Rate Your Personal Experience at Chez Billy:
Recently we’ve been experiencing a severe case of cabin fever and wanderlust with the less than stellar weather this Polar Vortex keeps bringing. If you’re joining us on our dreamboat with far away lands tantilizing you and tempting your wallet to walk off the plank, then stepping off the metro at Georgia Ave. will land you a short walking distance from Paris. OK, well not Paris exactly, but Chez Billy; a Parisian neighborhood bistro with authentic French cuisine, an extensive wine list and hand-crafted cocktails (we suggest the Chrysanthemum and the Bel et Bien) that might help you forget you’re still in the District. Close enough, right?
We recently had the opportunity to visit Chez Billy for a 5-course dinner. One of the benefits of being relatively new to D.C. in general is that everywhere is a surprise, and usually a delightful one at that. Located less than a tenth of a mile from the metro station, Chez Billy is a gem not outwardly noticeable and easy to bypass. Luckily their wooden door frames gave away their location. Stepping inside, guests are greeted by a bustling bar, fireplace, dark wooden decor, and stunning chandeliers hanging from raised ceilings giving off the feeling of an upscale tavern. To the left is the dining room, also dimly yet decoratively lit by globe lamps hung from the walls reflecting off of the dark wooden booths and tables. The downstairs dining room, while small, manages to present an air of privacy.
Executive Chef Brendan L’Etoile sets the bar high as far as “wow” factor goes. Each of L’Etoile’s dinner dishes were flavorful, aromatic, cooked impeccably, and assembled with delicate beauty and grace. Traditionally we like to list only our favorite dishes, but all five landed onto our list. Here’s what we experienced at Chez Billy:
- The first course was surprising in flavor and stunning in presentation. We just couldn’t take our eyes off the dish and nearly felt bad for having to dig in. The Tartare de Betteraves (Roasted Local Beets, Roquefort, Walnuts, Frisée), captured the sweet earthiness flavor of the beets, while the walnuts brought a much needed texture change and enhanced the mild bitterness that tends to define root vegetables. The Roquefort cheese was the surprise factor for us. We’re still learning our way around cheeses, and the Roquefort (a soft blue cheese made from ewe’s milk) was a strong, tart accompaniment of which the texture helped hold each component of the dish together. The frisée, while we don’t think was necessarily needed, added an additional visual component and an additional layer of freshness. After the initial slight shock to our taste buds we fell in love with this dish.
- Our second course presented to us was the Velouté de Courge (Acorn Squash Soup perfumed with Ginger and Cardamom, Yogurt, Pumpkin Seeds, Apple). The soup, stunning in its rich marigold color, was adorned with beautiful edible flowers, making this the second dish we were ashamed to annihilate with our utensils. The soup, true to its name, was velvety and rich. The ginger was a mild enhancement while the cardamom rang through. The pumpkin seeds added additional texture which we thought was a bonus since soup tends to be monotone. We were admittedly a little confused about the apple. The dish contained 3 to 4 melon-balled chunks of apple flesh. We didn’t find that the apple itself improved upon the presentation or texture, but it was an interesting additive. Not something that would keep us from ordering the dish again, but something we’d omit if making the dish ourselves. (Yeah, right. Like we could do that.)
- For the third course we experienced Chez Billy’s Poisson de Jour (catch of the day). Their preparation consisted of Seared Diver Scallops, Roasted Cauliflower & Cauliflower Purée, Blood Orange, and Mediterranean Cured Olives. We honestly couldn’t think of any way to describe this other than “a unicorn poo’d on the dish”… in the best possible way. The scallops were cooked perfectly, the dish was vibrant, varied between food groups, and plated beautifully. Once again we were a little surprised at some of the dish’s components. It would have never crossed our minds to pair scallops with blood orange or olives. And, while the scallops and cauliflower were our favorite parts of the dish, we found that the blood orange worked quite well both visually and in palate-ability. However, we didn’t care for the olives. Mostly because the only way you’ll catch us eating them is if they’ve been served in a martini.
- The fourth course, Boeuf Bourguignon (Braised Beef Cheek, Potato Purée, Bacon, Peal Onions, Shittake Mushrooms, Roasted Carrots), solidified our love and appreciation for Chez Billy. There’s nothing quite like a great “meat and potatoes” dish, and this is now by far our favorite. The braised beef cheek was tender, juicy, and literally fell apart at the slightest touch. The beef cheek contained that melt-y fatty quality that brings a richness and satisfaction that can only be compared to the best slow cooked ribs. We couldn’t devour it fast enough, and experienced pangs of sadness when the plate had been emptied. The potato purée combined with the thick bacon pieces, and varied vegetables rounded out the entire dish. The dish was hearty, absolutely tasty, and one we could eat every day if our expanding waistlines would allow it.
- And finally, we were served Délice aux Chocolat (Hazelnut Crunch, Chocolate Mousse, Genoise, Crème Fraîche) for dessert. It only takes a single bite to understand that this dessert actually translates into “chocolate delight”. We adored every layer of this cake, and admired the flower petal used as garnish. Admittedly we kind of dined and dashed on this last dish as it was getting late, but two bites told us it was a little less dense than we expected. The hazelnut crunch helped break up what could have been a dessert that was “too rich” (if there is such a thing), and the crème fraîche added a creamy tartness that complimented the rest of the flavors and toned down the overall sweetness.
Dinner at Chez Billy left us satisfied and in awe. Perhaps we’re easy to impress being from a small town in New England, but we believe Chef Brendan L’Etoile has some major skills. (Obviously.) Each dish was varied, and visually compelling. Colors, flavors and textures were combined in ways that we haven’t witnessed often, and our eyes knew exactly what our taste buds were in for. We were excited and captivated by our introduction to Chez Billy and can’t wait to see what L’Etoile prepares for patrons in the future.
3815 Georgia Ave. NW
Washington D.C. 20011