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Bearnaise Evolves With the Neighborhood

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Duck leg confit with frites is a popular menu item at Bearnaise restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Lazar said both Mendelsohn and Race are particularly fond of their duck confit plate. The meticulously crafted dish — each section of duck is cured for 24 hours in green salt and then cooked at 200 degrees for 12 hours — has quickly developed a cult following; Lazar estimates the restaurant serves up to 100 duck legs per week. The slow-and-low treatment yields a leg sporting a terrifically crispy crust shielding rich, luxurious meat. The companion spuds are hot, crunchy and hard to stop munching on (dotted with sea salt and fresh tarragon).

That goes double-triple infinity for the bone marrow.

“Wow. I was expecting, like, just a little nugget,” one awestruck companion muttered after being presented with a foot-long cavity brimming with golden, herb-sprinkled marrow. The stunningly rich spread scoops like pudding, clinging to utensils and crusty slices of butter-brushed, grilled country bread with gusto. The exposed core sports a pale yellow hue that belies its innate richness. But folding spoonfuls of caramelized onions into the equation makes each glorious bite that much more seductive.

To wit, the same friend texted a few days after we’d greedily devoured the decadent dish. “Went back to Béarnaise last night. Insisted on marrow,” she shared. “Husbands and dogs had a fulfilling evening.”

In terms of meat, playing it conservative tends to pay higher dividends.

Steak maison, an 8-ounce hunk of cooked-to-order flat iron beef, was a crowd pleaser time and time again. The well-butchered cut is attractively seared, slices effortlessly and delivers a righteous chew. Each bite of sanguine flesh was a stand-alone winner, though several house-made sauces — the cracked-peppercorn-powered au poivre and shallot-scented Bordelaise were personal favorites — complemented the entire experience (great on the fries, too).

A hefty 14-ounce entrecote looked absolutely ravishing (charred edges, bloody center, ringed by sauteed mushrooms), but proved to be alarmingly fatty.

Drinking It All In

No mere meat and potatoes joint, the restaurant also attracts discerning drinkers.

The bar, which stocks everything from obscure Gallic treasures (Armagnac, Aperol, Pernod) to cocktail staples (Bowman’s vodka, DeKuyper creme de menthe, Campari), hangs its hat on a handful of spirited tension relievers.

Hemingway’s Arrival is poetically inspired. The spiced rum and grapefruit juice achieve perfect equilibrium; no sip is too sweet or too sour, but rather, beautifully syncopated.

The Bardot Sling is even more demure, weaving together citrus vodka with orange bitters and house-made ginger shrub. The gray-tinged cooler is easy drinking and perfectly refreshing.

Mendelsohn has remained true to his vow to field value wine pours from across the globe.

The 2010 Chateau de Parenchere Bordeaux Superieur proved versatile. The merlot-carbernet sauvignon blend displayed a little pepper and some prune on the nose before spraying ripe black fruit and medium dry tannins across the palate. “It’s definitely something you could drink without food,” one barkeep rightly suggested.

A glass of Raats Old Vine Chenin Blanc got it done another night, displaying bright citrus and just a whiff of grassiness on the nose, while coating the tongue in ripe peach and sweet melon.

Of course, part of the fun of exploring wine is uncovering the ideal snack to enjoy it with — a task Béarnaise fans have, apparently, taken to heart.

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