La Madeleine is purely provencal American

La Madeleine
3000 M St. N.W.
(202) 337-6975

If you are planning to study abroad in France, this is not the place to start. La Madeleine is a French bakery, but only in the American sense. This is Americanized French food, and who doesn’t like a little taste of Uncle Sam?

After entering and walking up the stairs you are confronted with trays stacked with plates of dishes offered. The restaurant is cafeteria-style, which bring back some bad sloppy joe memories, but this isn’t lunch lady land, so forget about the tater tots and cartons of milk.

Some of the food is as French as french fries, but you can still chow down here. The dinner and lunch menus are primarily composed of soup and sandwiches. The lunch menu is varied, but you could find most of the choices at Corner Bakery. The French dip sandwich is warm roast beef with provolone cheese served on a baguette and comes with horseradish sauce and au jus, a broth, for dipping. The au jus soaks the baguette, making it soft and less crusty, and complements the flavor of the roast beef.

The best lunch deal is the Duet Magnifique. You get half a sandwich, plus soup or a small side salad. The spinach salad is easily the leader of the pack. With fresh spinach, mushrooms, roasted pecans, red peppers and, surprise – strawberries – this salad is sensational. And sensationally mismatched. Try it two ways – first with no strawberries, so the mushrooms and peppers aren’t so out of place, and then without the vegetables, so the sweet strawberries can be the focus.

Dinner involves a full menu of entrees that all feature rotisserie chicken. But even with rosemary sprigs or mushroom sauce, these entres tend to be flat. The chicken breast cannot be saved by sides of rice provenal or broccoli. Instead, try the French onion soup, which sadly does not come with fully melted provolone, or the Quiche Lorraine, which is an egg casserole with bacon, ham and Swiss cheese. However, the quiche isn’t always served warm as it should be.

For dessert there are only two options you should consider – the Strawberries Romanoff and the crepes. The Strawberries Romanoff is a sweet dish, but most of the sweetness comes from the strawberries and not the brandy cream sauce covering them. It is almost impossible to resist the deep red strawberries drizzled in the white sauce, served together in a wine glass. The other delicious option is three warm crepes covered with Strawberries Romanoff or drizzled with chocolate and bananas. Even three plain crepes with a dusting of powdered sugar would be a perfect treat; they’re that good.

If you take full advantage of a meal with a sandwich, a side, a beverage and dessert you can easily rack up a bill totaling about $20. This may seem a bit ridiculous because La Madeleine is a cafeteria. However, one of the best things offered by the restaurant is free – loaves of sliced bread that are great with fresh butter and orange or strawberry jam.

Although you won’t leave La Madeleine with a French accent or a new French beau, you will leave with a full belly. But stock up on the jam and get some crepes, and you just may just leave saying, “Oui, oui.

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