City Paper is not for tourists
In her previous career, Parisian Anastasia Mori was a marketing manager specializing in charcuterie for a French supermarket. But when she moved to D.C. a few years ago to be with her husband, she struggled to find many of the French products she loved. She’s since teamed up with Heather Leonard, a former political fundraiser for congressional Democrats, to create La Jambe, a French wine bar with French cheese and European charcuterie that opens in Shaw tonight.
The French-only wine menu includes just over 40 bottles, about half of which are available by the glass. But don’t look for flights, at least for now—that’s not very French, and the owners didn’t want to replicate what others are doing. Overall, though, Mori and Leonard are trying to make wine as non-intimidating as possible. Each wine on the menu has a short description and lists the type of wine, region, and grape variety. And if vino is not really your thing, there are cocktails that incorporate French spirits, too. “Even the bitters are French,” Mori says.
The limited food menu features a handful of bar snacks (“mise en bouche”), including a pork rillette made from Mori’s family recipe, as well as a few sandwiches and cheese and charcuterie plates. While the cheeses are exclusively French, the charcuterie branches out to Italy and Spain because of the difficulties importing French meats.
Unlike other spots where you pick three or five meats and cheeses from a long list of choices, La Jambe curates each board itself and then offers them in small, medium, and large sizes. The idea is to give people things that actually go together and get them to discover products they’re less familiar with. Even the accompaniments are specifically tailored toward each board.
For dessert, La Jambe is riffing on the popular Parisian offering of cafe gourmand: an espresso with a selection of mini desserts. Patrons can choose from coffee, tea, or a Beaumes de Venise (a fortified wine from the Rhone Valley)—each of which will be accompanied by three small rotating sweets like truffles or macarons.
The name, La Jambe, means “the leg” in French, which refers both to the legs of prosciutto that will be sliced at the bar and the droplets that cling to the inside of glass when you swirl your wine. The legs of a dancer are also displayed prominently on a wall mural, which has graffiti scrawled on top of it. The main graffiti text translates to “without bread and wine, love is nothing,” but the names of the owners’ grandmothers are also tagged on the wall. Continuing the leg theme, a mirror at the entrance reflects patrons’ legs when they walk in.
A small tasting room with light fixtures made out of decanters will be used for events with French winemakers and can also be rented out for private events. Down the line, the bar might host wine classes too.
Still to come: a sidewalk cafe and brunch. Eventually, La Jambe will also offer meats, cheeses, and baguettes to-go. The baguettes, which are also used for sandwiches, come from a French bakery called Fresh Baguette in Bethesda. “It’s owned by French people. Only French people work there… It’s the best baguette I’ve had in the U.S.,” Mori says.
“And we tried a lot of baguettes,” adds Leonard.
La Jambe, 1550 7th St. NW, lajambedc.com