The Quick Sip:
- Hours: Mon-Sat, 7:30am-7pm, closed on Sundays
- Seating: Yes, but only a little so get there fast
- Average Price: $7-10 for a dessert and a coffee
- Good for: A treat, some me-time, light work, or a brief outing with friends
- Location: Dupont Circle (Near the “Krispy Kreme” metro stop)
Walking into Un Je Ne Sais Quoi reminds me so much of what the line “hidden gem” REALLY means. The outside it unassuming and very office building-y. I’ll be the first to admit that, before I stepped inside, I had some reservations. How could a place like this possibly be as cute as everyone says?
Well, let’s just say everyone was right.
The space is small, with 4 2-tops, a 5 seat window bar, and a medium sized blue velvet couch (!!!). The chairs themselves are also blue velvet, and the tables are a crisp white which gives the space a traditional-meets-modern feel. It is lit by several lights, but also a few cute chandeliers. The bakery counter is also crisp white and minimalist – the treats, particularly the les merveilleux, are what give the counter an extra pop.
The service exemplifies ‘service with a smile’. The young man that waited on me spoke in French, I answered with what meager skills I had, and then he quickly switched to English without making me feel too bad. The owners, husband and wife, are originally from France and glide gracefully in and out of the kitchen (which you can just a glimpse of if you’re standing at the counter) with trays of warm, sweet-smelling goodies. I paid quickly, and noted that the payment system was also in French, which I thought was a sweet touch.
I ordered a chocolate merveilleux, as merveilleux are their specialty, and a small coffee (they brew Illy). The only downside of this was that the merveilleux selection, at the time I went, was seriously lacking! There are usually between 4-7 different flavors, but when I got there (a little before 5pm) there were only two left: chocolate and violet. Though I did have my heart set on the Speculous flavor, I was still marvelously happy with the chocolate.
The coffee was served piping hot. It was a bit small, however what it lacked in size, it made up for in quality. The cream I added was smooth – I just needed a few drops which was more than enough. It was aromatic and not even a touch bitter — and as someone who hates bitter coffee, that was a treat. It is the perfect light blend to pair with a dessert, or even as a “starter-coffee” for someone who recently started drinking coffee, or wants to experience coffee without all the flavorings, whipped-cream, and extra. But this isn’t to say that Un Je Ne Sais Quoi lacks sweet drinks…in fact, they have several different coffee drinks that can satiate even the sweetest of sweet tooths.
For reference, a merveilleux is a wonderfully delicate French dessert, originally from Belgium! It starts with two meringues, which sandwich all the yummy filling. Homemade whipped-cream and ganache fill the sandwich, and the outside is also coated in whipped cream and then rolled in chocolate shavings.Finally, it is topped with a mini-meringue. It is as airy and delicate as it sounds.
But these aren’t the only desserts: there are eclairs, mini-tarts, mini-merveilleux, cream puffs, meringues of all sizes (mini to massive), wonderful breads, and other classic French desserts like the Napoleon.
Overall, my experience was lovely. The service was wonderful and attentive, the coffee warm and creamy, and the dessert was magical. My only complaint is the small space – but hey, you can always get it to go and enjoy a mini-French staycation at home!