Tue 21 Apr 2009
There is a beating heart of Europe slapped in the middle of Georgetown: outdoor drinking, light entrees and elegant pastries are yours for the taking if you just know when to turn off M Street and head down a stone flight of stairs.
The most tantalizing offering from Leopold’s Kafe is also the first thing you see: a lovely, sun-drenched courtyard. Dotted with friendly orange umbrellas, the stone courtyard is just far enough away from M Street’s hustle and bustle to feel like a real escape. The Austrian restuarant is hugged on three sides by Cady’s Alley, bordering a side street melange that only enhances the continental flavor with its upscale home design shops whose names require additional apostrophes.
I skipped down the stairs from M St on a recent visit to find the courtyard full of merrymakers on a sunny post-work spring afternoon. The most notable table, perhaps, was the boisterous crowd of preppy Spanish speakers (staffers from nearby embassy?) who were clearly several rounds in to the happy hour. The inside of Leopold’s is crisp, modern and fairly uncomfortable looking. Luckily my friend Jean made arrived a few minutes early and snagged a coveted seat on the patio with the Spanish revelers.
More photos and food reviews after the jump.
For a small space, Leopold’s Kafe has a fairly extensive menu of food and boozey beverages. With a few exceptions, the menu options are remarkably light, perhaps to help diners save up for sweets at the twighlight of their meal. Jean opted for the branzino (gegrillter fisch) served with wilted spinach and a champagne emulsion sauce. I selected a smoked trout on bibb lettuce, which I could happily eat every week day afternoon until Labor Day. The smoked fish was simultaneously light and firm. It blended perfectly with the salad’s crips greens and light, citrusy dressing.
Jean and I split a dessert, which is a kind way of saying Jean promised to have a bite or two of whatever I ordered while she sipped coffee. This was the most difficult decision of the entire night. The dessert menu is the more extensive than the entree options and each selection beckoned… dark chocolate cake with Earl Grey caramel ganache (karemell-grey)… caramel pear tart with saffron-poached baby pear and pistachio crumbs (eine kleine berne torta)… a classic Napolean. In the end I went with a marille: apricots baked in a pistachio cream in a pistachio torte crust. It was delightful – not too sweet and just creamy enough to be satisfying. Unfortuantely, but the time we ordered and recieved the dish it was also too dark to get a sense of what I was eating. But the dim lighting didn’t save me from devouring almost every bite.
Unfortunately, there were a few hiccups. In addition to the setting and the menu, the service is very… European. We had to flag our waiter down several times throughout the evening and I noticed others simply losing patience and walking up to him with their needs. Some of the menu items were disappointing. When I asked about a perfect sounding springtime appetizer – fava beans, peas and grated cheese on petit fours – I was told the beans were rehydrated and the peas were not local as “there really are no peas to source in this area.” I think my local market farmers may have something to say about that.
Still, I’ll be happy to go back to Leopold’s Kafe if only for the chance to booze in the sunshine and cap an afternoon of shopping off with a perfect pastry.