Dining Out: ‘Tis the Cezanne for Bistro du Coin

Cezanne is one of my favorite artists. His pictures are so full of light and rich, natural color. Just looking at his paintings makes me think of spring with the yellowy green of groves of trees in full, leafy bloom.

Most of his paintings are landscapes of his beloved childhood home,” House of Wind” (Jan du Buffan), in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France. He started out doing portraits but the sheer volume of his work based on his love of the countryside far outweighs anything he ever did.

The evolution of his work is evident in the collection; the portraits, landscapes, watercolors and his nudes all show how his techniques changed as he grew artistically. The way he used carefully planned patches of color to represent forms, as well as relying on red, blue and purple to describe shadows mark him as unique among impressionists.

In his first major works, portraits, he used a palette kniffe to smear on paint and the texture helps create the form represented on the canvas. For example, the round swathe of thick brown paint in the portrait of his cousin describes the man’s mustache and goatee as smooth against his cheeks. His self-portrait with pink background is one of my favorites.

As a kid he loved hiking the quarry at Bibemus with his friend Emile Zola, later a great Naturalist writer and critic. Later in life, when his wife had left him to move back to Paris with his son, and he and his sisters were forced to sell the family home, he explored local manses and delved deeper into the surrounding countryside producing a more mature body of work that became darker until his bathers series. His last painting was of his gardener and caretaker. He died of diabetes at age 67, painting until the very end.

After a thorough devouring of the National Gallery’s exhibit, we felt the need, the need for French food. So we repared to Bistro du Coin for mangez and ambiance. Bistro du Coin has plenty of both, although contrary to its name it is not on a corner.

I called ahead and was able to get a reservation for 10 with no trouble, and when an 11th showed up later up came a drop leaf and she was accommodated quickly.

Bistro du Coin is light and airy with high ceilings and vintage art on the walls. The food is simple and fresh- sandwiches, salads, seafood. I started with a green salad laced with garlic and scallions, then went for the moules provencales a la facon Hiba (mussels cooked in white wine with tomatoes, thyme and garlic).

Mussels were heavily featured on the menu in a variety of fresh seasonings and cooked in wine. A small portion for $8 features a pot full topped with another pot for shells and is more than enough for a meal.

Sopping up the broth with crusty bread was so tasty that everyone sitting next to me dug in with relish at my invitation (of course, otherwise there would have been an arrest made for stabbing folks with forks).

It was delicious and our waitress was fantastic. The hostess was very French (ie “rude”) but I would go back in a heartbeat to try the pate plate or the stinky cheese tray.

Cezanne leaves the National Gallery on May 14th (as do the DADA and the Hokusai), so you’re out of luck on that one. If you are coming this month, then hurry! Quick! Get here soon so you can enjoy them.

However, you will never be out of luck if you are looking for a good meal at Bistro du Coin. If you are ever in DC and have an evening free, take the red line to Dupont Circle and you will find it easily.

You’ll feel like you’re dining in a Cezanne painting, but your wallet won’t feel as though you’ve bought one.

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