Get a first look at the dinner menu at La Bise, opening June 18
Restorer Ashok Bajaj hopes to attract diners to the city center with Kiss. The French restaurant replaces The oval room, which lasted 26 years in front of the White House on Connecticut Avenue NW. When it opens on Friday June 18, the Executive Chef Tyler stout will run a new open kitchen visible from the expanded bar. For solo dining, the bar is the best seat in the house.
The menu is smart in that it straddles the modern and the traditional. “If I was cooking modern people would say, ‘It’s not French,’ says Bajaj. “Sometimes you read the menus and they can come from anywhere in Europe.”
When people leave for a French dining experience, they are sometimes fiercely attached to certain dishes like steak tartare or steak frites. At La Bise you can order both just as easily as you can try the grilled Maine lobster in gravy with a ginger and carrot emulsion or the wild sturgeon with razor clams and snow peas.
But Bajaj and Stout don’t want a stagnant menu. Some French brasseries can serve flawless cuisine for months on end, but rarely introduce anything new. “I believe in 52 seasons a year,” Stout says. “The menu will always change. Nothing will stay the same except for a few staples.
Stout has spent most of his career in the DC area, with stops at Newton’s table, Barrel and crow, and Mâcon Bistro & Pantry. Most recently he worked for three years in Boston where he says he saw an opportunity to bring food to Troquet to the south at the height of its wine list. He was drawn to Washington by the promise of stability with a well-established restaurant group and Bajaj’s plan for La Bise, which means “kiss” in French. “French is me,” says Stout. “This is what I will do forever.”
He recommends that diners try the duck on their first visit. Preparation is a 12 day process that begins with the dry aging of the bird. Then it is roasted with the bone for more flavor, glazed and spicy. He makes a thigh meat confit, pulls it, presses it with herbs, then uses it as a garnish for the freshly rolled cannelloni. The duck is accompanied by sweet spring turnips, old cherries and a juice made from the garnishes of the entry of foie gras. See the full menu below.
When asked how he is going to measure his success, Stout admits he seeks a Michelin star, but mostly because he hopes his food will meet those high standards. But hospitality and a good time come first. “I want excitement, I want energy,” Stout says. “I want this to be a fun restaurant that people can just walk in. We also want to be a destination restaurant, but that’s not all.
The restaurant has undergone a complete overhaul that matches the direction Bajaj is taking for the restaurant. Look for a giant canvas print of Notre Dame and the Left Bank, 1,000 mirror panels, recognizable art that appears as a Salvador Dali fun salmon print and wallpaper featuring female figures. Bajaj is also behind Modena, Rasika, Annabelle, Bombay Club, and other DC restaurants and has a habit of fussing and reshaping them to keep up with current design trends.
La Bise will open first for dinner, followed by lunch. Dinner will be offered Tuesday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations can be made on OpenTable.
La Bise, 800 Connecticut Avenue NW, labisedc.com