FOOD: The Little Gem of Bastille

BY Christianna Sargent
February 22, 2013
Special to the Falls Church Times

On an unsuspecting street corner along the northern fringe of Alexandria, locals escape as mental travelers to provincial France and experience all the facets of fine-dining in a casual atmosphere without the exorbitant price tags. Bastille meets my criteria for restaurant essentials, not only for the talents represented by two award-winning chefs, Christophe and Michelle Poteaux, but for the genius behind their incitement to refresh the interior and hire a sommelier from the ranks of DC’s Old Guard. Bastille is what I look for when I file a restaurant way as a true favorite:

  • Knowledgeable wait staff who orchestrate service without you even realizing it. They intercede on your behalf in a gracious, un-interruptive fashion and never gab unless you have engaged them.
  • Food that’s balanced and well-portioned featured in a menu that offers light fare as well as entree selections of ample protein, fish, and vegetarian options. It’s even better if the restaurant is earth conscious and sources locally. Finally, an artisanal cheese list with compelling selections is a must.
  • Comprehensive wine list that offers wine selections bridging all predominant styles, not necessarily region. The list doesn’t have to be long; it just has to complement the food menu entirely, meaning each dish on the menu has a wine to pair with it in concordance or in contrast.
  • Price. Value is essential and fair pricing is truly appreciated.

How often does this town dish up amazing wine service that is masterfully and consistently paired with inspirational culinary feats for an affordable price? To my standards, Bastille boasts all the ingredients to cook up a fabulous restaurant where you can easily slip in as a regular. Now, Bastille offers a new component to its secret mix, a James Beard award-winning beverage director, Mark Slater, formerly of Citronelle in Georgetown.

Resident sommelier, Mark Slater, amplifies the thunder of husband and wife chef team with thirty plus years under his belt—an advantage that young sommeliers just can’t top regardless of how many corks they’ve popped. Mark offers yarn-spinning stories with depths of knowledge that capture the corners of your soul and leave your palate salivating. On my very first trip to Bastille, I was seriously pleased with my experience and the food journey.

I eased onto a stool at the bar during Alexandria’s restaurant week, which immediately dampened my spirits, as I don’t tend to like the frenzy surrounding this turbulent week for most restaurants. But, my hopes were catapulted when my first dish was placed before me:

Three charcuterie selections neatly aligned: pork rillette, house-made bresaola seasoned with marjoram and oregano and a goose liver pâté topped with Concord grape aspic. The first course could have sufficed as a full meal for me on a casual Monday, but it was Saturday and I anticipated the splurge. Slater made a point to ask me what my wine preferences were. I essentially replied, “I trust your judgment.” He was right on, too, with a not-so-usual pair when he presented a Côtes de Provence rosé that shimmered salmon-colored hues in the glass. Most people would raise an eye-brow when pink wine sloshes in their glass next to robust charcuterie; but, the pair couldn’t have been more spot-on to my taste buds coated in fatty decadence and then bedazzled by a caressing strawberry-tinged savory aperitif. Next up, cassoulet and pan-roasted duck breast with white bean stew, slow-baked with pork belly and duck sausage. The crispy slab of bacon was out of this world due to texture and melt-in-your-mouth flavor, but what really sent me soaring was the combination of duck, cassoulet and a serious Bordeaux red known as the “bad boy” in French slang. Slater poured Mauvais Garçon, a blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc all sourced from the right bank. The value speaks volumes of Slater’s talents to source true gems for less, as the pedigree on this regular Bordeaux AOC couldn’t be higher coming from the notorious garagiste, Jean-Luc Thunevin, who is considered by most to be the black sheep of the region.

Ending in sweetness, I enjoyed Valrohna pot de crème with orange compote and candied cranberries paired with Maydie ruby port. But, I dared to forge on and order a cheese board offering three artisanal selections of blue, triple-crème and a semi-hard paired with a white burgundy. Wow! I was in bliss, and thankfully not the driver. I departed Bastille in high spirits, cloaked in warmth from a heart-warming meal paired with the best ingredients, friendly staff, bistro-style dining, and delicious wine. Bastille, you’re an exception in a sea of mediocrity and over-priced indulgences. I’ll be back and ready to sample more of your expertise.

Editor’s Note: I would like to offer my congratulations to Will Artley, Executive Chef Pizzeria Orso, who recently visited Bastille for a special dinner to propose to his beloved. “It was a complete experience from perfectly seasoned food to well polished comfortable service…. It’s a gem for sure!” says Will. Kathleen Nixon

Bastille
1201 N. Royal Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 519-3776
www.bastillerestaurant.com

By
February 22, 2013 

Comments

3 Responses to “FOOD: The Little Gem of Bastille”

  1. Cathy Quinn, Falls Church City on February 22nd, 2013 10:43 am

    I can’t wait to try this out! Thanks.

  2. Ray Arnaudo, Falls Church on February 25th, 2013 11:42 am

    Odd review: can you tell us where to find this gem of a restaurant? and maybe a hint of prices? or did i miss something in your review? ray

  3. Kathleen Nixon on February 25th, 2013 7:18 pm

    Bastille
    1201 N. Royal Street
    Alexandria, VA 22314
    (703) 519-3776
    http://www.bastillerestaurant.com

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