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Philadelphia-based restaurateur Stephen Starr was in town yesterday overseeing the build-out of his French brasserie Le Diplomate. He gave Y&H a run-down of what to expect from the Logan Circle restaurant, slated to open at 1610 14th St. NW in late March.
Why a French brasserie in D.C.: Starr says when he initially scouted locations in D.C., he didn’t think he’d be doing a French concept. The freestanding space, a former shirt laundry, inspired him. “The soulfulness was here,” he says. “I was going to do something maybe edgier and industrial, more like a garage, but that’s been done. Let’s do something that’s classic and that will stand the test of time.”
How it will compare to his restaurant Parc in Philadelphia: It will be very similar, Starr says, but “this is even more intimate.” The menus will have many of the same classic French dishes, but the D.C. location will go beyond traditional bistro fare with more “innovative” dishes, though Starr did not yet have specifics.
The food: First, expect the raw bar to be big. Chef Adam Schop’s menu will also include dishes like steak frites, escargots, calf’s liver, bouillabaisse, salmon en croute, radishes with sea salt and butter, and suckling pig. There will also be a plat du jour with rotating specials like lavender duck l’orange. And breakfast: “At Parc, it’s the most magical part of the day,” Starr says. He plans to open as early as 7 a.m. Fresh baguettes and rolls will be baked in-house, and Philadelphia’s La Colombe will provide coffee and train the baristas.
The cocktails: The menu will take inspiration from 19th century pre-Prohibition “American bartender-in-Paris”-style cocktails. Mixologist Eben Klemm, who works with other Starr restaurants, will put together the drinks.
What it will look like: The space was designed by Shawn Hausman, who also designed Parc and has worked on The Standard Hotel rooftop in New York and the historic Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. The eclectic furniture all comes from old cafes and bistros throughout Europe, and the long pewter bar was brought in from Paris. Bicycling and Tour de France photos and paraphernalia will line part of the walls. Hanging plants, lace curtains, and red awnings out front will also give the space a French brasserie feel. A glass-enclosed annex dining room with skylights will look out on a garden terrace with outdoor seating.
What’s next: “We definitely want to do Buddakan here,” Starr says of his modern Asian restaurant which has locations in New York and Philadelphia. He looked at Georgetown (as was previously rumored), but wasn’t able to make a deal. There’s no lease yet, but Starr says he has his eye on a specific place and “we’re getting close.” He wouldn’t say what neighborhood he’s interested in.
Photo by Jessica Sidman