So it’s Bastille Day tomorrow. In like a few minutes, to be exact. And I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get French food and copious wine tomorrow, so, you know, I thought that I should seek that shit out tonight.This led to my hubs and I having our #1
fight conversation, “Where should we have dinner?” Or, more specifically, “Where the fuck can we find a decent French restaurant around these parts?” Because really, if you don’t want to go downtown to Bistrot du Coin or even Bistro Francais in brotown (open ’til 4am!) or someplace fancier and less traditional like Brasserie Beck or Marcel’s or wherever, you’ve got to look at what’s available in Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, and Fairfax County, and pick something that doesn’t suck.
The problem is, I’m not so sure there IS a place that doesn’t suck. Past experiences include:
- Le Gaulois, Old Town Alexandria. The best restaurant ever, now CLOSED. There shall be no equal.
- Bistrot Lafayette, Old Town Alexandria. Awesome when I went there with my dad in like 2003. Not awesome when hubs and I went there last year (funky mussels).
- Le Côte d’Or, Arlington/East Falls Church. Traditional, great location, and quality is fine but $$$, full of old people who get angry when anyone under the age of 50 walks in, and just not the kind of place we look forward to going to frequently for whatever reason.
- Chez Andree, Arlandria. Traditional, okay quality, and I used to go here with my dad, but… I don’t know. Maybe I’m really not looking for a place THIS traditional
And sadly, folks, that’s about it. There are literally no other French restaurants in Arlington (I’m not counting gastropubs with mostly Belgian fare, etc. like Lyon Hall… it just doesn’t FEEL the same as what we’re looking for) or Falls Church. There are a handful in Old Town but they seem to be pretty expensive and we frankly don’t go there a lot if we’re not headed to a sure thing. I *almost* settled on a place in northern Old Town for tonight but decided it was maybe a little fancier than we were looking for. For chrissakes, I’m wearing a t-shirt.
So we were torn between trying out Cafe Renaissance in Vienna, which has high marks in the online rating world but seemed a bit fancy/stuffy, and a new place in McLean called Bistro Vivant that seemed more like what we were looking for and was also highly rated, if for only having been around for two months or so. And besides, Cafe Renaissance had pasta and some other weird stuff on the menu that I really wasn’t expecting. So, Bistro Vivant it was!
Bad sign #1: Menus still marked as “coming soon” on their website. And you had to load PDFs just to read those words, rather than them just replacing the links with “coming soon” text.
Bad sign #2: This place is in a strip mall and took over a barbecue joint that hubs had been to before. He enjoyed the barbecue.
Good sign #1: Takes reservations on OpenTable. God, I love OpenTable.
Good sign #2: Charming bistro atmosphere.
Good sign #3: Sea urchin on the Daily Specials menu.
I’m getting really tired now, because it was an incredibly heavy meal, so let me just be uncharacteristically brief and say that I came here to complain about spending over $100 on our first (and mayyyybe our last? we’re not sure yet) meal here. The steak tartare was good and a HUGE portion but a bit gristly. The fries were so-so. Jesse’s risotto with porcini mushrooms and sea urchin (how could you NOT get that?) was tasty but the butter kept pooling in the bottom of the bowl. He was pretty convinced there was over a stick of butter in his entree alone. Our server was nice and knowledgeable and si si charmant and all those important things, though the service was a bit slow.
But the wine. My friends, the wine is why I’m so pissed.
We were going to order a half carafe of the pinot noir. At $15, it seemed very reasonable. Our charming, knowledgeable server promptly informed us that it would not nearly be enough, as it was about 1.5 glasses (the glasses were priced at $10). The full carafe was twice the price exactly at $30. We were brought full-sized wine glasses, and then the carafe came out. It was the size of a smallish water glass.
Now, I was really hungry before this meal, and I dove into the wine, so that’s why my eyelids are all heavy now and I have actually felt the way that one expects to feel after drinking a very small 1.5 glasses of wine, which is to say relatively pleasant but certainly not buzzed. But even the pleasant feelings wore off as we drove home and I started to analyze the quality of everything we had and how much we paid for it and I started to get really mad. And that’s when I found out that my normally very even-tempered husband was mad as hell too. We could’ve gone to Lebanese Taverna and had a full bottle of wine and some to bring home with us and totally gorged ourselves, albeit on Lebanese and not French fare, but that was the second runner-up for me earlier this evening while we were trying to decide where to go, and FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS blah blah blah but THAT’S HOW I FEEL! (credit: Mike Birbiglia’s wife)
But now that NyQuil commercial is on, the one that’s not for NyQuil but for ZzzQuil, and I feel better because I can’t believe Hibernol finally exists. Maybe next time I should just grab some ZzzQuil and hope to have dreams about eating a delicious French meal for a two-digit price tag.
Happy Bastille Day, y’all.