As someone who usually shies away from French cuisine because when I hear “It’s French!” I go into auto-pilot mode: “BUTTER! FATTENING! THREE EXTRA SOULCYCLE CLASSES!” Of course the irony we American women always roll our eyes about, is that French women are notorious for being thin. That’s a whole other topic.
So when I was enticed to test drive the new crÃªpe line found at Bethesda’s Praline Bistro (above PralineÂ Bakery), I set aside my prejudices and prepared my waistline by only indulging in oatmeal that morning. Set within a hidden shopping center on Sangamore Road, Praline is not your typically tiny hole-in-the-wall French bistro. It’s two floors, bakery on the first with the bistro overlooking on the second. There is plenty of seating (all though set very closely together) and if you aren’t checking out the action and breathing in the wafts of decadent baked goods from below, you can look out the windows. But why look around when what you should be doing is eyeing the robust menu of buckwheatÂ crÃªpes – savory and sweet, quiches, sandwiches, soups, salads, and insane starters including smoked salmon which is delivered with toast points and a rich lemon crÃ¨me FraÃ®che, and get this, the salmon strips are shaped into rose buds. If you love escargot, you may commence your meal with that here. The wine menu is lovely. I enjoyed the Sancerre and my friend loved her La Villette pinot noir so much, she immediately went out and purchased a bottle for herself on the way home.
Service is warm, attentive and helpful during the lunch hour, which on this particular day, was at a medium capacity. It seemed to be filled with a few sets of ladies who lunch and many regulars and loyal neighborhood fans. I ordered the popularÂ Ratatouille with Goat CheeseÂ crÃªpe, one of my lunch mates chose the Beet Salad with chicken, but started with the special Carrot Soup and our third mate went for the Croque Madame with Cesare Salad instead of fries on the side.
Not only were we surprised and delighted with the presentation of each dish, but also the generous portion. Now, I’m a sucker for chicken pot pie, and all though I went a different direction (theÂ crÃªpes also come with a side green salad) we ended up getting to taste the bowl of hot pie, filled with vegetables, pulled chicken pieces that melted in your mouth and the topper of a buttery lite puff pastry crust- the best I’ve had in years. Finishing off our meal that could easily have commanded a nap post-haste, we indulged in a carry out of their famous macarons, a carton of four for us each.
We will be back. Not only do I want to try a few moreÂ crÃªpes out, but as we were leaving, I witnessed the burger sneak by on the way to a lucky diner’s table. There are many more menu items I must bite into!
A bit about the famousÂ crÃªpes:
For those that love the variety of sweet and savory paper-thin pancakes, former White House pastry chefs Susan Limb and Patrick Musel now offer expertly made crÃªpes upstairs in the restaurant at Praline Bakery and Bistro.Â CrÃªpes make a great light meal along with a salad, or a delicious snack or dessert.
The word crÃªpe is French for pancake, from the Latin crispus, meaning crisp or curled. In France, crÃªpes were originally called galettes crÃªpes, meaning flat cakes.Â CrÃªpes originated in Brittany, the northwest region of France, where they rarely had fillings and were used as bread.Â Until about one hundred years ago, all crÃªpes were made of buckwheat flour, a tradition to which Praline Bakery & Bistroâ€™s savory crepes adhere.
Over 15 varieties of crÃªpes including buckwheat savories ranging from $12 to $16 each with salad includeÂ Ham & Swiss Cheese; Smoked Salmon with Caramelized Onions, Spinach and CrÃ¨me Fraiche; Â Prosciutto Mozzarella, and Caramelized Onions; Creamed Chicken with Carrots & Peas; Â Bacon Potatoes, Caramelized Onions, Swiss Cheese; Mushrooms and Herbes de Provence; Ratatouille with Goat Cheese; Salmon, Shrimp and Scallops with Cognac Sauce; and Crab Mushroom Veloute.
CrÃªpesÂ on the sweeter side include Butter & Sugar; Lemon & Sugar; Fresh Fruits Chantilly; Caramel; Nutella & Banana; Melba Chantilly; Chocolate Ganache & Whipped Cream; Chestnut Cream & Whipped Cream; and Baked Apples & Cinnamon.Â SweetÂ crÃªpes range from $6-$9.Â The kids arenâ€™t left outâ€¦Peanut Butter & Jelly crÃªpes are on the restaurantâ€™s childrenâ€™s menu at $6.
Crepes are available upstairs in the Bistro only (not in the bakery) at Brunch, Lunch and dinner at Praline Bakery & Bistro.
Praline Bakery & Bistro is located in The Shops at Sumner Place at 4611 Sangamore Road in Bethesda. Â It is open for lunch Monday-Friday fromÂ 11 amÂ to 2:30 pm; Dinner Sunday-Thursday from 5-9:00 pm and Friday-Saturday from 5-9:30 and for Saturday and Sunday brunch fromÂ 10 amÂ to 3 pm. Â Â The bakery is open Monday-Friday fromÂ 8 amÂ to 8 pm and Saturday and Sunday fromÂ 8 amÂ toÂ 7 pm. Â For further information or reservations call 301-229-8180 or online atÂ www.praline-bakery.comÂ andÂ www.pralinebistro.com.