I want you to sit down, take your breath and not rush when you walk in here, said Kyong Yi, chef and owner of Fontaine Caffe & Creperie.
This is an informed appeal: Yis large life outside of the Washington D.C. area before moving here 10 years ago makes her very aware of the need for such simplicity.
With a reasonably priced meal of wholesome crepes made with the freshest of ingredients, its no wonder the newly opened Fontaine hopes to become that neighborhood creperie straight out of Brittany, a place which comforts both body and soul.
Steeped in Brittanys love affair with crepes, Yi, armed with a business degree earned in her home state of Oklahoma and a degree from San Franciscos French Culinary Academy, honed in on the idea of the European caf after one of her trips to France.
Going back and re-exploring Brittany last summer was merely validation. I wanted to confirm that I was getting it right, Yi explained. And Fontaine, with walls bathed in French Blue and its comfortable bar area sure to hum with espresso machines captures the illusive qualities of the European caf.
Old Town has its bars, fast-food coffee shops, and fine dining but Yi saw a gap she wanted to fill. Knowing what the market is in effect asking for, and not stubbornly serving what you want to cook illustrates the beauty of Yis dual gifts of business head and culinary artist. Yi admits, I love the restaurant business, and the humble but versatile crepe is a business decision, just as is the reasonable price point of roughly $10 for lunch, or coupled with the traditional French cidre, approximately a $15-$20 affair.
The newcomer to crepes will quickly understand their paradox: as simple as a thin pancake rolled-up with filling, but as complex and surprising as its flavorful interior. But the identity of the French creperie is far from pretentious and Fontaine suits well the every-day person wanting European charm mixed with homey friendliness and, of course, great food.
The value of good food all goes back to what Yi learned foremost from her ambitious mother, not that her extensive experience in DCs finest restaurants such as Galileo matters less. Yi said, My mother was my mentor. I have never known a stronger or gentler person. Everything the large immigrant Korean family ate came out of their mothers garden, Yi recalls.
After securing Fontaines space last March, the road has been long and difficult, testing Yis own determination. The ebb and flow of architectural planning and the frenetic effort to obtain city permits for the multi-faceted renovation has left Yi financially exhausted, though jubilant in expectation of opening day. Local residents and business colleagues have stopped in and offered invaluable encouragement. Financially, its been tough, but in every other way a good experience.