L'Hommage Bistro Francais doesn't plan to have any twists on this or modern takes on that. The dishes are classics. The tablecloths are white. The bread baskets are complimentary.
The way owner Hakan Ilhan sees it, throwbacks are in. "French restaurants were big in the '60s, '70s in the U.S., but then they declined because of the fat content and things like that," he says. "I think this is a happy replacement of that."
L'Hommage, located at 450 K St. NW, will open its boulangerie this Friday. The main dining room and bar will debut for dinner on Sept. 10, and lunch will follow on Sept. 15. The restaurant is Ilhan's second in the Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood, after Alba Osteria. The restaurateur also operates Al Dente near American University and a number of fast-casual eateries. L'Hommage is actually Ilhan's second French restaurant; He opened a 135-seat sit-down restaurant called Bistro Atelier at Dulles Airport in July.
But with $2.6 million invested in L'Hommage's 170-seat dining room, bar, and bakery, he intends for the place to compete with another popular French restaurant: "This is another option for people who cannot get into Le Diplomate. Sometimes success helps other restaurants as well," Ilhan says. "There's a big lunch business here. If we do it right, we can potentially have much higher volume than them, because of the fact that we have the morning and lunch, not just dinner."
L'Hommage Bistro looks to be slightly more affordable than Le Diplomate as well. The most expensive dish on the menu—steak frites—is $24.95. (Plats du jour at Le Diplomate can climb to $40 or more.) Ilhan has hired chef Joshua Laban Perkins to oversee the kitchen. Perkins previously worked at Atlanta's now-closed Basserie Le Coze, a sister restaurant to the famed Le Bernardin in New York, and more recently cooked at the Grove Grill in Memphis.
In preparing for the restaurant, Ilhan spent a few days in New York eating at all the most famous French bistros. "You develop a certain palate for what it should be," Ilhan says. Perkins did a tasting for Ilhan right after. "I knew that he was the right guy." The menu will include staples like onion soup, escargots, and steak tartare as appetizers. Entrees range from fried chicken liver pappardelle to boudin blanc to confit duck. Expect creme brûlée and profiteroles among the desserts.
The restaurant will also offer more than 200 bottles of French wines plus six wines on draft, a dozen draft European and local beers, and cocktails. Stay tuned for a daily happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m.
The adjoining bakery and cafe will serve Illy coffee, pastries, sandwiches, salads, baguettes, and other breads. The space will open as early as 6 a.m. and operate through the evening with premade meals like coq au vin or beef bourguignon for people to take home for dinner. Ilhan says he signed his lease before hearing about A Baked Joint, another bakery just a couple doors down. "I think they have a different market... That's a very hip coffee place, and it has its own following," Ilhan says. "I don't see them as competition. I think it's a good addition, to be honest with you. I'd much rather have them there than another restaurant."
Regardless, Ilhan is quite smitten with Mount Vernon Triangle and already has a third restaurant on the way to the neighborhood. His forthcoming Turkish restaurant, Ottoman Taverna, is slated to open next door do Alba Osteria in March.
"I think in three years time, you're not going to recognize this area. It's going to become 14th Street all the way to Union Station," Ilhan says.
L'Hommage Bistro Francais, 450 K St. NW; (202) 791-0916; lhommagedc.com
Photos by Jessica Sidman