Monday, October 6, 2008


As I have yet to meet my absurdly wealthy and extremely classy new boyfriend who will whisk me off to fabulous events all over the world, I'm always looking for a good reason to all dressed up here in my own backyard. Last weekend some girlfriends and I decided that the new, trendy French restaurant in the U St. neighborhood, 1905, was as good a reason as any to curl our hair and dawn some cocktail dresses.

Once we finally got seated, the ambiance did not disappoint. The restaurant is a tiny, tucked away haven. It is close quarters. Everyone is leaning in and moving closer to one another but in a way that made it seem like the room was full of intimate conversations. The eclectic lights gave the whole place a muted glow, not dark enough so that you couldn't read the menus, but dim enough to enhance the feeling of secrets. Beforewarned, though. 1905 is not a place for those of you who need personal space or like to stretch out, and before we were sat, we were acutely aware of this, as there is nowhere to wait for a table. I really enjoyed the cozy feel of the table, but I did not enjoy being squished between the bar and a wall only a foot away as bus boys and waiters tried to rush past.

Everything on the 1905 menu looked amazing, and all of our food came out fairly quickly. So plus 1 for that, but minus was for presentation. This is a French restaurant. I feel like they should know that making the food look good is half the battle in making sure the customer likes their dish. When it came to how everything actually tasted, there was a lot variety in people's opinions. The stand outs were the merguez appetizer, the croque monsieur sandwich, and the gnocchi. These dishes were all rich and flavorful. I snuck a bite of the croque monsieur next to me and was definitely impressed.

My friend, Amy, got the burger. She said it was close, but not quite there. The meat was tender, cooked how she ordered. The toppings offered a lot of flavor, but the roll sort of ruined it. It seemed as if they just threw a bland, white bun on top of a well designed, well prepared burger. Plus her fries came out late.
In the meh category, I would have placed both my dishes. They had good concepts, and parts of the dishes were executed well. However, there was definitely room for improvement. The shrimp appetizer was advertised with capers and chorizo. While the shrimp were well cooked and the flavor of everything was nice, I would have loved to have more than 4 capers and a tiny pile of diced chorizo to go with them.
For an entree I got the fried oysters with ratatouille and tomato butter. The oysters were really small and not particularly memorable. Hands down what saved this dish was that the ratatouille was amazing. I'd become a vegetarian if I could have that every day. I really hope they find a different dish to incorporate their ratatouille into because I feel like it is being wasted on the oysters.
Unfortunately my friend Steph got the short end of the stick. She went from a great appetizer to the panzanella salad, which looks great on paper but turned out to taste overwhelmingly of onions. Now I love onions, and when I tried a bite of her salad, even I thought it was too much.
Overall, I'd probably go back, mostly for the atmosphere and the croque monsieur. I think 1905 is just one of those places that is not going to be perfect, but if you know what's good (and if you can get a seat without being squished into waiting at the bar), then it will be worth your time, especially in the coming winter months when a warm, cozy restaurant with a good ham and cheese sandwich is exactly what I crave.


Jack said...

Been meaning to check it out; it's actually not so far from my place. Sounds like I need to go.


The Search for J Street said...

I definitely think it's worth a try, even if just for the atmosphere. If you make it there, let me know how your experience was!