Review: Napoleon Bistro Reborn as Lapis Afghan Bistro

If you’ve found yourself walking down Columbia Road in Adams Morgan lately, you may have noticed something slightly off. Perhaps it’s the blooming flowers and trees finally signaling our freedom from the cold, but it’s likely that AdMo staple Napoleon has received a bit of a facelift; and by that I mean an entirely new face.


Though despite its new facade, the brains and heart behind the operation remain the same. The Popal family, restaurateurs behind Café Bonaparte, Napoleon Bistro and Malmaison have transformed Napoleon into their new enterprise, Lapis – a modern Afghan bistro.


True to its namesake, deep blue tones and golden accents echo throughout the remodeled space. Ornate rugs, family heirlooms and photographs, and reclaimed furniture mostly acquired from Baltimore (including vintage plebe chairs from the U.S. Naval Academy) create a setting that feels one-part destination, one-part Mama’s kitchen; a true parallel as family matriarch, Shamim Popal, will serve as Executive Chef.


This week, I was able to preview the new supper menu; a balance of both traditional and modernized Afghan cuisine. The menu features a variety of sizeable and shareable plates, and is diverse in available meat-centric, vegetarian, and vegan offerings. Here are a few of my takeaways:

My favorite cocktail on the new menu, by far, is The Five Lions, named for Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan. A perfect balance of gin, house made cardamom syrup, egg white, and fresh lime; the Five Lions will make for perfect companion on Lapis’ beautiful outside patio on a summer night.  


The lamb shorba, a traditional afghan stew with lamb, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, onions, will definitely be my go-to selection for a colder night that calls for some comfort food. Hearty in flavor, the lamb and vegetables are cooked perfectly tender.


I have to admit, I had a full-on Eat, Pray, Love moment while sampling the shrimp Mantoo (dumplings). I’m talking about the can’t form a word, persistent head-nodding, mmm’s, aaah’s, and ooohh’s moment that Elizabeth Gilbert so eloquently describes as having a relationship with your food.


The dumpling is thin and delicate, but structured enough to sustain the hearty filling of shrimp. A perfect balance of flavor that is accompanied by a rich dressing of saffron butter!


Perfect for sharing, there are a variety of vegetarian dishes. Two of my favorites included bamya: okra cooked in a seasoned tomato garlic onion sauce; and zardak: caramelized carrots mixed with yellow split peas and dried plums (pictured above and below).


However, you can never go wrong with Kabobs! And these were very, very good.


Words and pictures only begin to describe this transformation. The new ambiance and cultivated offerings of Lapis are necessary to witness for yourself.  

Oh, and one last thing. Lapis will be serving brunch Saturday’s and Sunday’s, 10am-4pm. Needless to say, you know where to find me.  

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