Bistro D’oc: Laissez faire service but not fare

I had a really nice meal at Bistro D’oc recently.  The duck confit was beautifully-prepared and accompanied by a generous serving of thin, crispy, salty pomme frittes.    On the other hand, our server made so many bumbling errors that I was begininng to think he was doing a bad impression of Inspector Clousseau.

It’s one thing when a server makes a few faux pas.  But some of the missteps were so egregious that they nearly ruined our meal.  Fortunately, we were not at Bistro D’oc for the long haul.  It was a fairly quick dinner before a play at Ford’s Theatre, and despite everything I would still wholeheartedly recommend the restaurant.  Which actually says a lot about the food.

Chef/owner Bernard Grenier, who is from the Languedoc region of France, has successfully recreated the feel of an authentic cozy French bistro. About half of our party of eight are here for the first time.  We are surprised that a place with such a welcoming atmosphere and homey food hasn’t been on our radar sooner.  It is only when looking for options near Ford’s Theater that Bistro D’oc rises to the forefront, as it is repeatedly recommended for our  pre-theatre meal.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for us to discover that our waiter is less than adroit. It take a while before we are given menus, despite the fact that he has already been advised of our time limitations. We must flag him down again to request a wine list.  We have a wine writer among us, so we leave the ordering to him.  The waiter finally pours our resident wine connoisseur a small taste. He gives the nod, and the waiter proceeds to fill all of our glasses with wine.  All of us except for the person who ordered the wine.  It’s too late, the server is gone, and so is the bottle.  The rest of us willingly pour wine into our friend’s glass, shrugging in disbelief.

The menu at Bistro D’oc features some dishes with Thai flavors, which we find puzzling. It turns out that Chef Grenier’s wife is Thai. I am immediately attracted to the Fricasse de Poulet Thai, which is chicken in a Thai green basil sauce.  I am resolute to sticking with traditional French flavors, as I don’t often have the opportunity.

I share a green salad to start.  I am a bit dismayed that it really is nothing more than a green salad.  I have taken a few bites when a board with the evening’s specials is set next to our table.  There are specials?  It would have been nice to know this before we order. More shrugs from our party.

Sometime after the salad and before the main course, the bread is served.  I would have loved to eat this with the salad and not after.  The bread is impeccable- crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside. I can’t be angry in a restaurant with bread this good, and actually I am not angry at all, despite the service errors.

Our entrees are served and we can relax and enjoy the food.  Two of us have duck confit.  The duck is perfectly crisped on the outside and moist on the inside, as this dish is intended to be.  The accompanying fricassee of mushrooms are drenched in duck fat and garlic.  Delicious. I am trying not to focus on the fact that I am consuming a dish brimming with fat. I can’t seem to stopping eating the pommes frites, although I keep telling myself “just one more.” If they are called pommes frites rather than french fries, I am certain they are healthier.

My husband has ordered the pris fixe theater menu, which is three courses for $25 and includes a glass of wine.  The value of this cannot be denied.  He begins with a butternut squash soup, which is perfect for the cold damp day.  He particularly enjoys the rich cream base, which is a departure from the dairy free version I make at home.  His entree is poached salmon with lemon butter sauce.  It is served on a smaller plate than the rest of our dishes.  A reflection of the special? This doesn’t seem quite right and makes him feel like a second class citizen.  He finds his dish somewhat lackluster so he adds salt and pepper.
The flavor must have been reserved for the salmon dish ordered by two others:  Saumon Croustilland aux Poivrons Doux which is salmon in a wheat crepe with basil and smoked salmon, bell peppers, jasmine rice and roasted eggplants. C’est magnifique!
My friends have the Fricasse de Poulet Thai and it’s a good thing I like my duck confit or I would have snatched this off their plates.


Sacre blue! The clock is ticking and we need to get to the theater.  We make time to share two desserts, which we would have enjoyed more had we not been forced to take such quick bites.

Our waiter must be suffering from some sort of malaise.  He is slow on the uptake in terms of bringing our dessert and our check.  Is he just adopting the lassez faire attitude of the French? C’est possible.

Ordinarily, I would have been so annoyed at the inept service that it would have totally ruined my meal.  There must be some French magic at work here.  While all of us agree that the service is abysmal, no one is so put off that we wouldn’t return to this well-suited accompaniment to Ford’s Theatre. Perhaps it is indeed an accepted fact that the French can be laissez faire.  I guess as long as the fare is good, that’s okay.

Bistro D’oc, 518 Tenth Street, NW, Washington, DC
My rating (on a 1-5 scale):   3.3

Bistro D'Oc on Urbanspoon

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