely friendly service caught in a 1970's Alsacian time warp with boring exspensive food.

Jarad C. Slipp, One third of ???

He was a sweet and tender hooligan and he swore that he'd never, never do it again. And of course he won't (not until the next time.) -Stephen Patrick Morrissey

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L'Auberge Chez Francois is more about a transporting experience to another time/country/gentility than it is about cutting edge food to die for. Still, the souffles are excellent, the pastry encrusted salmon is delicious and they try their best to make everyone feel important. It is also an older, dressier crowd (similar to 1789 and the Prime Rib) that has ranked this D. C.'s most popular almost every year for at least the last 25. Friday and Saturday nights are VERY difficult reservations, probably to the day a month in advance when they start accepting them.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for all of the feedback. Since it was my wife’s birthday, and since it was ultimately her choice, we went to L’Auberge last night. A narrow, quiet, tree-lined road leads you right to the restaurant – a pleasant drive that makes you forget that you are only a few miles from the Beltway, the Dulles Toll Road, and all of the other typical DC area driving nightmares. We considered eating out on the back patio, but the humidity and the cicadas would have made for uncomfortable outdoor dining. My wife and I were concerned that, since we are in our late twenties, we would be out of place with what I assumed was their “typical” clientele. However, the staff went out of their way to make us feel welcome, and as I looked around, I was quite surprised to see many younger couples. The service, as expected, was fantastic. We ordered a half bottle of a wonderful Alsace Pinot Gris (I wrote down all of the wines we ordered but left the list at home) that went perfectly with our appetizers and salads.

Appetizers: I had the crêpe with chives, wild mushrooms, and Madeira Truffle sauce, which was the highlight of the meal for me. My wife had the Tuna Tartar martini, which was marinated in lime juice. She enjoyed the first few bites but commented that the tuna at the bottom of the glass seemed to have a pronounced “fishy” taste.

Entrees: I had the medallions of filet of beef and veal, with a grilled lamb chop and half roasted Maine lobster tail. It was not as much food as I expected (which was a good thing). The beef filet and the lamb chop were great, but the star of the plate was the lobster tail, which was delicious. The veal filet was not as tender as I would have expected, but was good nonetheless. The accompanying sides of roasted potatoes, mushrooms, and green beans were excellent. My wife had the veal scallopini with crabmeat, country ham, asparagus, mushrooms, golden apples, and Madeira cream sauce, which she really enjoyed. She had a glass of Pinot Noir with her meal that was excellent. My biggest disappointment of the night came when I ordered a glass of Syrah with my entrée that was served WAY too warm. . I know that this is a topic that has been discussed many times here, but I would expect to be served warm red wine at Olive Garden, not at a restaurant of this quality.

Desserts: I had the Alsatian apple tart with cinnamon ice cream, which was disappointing. The apples did not seem to have much flavor to them. My wife ordered the Alsatian plum tart with cinnamon ice cream. The few bites that I had were terrific, and quickly made me regret my dessert choice. They brought us out an additional dessert (the Kougelhopf of soft caramelized meringue and vanilla kirsch sauce) with a birthday candle in it for my wife, which I was more than willing to help devour.

Overall, we had a great experience. The food was good and the service was phenomenal. It is definitely a restaurant that I would go back again in the future. However, it will be awhile before I would go back, as there are many other restaurants that are in the same price range as L’Auberge that I want to try.

"My cat's breath smells like cat food."

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nice recap! thanks!

I wanna say something. I'm gonna put it out there; if you like it, you can take it, if you don't, send it right back. I want to be on you.

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  • 2 months later...
Extremely friendly service caught in a 1970's Alsacian time warp with boring exspensive food.

Ain't this the pot calling the kettle black? After your tasting menu with um wine drops, that's a bit much for you to say! Not that your food isn't good.

Auberge is a deal! A prix fixe menu is approximately 50-60 dollars plus whatever drinks you may choose and the food is wonderful, no not cutting edge but wonderful just the same. BTW this prix fixe is for 4 courses plus amuse bouches, you cannot go wrong here. The winelist is good and the sommelier will steer you to less expensive bottles if he feels they are better. We had a Grand Cru Bourdeaux 2000, actually we had two, one we chose which was over $100 and a $40 bottle the conciege recommended. Guess which one was better?

Edited by raisab (log)

Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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I am somewhat puzzled by this post. Our last correspondence was your PM to me singing our praises and apologizing profusely for shall we say your ill choosen dining companions.

So please allow me to retort...

Extremely friendly service caught in a 1970's Alsacian time warp with boring exspensive food.
Ain't this the pot calling the kettle black?

First, I guess I should thank you for the backhanded compliment about the service. Though there is nothing French let alone Alsacian about us. Boring is not an adjective I've heard used for Nectar but OK. And the subject of price leads me to...

Auberge is a deal! A prix fixe menu is approximately 50-60 dollars plus whatever drinks you may choose and the food is wonderful, no not cutting edge but wonderful just the same. BTW this prix fixe is for 4 courses plus amuse bouches, you cannot go wrong here. The winelist is good and the sommelier will steer you to less expensive bottles if he feels they are better.

I took the liberty of pulling your check: A ten course tasting menu for $75 per head or $7.50 per course. Auberge: for 5 courses (to include amuse) works out to $12 per course. And thats if you don't get banged by any supplements. Want foie, extra, Want lamb, extra, What this and that, extra extra.

After your tasting menu with um wine drops, that's a bit much for you to say! Not that your food isn't good.

Um, wine drops. Do you mean the ten half glasses of wine paired to each course for only $35 a head.

We had a Grand Cru Bourdeaux 2000, actually we had two, one we chose which was over $100 and a $40 bottle the conciege recommended. Guess which one was better?

I would guess neither. As Bordeaux is over priced, overrated and shouldn't be touched for a couple of decades.

This post is not intended to compare us to Auberge or any other restaurant. Nor is it to attack you personally. I'm just don't recall any of today's ungrateful cheapness back in April.

Jarad C. Slipp, One third of ???

He was a sweet and tender hooligan and he swore that he'd never, never do it again. And of course he won't (not until the next time.) -Stephen Patrick Morrissey

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I am somewhat puzzled by this post. Our last correspondence was your PM to me singing our praises and apologizing profusely for shall we say your ill choosen dining companions.

So please allow me to retort...

Extremely friendly service caught in a 1970's Alsacian time warp with boring exspensive food.
Ain't this the pot calling the kettle black?

First, I guess I should thank you for the backhanded compliment about the service. Though there is nothing French let alone Alsacian about us. Boring is not an adjective I've heard used for Nectar but OK. And the subject of price leads me to...

Auberge is a deal! A prix fixe menu is approximately 50-60 dollars plus whatever drinks you may choose and the food is wonderful, no not cutting edge but wonderful just the same. BTW this prix fixe is for 4 courses plus amuse bouches, you cannot go wrong here. The winelist is good and the sommelier will steer you to less expensive bottles if he feels they are better.

I took the liberty of pulling your check: A ten course tasting menu for $75 per head or $7.50 per course. Auberge: for 5 courses (to include amuse) works out to $12 per course. And thats if you don't get banged by any supplements. Want foie, extra, Want lamb, extra, What this and that, extra extra.

After your tasting menu with um wine drops, that's a bit much for you to say! Not that your food isn't good.

Um, wine drops. Do you mean the ten half glasses of wine paired to each course for only $35 a head.

We had a Grand Cru Bourdeaux 2000, actually we had two, one we chose which was over $100 and a $40 bottle the conciege recommended. Guess which one was better?

I would guess neither. As Bordeaux is over priced, overrated and shouldn't be touched for a couple of decades.

This post is not intended to compare us to Auberge or any other restaurant. Nor is it to attack you personally. I'm just don't recall any of today's ungrateful cheapness back in April.

Wow and ouch! I have not complained about your prices Mr. Hooligan, though, and correct me if I am wrong, which I may be, wasn't the bill $900 ? I never said Nectars was not worth it, but those prices are comparable to Auberge if not more expensive. Hence the kettle reference.

And well yes the pours did seem skimpy at times. I am sorry if this offends you.

As to wines and Bourdeauxs not being ready to drink, well taste is always subjective isn't it? The French drink their wines quite young except for Burgundies.

And no, I am not comparing, as it would be apples and oranges kind of thing.

Yes the service was great at Nectars.

Not intended as a personal attack? I will try not to take it as such, but you must do the same.

(Edited to make sense!)

Edited by raisab (log)

Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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I have been going to L'auberge for over twenty years, probably averaging a visit every two years or so. I have never been to Nectar. I consider L'auberge to be well worth the cost and the wine list to be priced fairly. I also consider this is to be a romantic, enchanting restaurant that is truly special where the ambience can compensate for some mediocrity in food. However, as I noted above there are several very good dishes, even excellent ones. I have never thought of L'auberge in the same way that I think of Maestro or Citronelle-it is simply not cutting edge nor spectacular nor does it reach the heights they do. I also do not react with disappointment to it as I do at The Inn where $500+ for two has left me shaking my head on two visits within the last two years. For what amounts to $100-125 a person with decent wine, tax and tip L'auberge Chez Francois, with its transporting ambience and very good food, it is a very good dining investment for the D. C. area. If I am willing to spend $200+ a person and want what I believe is dinner on par with any in America I will go to Maestro or Citronelle. All three are special. But in their own way.

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You are right JoeH. Auberge is a great value for what you get. It's food is consistantly good and it's ambiance beats most restaurants in the area. It has stood the test of time, and will probably do so so for another 40 years, which says quite alot in itself.

Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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Extremely friendly service caught in a 1970's Alsacian time warp with boring expensive food.

The purprose of this thread is L'Auberge and what it represents to our dining scene first and foremost, so let's try not to get too far away from that. I wish I had seen this sooner, Ralph, I would definitely have said "old" and "old favorite" that may or may not have still held appeal for you. I do, however, agree with Jarad's assessment 100% and I've eaten at L'Auberge as recently as this year and at its brethren in banality off and on for decades.

The only remaining valuable and appealing qualities of L'Auberge to me are 1) the setting and 2) the service, which I'd go perhaps even a little further to praise than Jarad did--I'd call it extremely friendly and professional. Joe's so right in that everyone is gracious and charming and happy you are there, even if you're not old or not suitably attired. But that's it--I couldn't call any dish delicious or wonderful considering how many delicious and wonderful dishes there are at the moment in this city, raisab, though maybe you've been luckier here than me. To me, like Jarad, it's a predictable, well-meaning, serviceable dinosaur of a high-end dining destination which inexplicably still gets raved about and voted onto favorites lists by the numb and/or dumb sheep of our region. Even within this genre of heavy, conservative, steeped in time stuff--a genre I like and can appreciate in small doses, by the way--diners should expect more, should expect that it can be executed on a higher level given its price point than it is being done here--as most anyone who's been to France can attest or who has eaten at other "stuck in time" classic French places in the US. Who on their last French vacation has not dined at an old Michelin one or two star in just about any given town in France that is still hanging on a bit with the same a-little-too-stiff and unoriginal cooking that seemed to do it better than L'Auberge, with fresher fish, better vegetables, more affordable local wines, etc?

I'm not laying this all at the feet of L'Auberge--and I'm happy those folks are still around serving, the owner is a charming woman, and I'm happy those servers still convey a joy and warmth and professionalism mostly unseen at downtown fine dining destinations--but if anyone wonders why DC hasn't grown more quickly into more of an interesting, more creative, more appealing food town stretching back a decade or two (and it hasn't historically, only recently have we started to flex, attract and retain some newcomers and get some depth) I think the "L'Auberge Factor" is part of it. Our media has over-praised average cooking and as a result we're too tolerant of just average cooking.

The fact that it has "stood the test of time" is one of the biggest statements AGAINST our area developing into more appealing dining destination on par with, say, Chicago or SF. Everytime L'Auberge is mentioned it comes at the expense of some other restaurant or chef more deserving. It's because too high a percentage of DC area diners are conservative and un-nuanced when it comes to restaurants and still think L'Auberge is a "great" restaurant, at the top of our dining scene as these popularity lists indicate, when it is merely average food-wise. Too many of our diners accept mediocre food, or don't even realize what they're getting is mediocre or they make excuses for L'Auberge, as Joe tried to do on this thread. L'Auberge has been over-praised since I've been dining out in DC, and since I went to it for the first time, which was circa 1980. Nice setting, unique setting--sure. Wonderful service--sure. Twenty or so years ago its cooking also deserved to be praised but we were at that given level of awareness and expectation and it was a different restaurant in its context then. Now, a much greater percentage of our area should know better. That we're discussing this on eG separates us from other, less diverse venues.

There is a huge chasm culinarily between what L'Auberge does and what Joe just offered up as the alternative: "cutting edge food to die for." Please. There are accessible, classic, conservatively-grounded restaurants of impeccable quality that don't care one wit about being seen as cutting edge but that so clearly surpass L'Auberge--which have taken that same classic grounding yet remained open to personalizing a cuisine and growing a classic cuisine ever so slightly with evolving techniques and outlook. Take Bob Wiedmaier and Marcel's, for instance, who is similarly grounded in these hearty earthy older European cooking influences: what eGulleteer isn't able to appreciate the qualitative difference in ingredients, cooking, thought process and plating between a restaurant like Marcel's directly compared to L'Auberge? Except for the aforementioned country setting and in the service, where L'Auberge perhaps, just perhaps, gets the slight nod, there's no comparison between the two in terms of quality.

I think I'd also be more open to consider the value proposition L'Auberge offers, raisab, if the food itself was just a little better or more interesting. For me, value, setting and service still can't excuse, let alone trump, average food. So my recommendation differs--"old" food can still be done well, still apreciated for what it is--and it is done fairly well all over the country--but in the case of L'Auberge spend your $100-$125 per person elsewhere and leave this to the dinosaurs. There are too many other people around town doing much better work and who are deserving of your support.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I could not disagree with you more. I'm not making excuses for L'aubege. It IS good. It is NOT great nor does it aspire to be great. Nor does it aspire to a E 290 prix fixe such as Gagnaire or E360 as Veyrat. (that's US $355 and US $440 prix fixe respectively for the absolute cutting edge adventure). What it does compare favorably to is not a one star but a dependable, small town inn in Alsace. Exactly that which you described. But also every bit as expensive with the current rate of exchange. I also have no idea what you had at L'auberge but they have some very good dishes. Not a single one is what I would call a Great dish but some very good, dependably comforting food that tastes even better in the idyllic setting.

I have been to Marcel's twice and liked it. Yes, I thought the food was better than L'auberge. But I would still pick L'auberge for most evenings because of its ambience. Marcel's cannot even begin to compare for that. For whatever reason I think you and the person from Nectar do not seem to understand that it is the ambience of L'auberge as well as its tradition that drives it. Chez Marc in Manassas is something of a similar place yet the food is not quite as good and the amibence not quite as special. Probably the kind of place that would be the best restaurant in, say, Wichita. Or Manassas. L'auberge is better. And more special. But it's just not about pretending to be any more than it is. For whatever reason neither of you seem to accept it for what it is. Still, they've found a formula that has endeared themselves to the D. C. area for 25 years. It works there better than, say, Chez Marc or Auberge Provencial or any of a dozen other similar places.

I think L'auberge has nothing to do with the growth of Washington, D. C. as a restaurant town. Nor does the Prime Rib. Almost every city has "dinosaurs" like these that "stand the test of time." The growth of Washington dining has as much to do with the growth of the city and its world stature (Bush aside) as it does anything else. But this is a topic for another time.

Still, I find it interesting that you seem to have a personal thing about my opinions. I suppose some things never change.

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There is a reason restaurant reviewers go to a particular place more than once. Back in 1989, for my mother-in-law's 75th birthday, she wanted to go to L'Auberge. After driving almost an hour and a half to get there through late rush-hour traffic we had a meal I considered pretty bad. There was a veal stew listed in the fixed-price menu that the waitress steered us away from. The lobster bisque was so extremely salty, there must have been a mistake in the kitchen and shouldn't have been served. The much-vaunted plum tart was inedible, in my estimation. My husband was just as disappointed and we have never even considered going back. We have had some disappointing meals in other much-praised restaurants, but they have been in town and didn't require grabbing our passports before heading out to Virginia. And none were as disappointing as this experience.

I realize all restaurants have bad days--the chef is sick or on vacation, or who knows what has happened to make the staff jittery. But, at those prices, it doesn't help, particularly when you have to make reservations so far in advance.

The following year, we treated my parents-in-law and my aunt, all of whom had birthdays in the same month, to dinner at La Colline. Everyone loved the food and we had a great time.

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which inexplicably still gets raved about and voted onto favorites lists by the numb and/or dumb sheep of our region. 

Oh my God, I can't believe your statement! Numb and Dumb? It is no wonder the DC group is being called food snobs in the Post. Arroagance is the word that comes to my mind. I do not post on this forum that often because I feel people try to make others feel stupid or simple because their opinions may be different! If you do not follow the crowds opinion, heaven help you!

  DC area diners are conservative and un-nuanced when it comes to restaurants and still think L'Auberge is a "great" restaurant, at the top of our dining scene as these popularity lists indicate, when it is merely average food-wise.  Too many of our diners accept mediocre food, or don't even realize what they're getting is mediocre or they make excuses for L'Auberge, as Joe tried to do on this thread. 

Un-Nuanced, I will reply on my part only. I dine at Citronelles, Maesto's, Marcels, etc.. the number of times per years as I do at AUberge. I also dine at Guy Savoy's, Taillevant, Michel Rostangs, and numerous bistros throughout France. I would not call myself un-nuanced. Auberge has a niche, because it is not nouveau, or cutting edge, so much the better! There are plenty of 3 star Michelin restos in Paris (not that AUberge would necessarily be in that category) that have not changed or have cutting edge. But their service and food is dependable and good. I cannot say the same for some of the restaurants that some DC Gulleters fawn over!

Taste is subjective people. As you are a forum host, I am surprised and baffled by your reply!

Edit: Reformated by manager at member's request.

Edited by Bux (log)

Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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I agree. I do not get this place. I was riding one day and happened by the place when a delivery truck was there. Having ate there not a week before I thought I'd see what kind of stuff came off the truck. The first box... Liptons Onion Soup Mix. I had the onion soup when I was there. Now I really know why it was so lame. I have had better soup in a high school cafeteria. When I expressed my indifference with the soup the waiter shrugged...and left it on my bill. Don't get me wrong, at one time it probably was a gem and a beacon of european comfort. Now it seems to be just going through the motions and sucking people in on their former glory.

Edited by sdelgato (log)

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."

—George W. Bush in Saginaw, Mich., Sept. 29, 2000

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thanks, as usual, for all the interesting comments. For $100 pp, I would expect more than Lipton's soup mix no matter how wonderful the atmosphere. But good service and a nice setting are important elements of a good dining experience so I'll probably end up going just to see for myself.

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Come on now.....do you really think they use Lipton Onion Soup Mix? My son orders that soup whenever we go, and I can assure you they don't use instant! :wacko:

Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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call them and ask... When I asked the guys checking his list he said they used it as a flavor enhancer and all the restaurants use it. The soup I tried had the unmistakable flavor of that very mix. I am not kidding in the least. I wished I was. What I really wished was to have eaten there during it's hay day. L'Auberge was one day a fabulous restaurant but now it is a relic, a charming relic. In my honest opinion. I would not say this if I hadn't witnessed it myself. If you go again try the soup and tell me what you think. Note: this experience was before the fire...

Edited by sdelgato (log)

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."

—George W. Bush in Saginaw, Mich., Sept. 29, 2000

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I will, I can believe it is used as an enhancer, but not as the soup itself. Who knows? Personally my kids are the one who order it off their kids menu. Thanks for your reply.

Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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