One quickly notices that everything at the tiny West End luncheonette Maurice has been arranged with an uncanny eye for detail. The perfectly shucked oysters are totally grit-free and ice cold, and slide out of their shells with a burst of pristine brine. The warm scone ($3) has a sweet crust that gives way to a seamless, ethereal texture. Even the serviceware, an assemblage of mismatched gold-rimmed china and archaic flatware, is obviously hand-picked.
The orchestrator behind Maurice is pastry chef Kristen Murray, who honed her craft in Paris. In addition to the scones, there are delicate butter cookies, rich Korova chocolate wafers, and a series of wonderful desserts and treats. But the highly seasonal small-plate menu shouldn't be missed. The Smorbrod ($12) is a Swedish open-faced sandwich topped with beet-cured salmon and cucumber, with a blanket of micro-herbs hiding little parcels of roe that burst with an unexpected saltiness.
A warm, custardy slice of quiche ($10) provided a more substantial portion, while the carrot, plum, and parsley leaf salad ($8) was thick with cumin and spice. You can't fake this level of awareness to things like temperature, texture, timing and style—you just have to have the eye.
Eat: Oysters ($3 each) are a perfect introduction to eating everything else on the menu.
Drink: A pot of Smith Tea, or a glass of vermouth.
Most popular dish: The menu changes often, but the pastries are always a highlight.
Noise level: 68/100. The small space tends to get noisy when it's full.
Expected wait: No reservations, and a wait can be as much as 25 minutes if you come with more than a couple of people.
Who you'll eat with: Trendy young people with clear-rimmed glasses, handsome, monied older folks who have spent enough time in Europe for this restaurant to feel familiar.
Year opened: 2013