Gorgeous is not the way I would describe most dining experiences, but it is an adjective perfectly befitting my recent experience at Lait Cru Brasserie—the charming, wonderfully intimate but wholly unfussy French restaurant inside the Horsefeathers Building on Connecticut Street.
Like any good brasserie, Lait Cru serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but I made a point of stopping in to check out Le Soir (evening)n menu, when the sandwiches, tarts, and pastries of the day give way to hors d’ouevres and composed entrees.
Lait Cru had me from the thoughtful wine list forward, where I found not one but three French sparkling wines by the glass. (Kudos to any place that offers something bubbly beyond commodity-grade prosecco). We savored two flutes of Maison Foucher Cremant de Loire while we waited for our starters: a Humboldt Fog tart ($10) and aged cheddar macaroni and cheese ($7).
The tart was a study in the pleasures of superb ingredients prepared simply. In this case, Humboldt Fog, an artisanal aged goat cheese sporting a hallmark vein of vegetable ash, arrived tucked in a tawny cradle of puff pastry. Topped with fresh pea tendrils and onions, and gilded with a flourish of chili honey, it was a lovely, decidedly continental way to start a meal.
Macaroni and cheese, served concurrently, was a testament to the iconic American dish’s French origins. Unlike many local renditions, which suffer from broken or grainy sauces, subpar cheese, or a distracting clutter of mix-ins, Lait Cru’s version boasted rotini in as silky a mornay as I’ve ever tasted. It was especially luscious as the dish cooled and the molten sauce thickened sufficiently to enrobe each piece of pasta. Herbed, toasted breadcrumbs added pleasing texture.
At Lait Cru, the homey but nonetheless refined hors d’ouevres precede elegantly plated entrees: in our case, pan-seared arctic char ($25) for me and a vegetarian dish of roasted acorn squash for my friend ($18). The fish was the standout of the main courses, with two expertly fired filets and skin as crisp and delicate as the sugar crust on crème brulee. It was served with pureed butternut squash, turned potatoes, and glass-like shards of roasted kale.
The vegetarian entrée featured a charred squash half ensconced among a plated forest of pickled Cipollini onions, browned cauliflower florets, roasted red grapes, and more fresh pea tendrils. Smoky, sweet, sour, and earthy, the dish had a well-rounded, sophisticated flavor profile. But without a bulking grain like rice or farro, had my dining companion not had an appetizer, she would have left hungry.
We forwent dessert, but did give in to a second round of bubbly. Lingering over our glasses among the pleasant din of the intimate, unhurried dining room, I reflected on the good company, beautiful food, and handsome setting the night unexpectedly offered, and felt grateful that moving forward, I can escape to Paris without leaving home, if only for a couple hours.