The snapshot verdict: Quaint, cozy, charming French restaurant with food so good you won’t be able to stop raving about it for weeks.
Entering Bistro Cacao can be a bit of a puzzle in itself. Located next to the Mexican restaurant, La Loma, and at the site of the old Two Quail, Bistro Cacao has you walk through an almost unmarked door, make a weird left, and then navigate a flight of steps to get inside. All this makes sense given that once you’ve walked in, you feel far removed from the bustle on Massachusetts Ave.
Like many Capitol Hill restaurants, Bistro Cacao calls a townhouse home, and the design is something to be admired. It looks thrown together, but it works because it comes off as unique and not manufactured. You’ll see antique lamps, huge chairs, and thick, red drapes. It accurately describes itself as “Old-style Hill Venue meets New-style French Cuisine.”
I started with the Escargots Au Beurre D’Ail (Sautéed Snails with Garlic Butter). Now let me say there is something in here other than garlic butter, because they’re some of the best I’ve ever had. Escargots can easily fail if they’re not the right texture or if there’s too much sauce. Not so here, and the sauce is perfect for dipping your bread in.
I also tried the Coquilles Saint-Jacques. Bistro Cacao has the best Pan-Seared Sea Scallops in DC! They are served with Cannellini beans, Shitake mushrooms, and golden raisins. I was worried there might be too much going on in one plate, but the presentation was impeccable, as was the taste. The raisins really add such an unexpected sweet, flavor to every bite. If you’re not a big eater, this appetizer could serve as an entree — quite a feat considering its relatively cheap price.
For an entree I recommend the Truite Farçie. Stuffed trout can go downhill so fast if the spinach is overcooked and mushy, bland, or if there’s just too much of it. In this dish the trout is stuffed with spinach, mushrooms, goat cheese and fresh Thyme. Not only do the flavors mix perfectly, there’s also a great texture created here. I of course, had to try some of my dining companion’s hanger steak: amazing.
The service for the entire meal was great and unpretentious. Our server was very helpful in suggesting dishes and wine pairings. What I found interesting about Bistro Cacao is how relaxed it feels — you could almost stay there for hours (as I did, and as the tables next to me did). There is no hurry to get the check and turn the table. Mad props for that. For dessert? Two words: pear tart.
So you know whom to thank for this great restaurant – the story of Bistro Cacao starts with a partnership between friends Kemal Deger, also the chef, and Harun and Yavuz Bolukbasi. Thank you to all three.
Note that Bistro Cacao will soon serve a variety of French wines, cheeses and charcuterie at its new wine bar. Of course, as the story often goes in DC, they’re still waiting on permits. Follow Bistro Cacao on Facebook at Twitter for updates! I just hope that in the next year, the establishment makes a bigger name for itself.
Bistro Cacao is located at 320 Mass. Ave, NE. The closest metro stop is Union Station (Red Line). For more information, call (202) 546-4737.