First Look - Cafe Trope
As a general rule I, and I think most people, tend to give new restaurants a break. It takes weeks, or even months for a chef and his staff to get the little things down, to get a sense of the neighborhood, and to put the final coats of polish on the operation. Last night I had a chance to try the newly opened Cafe Trope in Dupont Circle; a "French Caribbean" themed restaurant headed by Chef Howsoon Cham, formerly of Georgia Brown's and Red Ginger.
The dinner was arranged by pr-master Heather Freeman, and as usual was a who's who of DC foodies (begging the question why I was there). Without giving too much away at the onset, this very difficult to please crowd seemed well, pleased by the performance that Chef Cham and his staff put forth.
The restaurant is relatively small, but laid out well, with a nice sized bar serving a nice variety of boat drinks on the right side of the space, and diner seating on the left. The only complaint I heard about the space was that it was a bit too loud, making it difficult to hear a conversation on one side of the table from the other.
The food however garnered very few complaints. The meal started off with house made rolls (which I would immediately put in my top three favorite bread baskets in the city) with a strange leek/garlic/onion spread that I wasn't too thrilled with. It was decent, but no one really knew what it was which furrowed a lot of eyebrows.
I started off the four course meal with the Pear and Roquefort Salad, which should have been called what it was: Spinach and walnut salad with Pear and Roquefort. Semantics aside, it was a great salad; very light and refreshing.
The second course was plantain crusted oysters with spinach, Roquefort and malt vinegar aioli (I'm sensing that the chef really likes spinach and Roquefort). Again, the overall taste was very good, but the aioli was so strong, and the breading was so thick, that I could have been served plantain crusted tofu/chicken/air and I wouldn't have known the difference. Oysters are one of my favorite foods, don't drown them out with fancy sauces and breadings.
The third course was a grilled Rockfish with a salsa of sorts consisting of olives, tomatoes, capers and peppers. By itself the Rockfish was very good; cooked to perfection. Yet, much like the oysters, when eaten with the salsa, it was overpowered, and might as well have been just a lump of protein.
I finished the meal off with a sweet potato creme brulee, which seemed like a better idea than it actually was. It's a great concept, it just needs a little work.
After our meal we got a chance to talk with Chef Cham and General Manager Brian Scott who said that their brunch operation will begin on February 3rd, and the Chef will soon be partnering with the Dupont Circle Farmer's Market to do events there. The Chef even mentioned the possibility of having a special or two on the Sunday menu based on what is available that day at the market.
For a new restaurant, one that definitely deserves a few breaks, Cafe Trope is well on its way of becoming a staple in the Dupont area. The service needs some polishing (nothing really specific, and under Brian Scott the improvements will come quick) and the chef needs to balance his flavors a little better (less sauce please), but Cafe Trope is full of promise, and hopefully soon it will be full of costumers.
2100 P St. NW
Washington DC 20037
I happen to live within a (REALLY) short walking distance of Cafe Trope and will be interested to try it out. My concern is that restaurants seem to not do too well in that space - this is the third restaurant there in 3 or 4 years. Perhaps the space is too big or the competition on that block too fierce. Your review gives a great heads up and I'll look forward to seeing how our tastes on this new spot compare.
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