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  • Reservations Recommended

    Restaurant Review ~ Et Voila / 5120 MacArthur Blvd., NW

    Searching for a classy, intimate restaurant with high-end cuisine? Put the Belgian-French eatery, Et Voila!, on your calendar. Something of a DC old-timer, the petit bistro is somewhat off the restaurant radar in town, what with all the new openings around the District.

    Its location also is not in the thick of things. Along MacArthur Blvd. in the Palisades section west of Georgetown, the bistro has grown, shedding its formerly microscopic space to something much more welcoming. It has undergone something of a facelift, plus a modest expansion that not only adds to its visual appeal and seating space but includes a glass case that will soon hold house-made treats, such as divine chocolate truffles and other European gastronomic goodies.

    But remember this: included in the listing of the “100 Best” DC restaurants, Et Voila! may be off the beaten path, but it is firmly ensconced in the minds of local foodies who seek topnotch and affordable meals.

    Consider a recent lunch, which included a series of treats that sent a group of us away feeling quite spoiled.

    To start, don’t skip the very creamy gazpacho, which in the chef’s iteration undergoes a special way of preparation, first with the vegetables resting quietly followed by a lengthy chilling period. The blending of all with a topping of a Parmesan foam turns this Spanish classic into a luxurious silken treat.

    Other appetizers also worth including are the seabass tartar with horseradish cream and the unique warm dollop of goat cheese on round toasty slice of cranberry-nut brioche. The brioche itself sits atop of gently dressed mesclun. If one could eat this in private, it would be tempting to simply lick the plate clean.

    The luncheon menu includes hearty salads and typical entrées — many of them based on mussels, one of seemingly Belgian’s favorite seafood eats. For example, three steamed mussels-based main dishes include a garlic white wine-based sauce; a tomato, shallots, lobster bisque-based sauce; and one to which the chef has added Ricard liquor. With each comes a side of Belgian fries. Other entrées include an omelet, a Flemish beef stew, a hanger steak, and grilled salmon with farro and kabocha squash.

    But with the main lunch menu comes the totally American treat: a selection of hamburgers, from a lobster burger, a mussel burger (reputedly one of the best sellers here), and a typical beef-based burger. But should you be lucky enough to find the specials menu includes a salmon burger, snap that up.

    Made with fresh salmon seasoned and molded into a patty (would love to have the chef’s recipe!!), this wholesome treat is served on a toasted bun and comes with a big side of Belgian fries. As you quietly consume this seafood treat, you will probably wonder what has transformed a piece of salmon into a delicacy worthy of several gold stars.

    With the main meal ended, don’t pass up one of the pastry chef’s awesome desserts. As you scan the menu looking for that certain treat, you’ll likely spot chocolate mousse, profiteroles, meringue floating on custard (floating island), and a Belgian waffle. But you will also spy the Alex Cake, a double-layered chocolate confection with a thin almond biscuit crust and a thin dark chocolate icing. As you tuck into the tall chocolate square, you may think you have just discovered chocolate heaven. Well, you have.

    Et Voila! / lunch Tue.-Fri. 11:30am-2:30pm, Sat. 11am-2:20pm, Sun. to 3pm; dinner Mon. 5-9:30pm, Tue.-Thu. to 10pm, Fri. & Sat. to 1:30pm, Sun. to 9:30pm. (202) 237-2300.

    Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, editor, and restaurant reviewer. She has authored books on Asian and Mexican cuisines published by Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Macmillan. Other credits include restaurant reviews and food articles for national and regional publications, as well as former editor of the Vegetarian Times and former food editor/writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Click here to visit her website.