Bistro D’oc

Location: Penn Quarter

Price: $$$

Rating 3 out of 5

Summary: Simple French flavors bring mixed results

After finishing dinner at a nearby restaurant a few weeks ago, we stopped into Bistro D’oc for drinks and enjoyed the casual, inviting atmosphere of the bar. Before then, we hadn’t noticed the small French restaurant tucked away across the street from Ford’s Theater, but were intrigued by the menu we glanced over and the wine we sampled. We eventually made our way back to Bistro D’oc, eager to indulge in what we were once too full to eat.

Although the staff seemed shorthanded and rushed, we were greeted and seated in the back dining room. The charming and inviting atmosphere of Bistro D’oc brought images of home cooking and simple flavors. It turned out that this was exactly the kind of cuisine that awaited us, even if the execution of the dishes was mixed.

For our appetizer, we ordered Paté Maison, duck liver pepper pate, fig compote, olives and cornichons. Pate is a lot like a meatloaf, only it is served at room temperature and has a much deeper, silky texture because of the large amount of fat that goes into it. It spread easily on the toasted slices of French bread, much more like a paste than a piece of ground meat. The duck flavor was slightly overpowered by the pepper seasoning, but the rich flavor of the meat wouldn’t allow itself to be covered up entirely. Although we combined the pate separately with each of the paired accessories, the only notable flavor combination was the fig compote and brought a great fruity sweetness to contrast yet compliment with the peppery fat spread. Pate is one of those dishes that you enjoy or you don’t and Bistro D’oc is one of the more basic examples we’ve had.

The first entrée we ordered was the Sourid d’Agneau en Daube, a lamb shank braised with wine and combined with wood mushrooms, carrots, turnips, olives and fingerling potatoes. The lamb was incredibly tender, falling off the bone with only a nudge from a fork. Despite the preparation, the flavor of the shank was just like any other lamb we’ve had before without any additional seasonings, leaving us somewhat disappointed. The sauce that the lamb was stewed in didn’t contribute anything to the dish and acted as more of a thick lamb stock, emphasizing the flavors already there instead of complimenting or enhancing it. The added vegetables were soft and worked well with the lamb sauce, but we weren’t presented with any new flavor profiles. Every bite we took was the same as the last and experiencing the identical, pedestrian lamb taste became tiresome and tedious near the end of our dish.

Our second entree was the Confit de Canard Maison, crispy duck confit with mushroom fricassee and paired with house French fries. The duck was served bone-in and slightly encrusted without any accompanying sauce, worrying us that we had ordered a meal destined to be dry and tough. Sampling a piece of the duck proved otherwise; the texture was moist and the juice and fat of the tender meat contained plenty of flavor. The mushroom fricassee that the duck sat on worked in perfect harmony with the savory consistency of the duck, the added garlic and herbs completing a well balanced dish. The side of french fries  had the look of the typical McDonald’s variety, yet were surprisingly well seasoned. A bite of the combined duck, mushrooms and french fries brought an odd sense of closure to the meal, each item working wonderfully with each other.

The final order of the night was the crème brulee with orange confit and Grand Marnier custard. The rich orange flavor of the dessert was a nice twist on the usual filling, working well with the hint of Grand Marnier infused in the custard. The burnt sugar crust on top had the usual crunch and sweetness expected from any crème burlee. The portion was large enough for the price of the dish and brought a great end to our meal.

Bistro D’oc was a good deal for the French cuisine we were presented, but likely isn’t for the diner who has a wide experience in French cuisine or is used to higher-end interpretations of these classic dishes. Their wine list is simple, but generously priced for the quality of the selected bottles. This restaurant would be best suited for those who are looking for a more casual Languedoc experience without paying as much money as other French restaurants in DC.