Monthly Archives: March 2011

DC Grub 2011: Citronelle

Wednesday night at Citronelle

     I know it has taken me too long to get to the best meal of my trip….but I’ve had a lot going on and I wanted to do it justice. And it truly was….the best meal of the trip, and I would also add it to my top five ever. And this post is going to be extraordinarily too long, because I feel like it! I have a love/hate relationships with “real” food blogs and bulletin boards. I pretty much owe the fact that I even considered Citronelle to eGullet, because without the utter overkill of humorless and self-aggrandizing banter over there, I would not have the ability to sift through ten tons of bullshit in order to find some true diamonds. The fact that I’m food-obsessed and still manage to make fun of people whom I think take their self-importance too far is not lost on me….and neither is my constant abuse of proper grammar and improper handling of tenses within single sentences. I GET that shit, I’m just constantly amazed at the topics people will beat into the ground, sounding like they are auditioning for imaginary “foodie scouts” with every fucking syllable. I’ve met some very cool people via food boards, and those online communities really are no different than any others….just a different niche that also imagines itself to be the most important one of all. And like all other types of online communities, its value is measured in the total number of topics, posts and views….so you have to keep yammering away long after the horse is dead in order to keep it relevant. But hey, you can get something like seven thousand words on topics like…..the world’s best wooden spoon.  Or chime in on extremely stupid, stick-up-someone’s-ass topics like “is there any place for profanity in food writing?”.  Yeah, so thank you and fuck you and all that to the dining elite out there…..I do realize I sound exactly like you stiffs to everyone BUT you when I do a write-up like this one. But I use profanity to set myself apart, because it’s unique! And I lack the skills, vocabulary, intelligence, and social grace to do it any other way! And ONE DAY, Tony Bourdain will show up here and go “WOW! You’re one of those harsh but lovable heart of gold types! Would you like to be on the teevee with me?!?!!”. And then I’ll go back on eGullet and have a five hundred post thread dedicated to me….but it will be titled something like “Zeemanb’s Varying Flatware Usage- Distracting?”.

     And now that I have the “I always have to take the piss out of something right up front” portion of the post completed, I can get back to talking about the greatness of being a white man in America who drops close to three bills on a single meal and then won’t shut up about it. And this time I even included photos, despite having to constantly push my erection out of the frame. That is how good the food was…it was nail-driving good. And in all seriousness, that is EXACTLY what I was expecting….anything less and I would be yammering on and on about THAT. Oh, you have no idea…..I literally gave up a seat at minibar to keep my reservation at Citronelle. I got a call from Bonji at Café Atlantico around 3 in the afternoon letting me know she had a cancellation….and oh my God what a little piece of fortune it was to be chosen from the throngs of those on the waitlist….but I just had to try Citronelle. So I was expecting perfection. And it has nothing to do with the money, price is worth mentioning here….you have to throw all of that cost shit out the window. Your willingness to spend enough money to feed a family of four very well for a week on a single meal is fine, it’s your choice….but when you start picking the meal apart based on what you paid….you sound like a total dick who loves to bitch and eats at these places because it is your birthright, not because you love the food. I know people who would spend thousands on a Superbowl ticket……I don’t do this type of dining often, it’s kind of like my Superbowl.  Well, the French Laundry or El Bulli would be my Superbowl…..but anyway…..

     I know I’ve mentioned this several times….I don’t know what it’s like for the rest of the lone diners out there, but I get some great treatment. Most of that is, of course, because when you go high-end the service SHOULD exceed your expectations. But I do my best to gild the lily, and if I had any advice to give it would be to use OpenTable to make your reservation if possible. Call to confirm and all that too, but the thing is- the restaurant reads the additional notes/requests for the maitre d’ that you type into your reservation . I don’t go all Eddie Haskell in there, but I’ll generally note that this is my first time dining there, coming in from out of town, looking forward to the chef’s tasting….stuff like that. And it’s a party of ONE, so they know you are there for the food. Nine times out of ten, shortly after I arrive someone mentions something to do with my comments. At Citronelle it was literally like they were waiting for me to walk in the door….I think I met everyone on the staff between the front door and my table. I do not remember the captain’s name, but my server was Eileen and I also spent a lot of time talking with Jean-Jacques, the GM/Maitre D’. The little perch that they gave me was pretty perfect; just above the first set of steps in the main dining room, looking directly down into the fully open, glassed-in kitchen (I wrote “fully open/ glassed in” just to fuck with anyone’s OCD tendency to question that description). The workings of a very large, high-end kitchen is worthy of posts of its own, but I will say the seamless action is pretty riveting. And no matter where you eat, the chefs all guzzle water out of strangely humongous plastic cups or bowls.  They get thirsty.

     About the service….I guess that five star/Michelin star, however you want to label it, service deserves its own topic, but I don’t experience it often enough for comparison purposes, so I’ll just ramble about it here. And I am keenly aware that Citronelle does NOT have a Michelin Star, and that there are about five billion places across Europe where this level of goddamn service is the norm ….blah blah blah….. But, this is the kind of service that could really weird people out. I absolutely love it….not the pampering or ass kissing aspect, but the level of professionalism and dedication to the art. Everything is anticipated, and these people have seen it all. Everything you want or need is right there….and the level of service will magically morph into your personal expectations to a great degree. For example, at the beginning of the meal I wasn’t getting as much detail about each dish as I needed, and as soon as I asked the first clarification question, both the server and the captain provided detailed descriptions of every dish going forward. When I wanted to slow the pace of the meal down by just a few extra minutes between each course….done. It is a pretty amazing thing to watch, actually. The captain knows when each dish is being fired, runner is there at the pass, comes out through the dining room and stages the cloche-covered course on a small table across from yours…the server and the captain walk over, uncover it to inspect it, cover it back up, bring it over to you, the big reveal, and then the details of the specific dish, any necessary Q&A, etc. When three drops of Armagnac-peppercorn sauce dripped on the table when the server was placing the dish, a clean napkin was placed over the spot as soon as the table was being prepped for the next course. And this is going on all across the dining room…with a personalized level of service for each party; Japanese businessmen, a couple’s anniversary, big tables of crazy-rich regulars, etc. You know how I always like to be “buddy” with my servers whenever possible, be more casual and get their input about food and stuff in general…well that isn’t going to happen at Citronelle. Very, very friendly service, not stiff or stuffy in any way, just…..professional. Now, Jean-Jacques works the living shit out of the room, I guess he’s worked with Chef Richard for something like thirty years, and he’s the man for any buddy-duty….and I’ll mention, just one hell of a nice guy. So sit back and enjoy the choreography.



It only took about a thousand words to finally get to the food. And I did get some pictures. It’s a nice place, but the vibe seemed appropriate for picture taking….or I should say there were people who were WAY more conspicuous about it than I would ever be, so my camera phone was practically invisible. PLUS there were about five different birthday/anniversary celebrations throughout the course of the evening, each one with its own miniature pyrotechnic display. So here you go…crappy, dark Android phone pictures of the highest quality food. As much as it may sound like it sometimes, I’m not some fanboy ready to drink the kool-aid just because I’m at an expensive or popular restaurant….in fact, when I hear someplace is “the best” I put it under the microscope. I’ll find something usually, even if it’s being handed a glass that came out of the dishwasher too recently and is still too warm to hold wine, etc. I judge a place by the level of food and service that they claim….and Citronelle claims to be among the best. Well, no shit, they indeed deliver.

Amuse Bouche

Okay, here was the one strange thing of the evening…..when they brought the initial plate over to me I looked down and it contained one completely intact and cleanly severed human finger with about 3/4  inch of the bone Frenched and the end inserted into pickled icicle radish.

Don’t I wish! Actually it was just an oyster shooter and some excellent tuna tartare in cute little dishes on a lit stage. Okay, I’ll admit it’s not the most cutting edge presentation in the world but it beats the hell out of Tramonto’s damn fighting fish bowls.

Split Pea Soup

I did not get a picture of this just because it would have looked like a bowl of split pea soup.  Had I been so bold as to say “wait while I take  picture!” prior to them pouring the soup you would see several thinly sliced rounds of a mild cured sausage arranged around a bed of confit of leek fresh from the ring mold.

Definitely a sign of the richness to come…the sausage wasn’t overly strong or fatty, which is a good thing with the comparatively light flavors of the pea soup and leeks.  Very good shot to the system on a chilly night.  And the BREAD….it was French style loaf, sourdough-y. I wish I could have handled a lot more of it, the table next to me just kept getting it refilled about five dozen times….it had something like three full layers of airy crunch before getting to the soft insides.  Great for sopping up soup! And they literally give you all the butter you can eat! They’ll just keep bringing it!

BUTTER!!

Blanquette of Nantucket Bay Scallops

Had it not been for the sauce from the next dish, these scallops would have been without peer on the “gay jock hate crime of love” scale for the entire trip (long story for those just joining us, that’s my version of ‘five stars’ from a few posts back).  I wish the picture was better, but I guess I don’t really care because I actually got to eat these things.  Insane amount of butter in the sauce, leveled out with a little bit of celery/celeriac and I believe a small amount of roasted cauliflower.  And the scallops themselves were unlike any I’ve had before….I’ve generally only associated a great scallop dish with the big diver version.  Any bay scallops I’ve ever eaten have been the deep fried Red Lobster version, or cheap ones I’ve gotten on sale in the freezer section…..but these were FAR sweeter, and even more tender, than their dinosaur-sized cousins. And just the perfect doneness…which is hard to get with these little bastards.  The perfect translucent center, but across the top it was like someone had waved it under a broiler only long enough to barely caramelize the very tops and edges.  This dish was perfect. I mean perfect. And yes, while it was rich beyond comprehension, the flavors were so clean and clear, each one distinct and solid…..a magical feat.

 

Halibut w/lobster saffron broth

Ok, so these people know how to cook seafood.  Here you basically start with an absolutely perfectly done, meaty and tender piece of halibut…..you put some nicely cooked little veggies around it…brussels sprouts, caramelized onion, baby bok choy, things of that nature.  So far, a damn fine dish.  Then comes the insanity in an innocent enough looking little gravy boat.  They pour a modest amount of the broth around the perimeter of the fish, and then leave what remains in the container on the table right in front of you.  I won’t even try to describe this sauce/broth….lobster and saffron, that’s all I know.  Butter is in there somewhere to be sure.  Between this and the scallops, back to back “GJHCOL” level deliciousness.  Just crazy, crazy good….and when you bring it up to the staff it’s like they already know exactly what you’re going to say about it. If I didn’t have to watch it with the richness making me sick if I’m not careful, I would have made a little bread bowl and poured what was left in the dish into it and devoured it.  Lots of delicious lobsters gave their delicious carcasses to make the stock that went into THAT……

Lobster Burger w/chips

And speaking of lobster, here we have a miniature version of the extremely popular Lobster Burger from Central.  Which came first, the one here or the one at Central?  I have no idea.  But here was a fun “comparatively light” dish after the last two….and smaller, so that was good. Wee little crisp potato chips, a wee little hamburger bun, and a little piece of lobster that was the most tender of my whole trip.  It seems like I ate lobster in some form at every meal, and I had no complaints about any of them, but this was tender like a barely poached langostine is tender, even a little bit of snap to the texture.  A flavorful punch to boot…I’m not sure what all they added, maybe a little lobster roe or something of that nature. 

You can see that little potato chip cone standing upright there….I just kept imagining some poor Mexican kid in the kitchen cursing as the dishes came back in and he had to keep chipping away dried globs of glue.

BUTTER!  They’ll just keep bringing it!  I’m being serious!

Boneless Rack of Lamb, jalapeno cumin sauce

It seems like I’ve been eating way more lamb (and rabbit!) these days. I know that here in the U.S. we are way behind much of the world when it comes to lamb consumption, and being raised on beef, pork and those tiny frozen scallops I’m no exception.  Before this dish I’d say that there was nothing better than a medium rare, fatty, Colorado lamb chop with nice caramelized crust on the outside. I don’t know where they source their lamb at Citronelle, but THIS version was outstanding.  Sometimes with lamb you miss the actual lamb flavor….this dish definitely had the distinctive flavor without being overpowering. The quality of the meat itself was excellent. The preparation, however, just took it far, far over the top.  The-most-perfectly-executed-medium-rare-center…..like it was sous vide and then finished finished in the oven…but it wasn’t sous vide…..so I just sat there wondering what Jedi power they muster in order to get a perfect center AND a perfect crust.

60 Hour Braised Short Rib, Peppercorn Armagnac Sauce, Tater Tots

Shortribs.  Very good to eat.

Cheese

Oh, if anyone besides my wife catches the reference in my shortrib review you’ll be my personal hero for quite a while.  But now it was time for another goddamn CHEESE COURSE….and it has nothing to do with my newfound lack of love for the cheese course, but I FINALLY caught these pricks doling out something that was NOT to my liking.  They serve a couple of kinds of bread with the cheese, one of which is a sunflower seed roll.  THE SUNFLOWER SEEDS ARE NOT TOASTED!  CAUGHT YOU!  DICKS!  Okay, just my personal preference, but I had to find SOMETHING I didn’t like about this place. Just ruined the night. I almost packed up a bindle of that butter and skedaddled.

The great thing about THIS cheese course is that you get to choose the cheeses and how much you want, so I got a small amount of three…Grayson from Virginia, a French Petit Basque, and something else. The Grayson was really, really good. I’d seek it out actually. 

Eggs-Ceptional Lemon Meringue

It’s not an egg!  So don’t slap-palm your forehead, bug your eyes out and yell “They feed you a raw egg! AN EGG! For that kind of money they oughta COOK THE DAMN EGG!”.  Because it’s NOT a raw egg…it’s a trick! 

I’ve eaten my share of humorously recreated dishes, and this was a tasty and impressive one. The shell is made of white chocolate, the egg white is meringue and lemon curd for the yolk. The “hay” it’s sitting on is just a bunch of sweet crumbly and crispy bits.  Very tasty in addition to being beautiful.

Pear Vacherin

Okay, all you egg-yelling (pronounced AAYYGG) people don’t start in about how they ought to at least peel the damn pear for that kind of money.  It’s not a pear!  It’s a crispy meringue shell sitting on a small puddle of chocolate, stuffed with pear sorbet and little chunks of poached pear.  I’m not a huge fan of that type of meringue, but the insides were out of sight. Good and light after such a rich meal.

Petit Fours

By the time they come by with the tray of petit fours, you’re just dying.  I was like “Baby please, I’m not from Havana!”.  Could not take one more bite, so I had them packed up and took a picture before devouring them while watching Top Chef.

So THIS is the tale I am telling about my dinner at Citronelle. Perfection and kindness from start to finish.  At one point after the meal Jean-Jacques asked me if I would write a little note to the staff so he could read it to them before service the next evening….I’m telling you, these people take the craft seriously.  So I did that, and it was heartfelt. I do anticipate eating there the next time I’m in DC.  I’ll have to decide what meal or meals I’m going to have to give up in order to do it, but the overall experience was well worth it. High end and formal, but also like going to a friend’s house.

BUTTER!!!

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Bariatric Surgery, Blogroll, Christianity, culture, dating, Evangelical Christianity, Fine Dining, Food, General Thoughts, Health, Healthy Eating, howard stern, Recovery, religion, Religious Hypocrisy, Tent Revival, Washing DC Food, Weight Loss, weight loss surgery

DC Grub 2011: Komi

Tuesday Night at Komi…

At Komi, when it comes to taking pictures, the decision is made for you…you can’t do it. It’s a rule of the house, and rightfully so. It’s located in a cool little walk-up, above a dry cleaner in Dupont Circle, so it’s a pretty narrow Quaker-Mediterranean decorated space with a very mellow vibe…so the last thing anyone would want is for the snapping and flashing of photography. And if that’s too much for your entitled mind to grasp, then you would REALLY hate the dining format…..no menu, you just eat what is put in front of you. It’s a set-price, 13 or 14 course menu with a Greek/Mediterranean mezze theme…..for the most part. Chef Johnny Monis seems to be a polarizing figure of sorts in the DC food community…..I read comments calling him overrated, genius, and everything in between. In my opinion, if you live in a town with all of the restaurants I’ve been talking about within twenty minutes of your doorstep, you are pretty fortunate. So with that said, as someone from “flyover country”, I say that if you think Komi sucks then you’re pretty damn lucky to have the options and experience with which to make that type of observation. Now, I’ve had enough “faincy” meals to say that I would NOT go throwing the GENIUS label at Monis, and I can absolutely understand that it would not be everyone’s cup of tea….but I had one heck of a great time, and this will probably be the first place I visit with my wife when I return.

Oh the sounds of Morrissey and chick guitar music on the stereo, and none of those annoying DC business boys who get progressively louder and more aggressively political as they drink. My reservation was at 5:30, so the room was super-mellow for a while. Business and the noise did pick up as the night went on, but nothing that would inhibit quiet conversation. The staff was definitely on the younger side and extremely enthusiastic about the food. To drink I had some of their housemade ginger beer and some Sprecher’s Cola. A couple of the servers mentioned to me how they’ve seen a huge trend in the offering of upscale non-alcoholic drinks, and from a business perspective….wise move. Now, you’re never going to make wine money on soft drinks, but you can EASILY match your mixed drink profits because there really isn’t much of a difference in what I paid for a “fancy” non-alcoholic drink and what I would have paid for bourbon or beer. And I’ll order way more soft drinks during a three hour meal than I would mixed drinks, obviously. Good to hear some places are at least thinking in that direction, I will say that housemade cola is one of my favorite finds recently. Soooo…..friendly staff eager to hear what you thought about each course, warm and mellow room, pretty “cool” fellow diners….overall I’d say the vibe at Komi (and definitely Eola) were closest to my personal favorite comfort zone. Very relaxed with a little jolt of excitement in the room. AND for me, the perfect amount of food (other than the mega-sized goat should). No bariatric sweats, not even once, which means some folks may leave pissed off that they didn’t get enough to eat.

The first course was a bit of finger-food, Steamed Brioche with Smoked Trout Roe (and crème fraiche?), a twist on a classic canapé and good little intro to the meal. I totally spaced on some of these courses….they did provide me with a copy of the menu at the end, but it was pretty much a list of single words, so that plus my bad memory….you get the idea. In case you don’t know anything about Komi, the general idea is that as the meal progresses, the flavors and portions get bigger…a culinary crescendo.

Next up was a crudo trio… Hamachi w/Salt, Madai (Snapper) w/Fried Caper Berry and Kindai ( Blue Fun Tuna) w/Fresh Grated Wasabi. I am NOT an expert, but all were very good examples of crudo in my limited experience. The first two were perfectly sliced, not too warm and not too cold, and the third was a finely diced quenelle.

Scallop Two Ways– first was a horizontal slice with blood orange, and the second was diced with caramelized coconut. Loved this dish, I could have eaten three or four more of the first one.

Lobster– sadly, I don’t remember a damn thing…bisque? Weird, I generally remember a lobster dish, but this one is lost to the ages….

Spanikopita– another weeeee bit of finger food…the classic in cube form, on a little bed of tzatziki you can roll it in before eating.

Egg Ravioli with Shaved Smoked Tuna– now THIS BITE, this bite was way up on the southern cusp of “gay jock hate crime of love” territory. Absolutely fantastic….nice thin ravioli noodle, perfectly creamy egg yolk and then the punch of that tuna…smoked and then shaved on what had to be the thinnest setting on a truffle grater. One of the most perfect bites of food in the world today.

House Cured Smoked Foie Gras– this was described by my server as “a hint of the dishes to come”…and I guess it made sense, so far it went raw-raw-creamy-fried-smoked-smoked…..so where there’s smoke there’s going to be fire? Anyway, this was a tasty and creative little bite of foie gras….but after you’ve had the bacon cured version at Eola, there probably won’t be another comparable cured/smoked version found in your lifetime.

And then out of nowhere, all of the hint-dropping suddenly revealed itself in the Half Smoke with Old Bay Pork Rind. Okay, I know, sounds a bit gimmicky…the whole culinary crescendo thing, but I’ll be damned if this wasn’t one fantastic hot dog. A little three bite version…spicy, perfectly grilled, delicious bun and relish, with an Old Bay pork rind on the side. I’d eat these all the time if I could.

Then, the Mascarpone Filled Date– a very warm roasted date split open, filled with mascarpone cheese and then sprinkled with a generous amount of salt. Totally worked…better than any similar version I’ve tasted at any tapas place.

Gnocchi– Damn, I really don’t remember what came with the gnocchi. They were very good texturally, and I think it was parmesan and some other things, nothing elaborate.

Casarelli– This was a little portion of housemade fusilli with ragu. The pasta itself was pretty impressive… homemade fusilli isn’t something I see on many menus, and the ragu had that rich, acidic kick you can only get from a long, slow simmer. Good dish.

And then, it was time for….the biggest and most irreverent dish of the evening- Katsikki– this monster of a dish consisted of a slow roasted young goat shoulder, homemade pita, tzatziki, pickled cabbage, hot sauce, herb salt and eggplant puree. A “do it yourself gyro” plate. It was really pretty glorious. No way to get into this thing than to squeeze on some fresh lemon and then dive in up your elbows in all of that roasted meat and slather on the condiments. This thing would have been a huge single meal on its own, much less the finale to so many other smaller bites. Trying the various condiments with pieces of the tender, roasted goat was what it was all about. I think they hand out a beach towel with this dish to keep the splatter-factor down. Obviously, when it comes to that much solid protein I’m done for, so they packed up most of it for me and it was one HELL of a midnight mega-snack. Yeah, very very tasty, kind of funny, Chef Monis is okay in my book.

Oh, then the most gloriously ironic course that I thought must have been invented with me in mind: a one-bite Mizithra cheese course. Just a little sandwich of cheese, less than a bite. I told them to let the chef know he is doing God’s work with this one.

Lemon– I think this was a cookie and ice cream dessert…can’t recall much about it.

Chocolate– This was AWESOME, and I’m not the biggest dessert guy. Chef Monis loves his salt, but unlike a lot of restaurants who have jumped on the salted caramel bandwagon, he does not overdo it. This was similar to that Kit Kat bar at Central, except tiny, less than 2 bites, and in my opinion way better. Chocolate, salted caramel and peanut butter, with some sort of crisp through the middle.

Lollipops– a little homemade sucker of a fruit I can’t recall and some black pepper.

Like I said, I did enjoy my meal at Komi. So much so, in fact, it will absolutely be at the top of my places to visit the next time I’m in town. I can understand some of the criticism…in some ways the no-menu/flavor progression thing can be a little awkard…..at one point I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to make a Home Alone face and scream, “Holy Fuck! They just gave me a hot dog!”. But in reality, sometimes it’s just too easy to overthink a concept or read too much into what a chef is trying to communicate. In the end, tasty and creative food, fantastic service, wonderful ambience…..and just plain fun. We can’t forget about fun.

7 Comments

Filed under 16 Raised From Dead, Addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Bariatric Surgery, Bethel Church, Bill Johnson, Blogroll, Christianity, culture, dating, Evangelical Christianity, Fine Dining, Food, General Thoughts, Health, Healthy Eating, howard stern, Recovery, religion, Religious Hypocrisy, Tent Revival, Washing DC Food, Weight Loss, weight loss surgery

DC Grub 2011: Marcel’s and Restaurant Eve

Sunday night at Marcel’s….
To say that Marcel’s was “winner by default” for my Sunday evening meal sounds kind of negative. While it is true that the majority of high-end restaurants are not open on Sunday and Monday evenings, which put Marcel’s on a very short list of candidates, I did enough research to be genuinely enthusiastic about my meal there. Would it have won out if I were only in town Tue-Sat and my options were limitless? Who the hell knows. As fate would have it, Marcel’s is where I dined and I enjoyed the experience immensely.

Oh, no pictures! ZERO! I didn’t take any at Marcel’s and gave up after one at Eve because I just wanted to relax and enjoy the meals, plus, even though I would NEVER use a flash in the dining room I just didn’t feel like the vibe of the rooms supported that level of OCD tendencies. Like I said, I’m thankful for the obsessive photogs, the pictures I DO take totally suck, but I generally associate that driven-to-photograph-every-bite-nobody-at-the-table-touch-your-food-till-I-get-a-picture personality type with someone who does not get the real joy of eating, the deep lust aspect and the fun. Probably horrible in bed.

From start to finish, Marcel’s puts on one hell of a floor show. The room is a little bit dated, but in a good, velvety, comfy way, and is absolutely what your out of town relatives would refer to as “fancy SCHMANCY!”. It has that classic “water glass never drops below ¾ full” type of service, which can put some people off at first, but I think it’s a lot of fun. Seriously, once you’ve done it enough times to witness “rich people” who eat at these places weekly use the wrong fork, butcher French when ordering, spill their water, and a million other little things you get over any insecurity pretty quickly. The staff at these places…..are professionals. And by that I mean, they have witnessed just as much crazy shit and had to handle uncomfortable situations just like any other joint….don’t let the interior design and fancy waiter jackets fool you. Drunks are drunks, boors are boors, bitches are bitches….no matter what type of car got them there. Of course, you are privy to some fantastic conversations that give you some insight into the lives of the privileged….a lady at the table next to me went on, and on, and ooonnnnn about the devastating betrayal she felt when she found out her live-in nanny had been counting her trips to their liquor cabinet as part of her room and board. Don’t tell HER she doesn’t know what Vietnam was like.

And on the dance went throughout the evening….a constant flurry of smooth activity from the staff. And there is a cool echo effect at Marcel’s where you can hear everything going on at the water station from clear across the room. My main interaction was with Jess, the captain, and I did get to chat quite a bit with the Maitre ‘d Adnane. Oh, and the water kid. He earned his fucking money, let me tell you. Jess was just a great guy, a gentleman’s gentleman…..as formal as you’d want him to be, but very easy to switch into a more personable mode. I handed the menu back to him pretty quickly and basically said I’d take the chef’s 7 course tasting, whatever he and the chef enjoyed the most would work for me. Servers always seem to get a kick out of that, and when doing “balls-out” dining it’s my favorite way to go.

1st Amuse- Curried beef and mango chutney– good amount of spice for one bite

2nd Amuse- Mushroom Consommé– the greatest things about these dishes, as well as little palate cleansers, are the precious little cups, saucers and spoons. Good consommé…crazy insane perfect dice on the mushroom at the bottom of the cup.

1st Course- Gratin of Oysters, mussels, baby clams, cockles and trout roe….served atop tomato fondue with some broiled gruyere on top and crispy Parma ham. Phenomenal dish….so many different flavors and textures that it should NOT have worked….but it did. Hitting very close to the “gay jock hate crime of love” zone. No comparison really comes to mind other than to say “the craziest most deluxe version of clam chowder ever”, which doesn’t come close to doing it justice.

2nd Course- Lobster Papardelle with English peas, carrots, squash, garlic beurre blanc…this dish was an example of each individual ingredient showing its ultimate potential. Perfect pasta, firm vegetables, meltingly tender lobster, delicious sauce. I’d eat this regularly.

3rd Course- Big Eye Red Snapper over ratatouille with a Balsamic reduction- This was one of those “how in the hell do they get such a deep and crispy crust on one side yet keep the middle of the filet translucent, tender and moist?” dishes. Great piece of fish.

4th Course- Foie Gras over duck confit and a celery root puree, duck jus, marinated raspberries and grilled brioche…the puree and confit really brought something to it, adding texture and keeping it from being a generic sweet bread and jam presentation. One healthy dose of foie too, similar in doneness and texture to what you get from a whole roasted lobe.

5th Course- Bison Tenderloin with California wild rice, red wine reduction…This was a good dish, and a couple of the staff came over to say “oh, you got the bison!”, but being from the Midwest maybe I’m just spoiled for good grilled and roasted meats. I enjoyed the dish, but probably would have picked something different like the boudin blanc.

6th Course- Cheese… Roquefort, Chimay, St. Andres…blah blah blah…the chutney, candied nut and apple matchstick variety. Good cheeses, but I am now officially on the record with my feelings about this. I’m going to start inquiring about substitutions for this course….seriously, I’m pretty easy to get along with so I don’t think I’d be pushing it. Even just one bite of something else, it doesn’t have to be anything special.

7th Course- Chocolate Souffle…I know, cliché alert, big time. And while I am no expert, THIS WAS by far the best example I’ve been served. Old school, good crust of sugar up the sides….a hammer to the brain after all the richness I’d already enjoyed.

Overall, this was just a great, straightforward and delicious meal. I don’t think we have a place like THIS in Kansas City, with the old school formal service in such an ornate room where you interact regularly with a full range of staff, from the Maitre ‘d to the busboy. Everyone willing to bend over backwards to make sure your experience exceeds expectations. I would definitely go back. I go into these “water glass stays full” rooms with my radar in overdrive as far as picking up on little flaws and things to make sure the place really IS at the full-water-glass level instead of being one of just trying to project the image. The folks at Marcel’s are real professionals who leverage effective teamwork. Friendly, helpful, they treat you great, are very open about what they love on the menu, they know food….what a pleasant Sunday night.

Monday Night at Restaurant Eve…

“Best twenty dollars I’ve ever spent”, I said to the cab driver as he dropped me off at my hotel late that evening. It was kind of a pain in the ass to get from my first day of training near McPherson Square, back to the hotel to change, back down to the Foggy Bottom metro stop out to King Street, then down to Eve…..in the rain. So when I realized how cheap, compared to the same distance in KC, it was to just TAKE A FUCKING CAB between the hotel and the restaurant, I was kind of blown away.

I’ll just bottom-line Eve for you to get it out of the way….the Tasting Room was by far the comfiest, prettiest, most inviting room of the entire trip, probably up there with my top rooms ever. And the food was very, very good. But if I were to go back it would have to be some kind of special occasion with my wife, especially considering the price point and availability of great food in DC. No regrets, it was a great meal, I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a special occasion-level restaurant in the area, but it lacked a certain “intangible” that kicks off in my gut telling me I have to get back there. THAT is what made Eve different from all of the other restaurants I visited.

Service- top notch. One or two millimeters below the full-water-glass level, but equally as enjoyable. Lots of younger staff there, happy to talk with you about the food. And Todd, I think that was his name….the wine/cocktail guy I spent a lot of time talking with, he rushed right over as soon as I mentioned to my server I wasn’t going to have wine and said if there were any non-alcoholic options I was onboard. He was VERY enthusiastic about putting together something for me, all he needed was a basic flavor profile I was going for…..more sour than sweet. He whipped up this housemade tonic/kaffir lime/citrus/secret ingredient concoction that kind of blew my mind it was so tasty. Later on I tried some of his housemade cola. This guy knows what in the hell he’s doing, and he’s cool as shit.

So the pretty room…you’d have to see it because I’m an idiot at describing interior design. It’s in an old house, and the tasting room has a very light wood floor, and these insanely high-backed wraparound booth seats. I was perched in one like Little Lord Fauntleroy. Most comfortable seating ever, and you’re all hidden back in there.

The meal started off with three little canapés….deviled egg w/caviar, salmon mousse and some sort of summer sausage/salami type of cured meat.

Amuse- Garlic and Turnip Veloute with onion and ham…a good little taste of soup.

Palate Cleanser- Kabocha Squash Sorbet and Fried Shallot…I don’t know why I loved this little taste of food so much, it was just a damn palate cleanser, but I did. Such a nice flavor and literally the cutest dish and spoon you have ever seen in your life. Don’t you wish I took a picture! Oh my GOD!

Sashimi of Big Eye Tuna with Preserved Meyer Lemon and Green Goddess Dressing– the quality of the tuna was great. It could have been about one or two degrees cooler, but still very, very tasty.

Terrine of La Belle Farm’s Foie Gras with Apple Pate de Fruit, Noble Tonic 5 and Toasted Brioche– I’m a spoiled shit when it comes to the amount of foie gras I’ve eaten, so you have to go to planet fucking Jupiter to get a blip on my radar. This was a good example, more like a torchon than a terrine though. And if it could have switched temperatures with the sashimi it would have been even better. Gorgeous presentation.

Butter Poached Maine Lobster with Ginger-Carrot Custard and Kumquats- Okay, this was a damn good dish. Nothing over the top, just perfectly done food….I need to butter poach me some lobster…as soon as I find a source in KC worth a crap.

Bacon Wrapped Chatham Bay Cod with Littleneck Clam Chowder– the clam chowder component was delicious, but it fell apart a little with the addition of the cod. Wrapped in the bacon, it was a little bit overdone and the amount of bacon really brought too much salt into the dish. And if I’M saying too much salt…..normal humans would definitely agree. Not a bad dish, it just didn’t seem to fit together very well.

Loin of Shenandoah Valley Lamb with Wild Mushroom-Bone Marrow Pain Perdu and Romanian Red Garlic– I’d probably eat wild mushroom bone marrow pain perdu at every meal for the rest of my life. It is even more awesome than it sounds. This was a great dish, with the exception of one REALLY big section of fat and sliver of tough connective tissue in the lamb. Not a deal-breaker, but again, worth mentioning.

Pan Fried Veal Sweetbreads with Violet Carrots, Braised Mustard Greens and Ham Hock Vinaigrette– with this the meal was back on track with no signs of stopping….perfectly crisp and tender sweetbreads, firm carrots, a big quenelle of the braised-down-to-nothing greens….deeelicious. Fish and lamb were forgiven immediately.

Cheese Course- 4 Components-
-Madeleine with Virginia Pecan Pie
-Cashel Blue with Path Valley Sorghum Cake and Pumpkin Seed Butter
-Monocacy Silver with Sicilian Pistachios and Sour Cherry Filled Donut
-Petit Frere with Pickled Pearl Onions and Irish Bacon-Oyster Mushroom Roll

 
Now THESE people know how to do a cheese course! Hell, I’d show up just for the cheese course! Without question the closest anything of its kind has ever gotten to the “gay jock hate crime of love” mark. Each component just a bite or two. Great cheese accompanied by something that took actual thought and preparation. Bravo! One of the most memorable courses of the trip. And cute!

Amano Artisan Chocolate Smores– deconstructed smores, rich but not overkill.

“Blood Orange Shortcake”- I can’t remember the actual name, so that’s what I called it. Toasted meringue, spongecake, citrus, a juice to pour into the bowl completely disappears into the cake. Loved this dish, a good pick-me-up.

Again, fantastic service and great attention to detail. Little things like pre-heating the cream for your coffee and including a bit of shortbread on the side, holding the napkin outside the rim of your water glass to shield you from deadly droplets as it is refilled….a ton of other tiny, sometimes cutesy, details. Oh, and being DC, a town laden with those loud, alpha male douchebags who have no indoor voice, I got a little bit of a floor show courtesy of a douchebag behind me and his douchebag wife. It didn’t really both ME, but there was one very young couple next to them on an obviously important big date that I felt sorry for as the woman squawked “OH MY GOD, JERSEY BOYS IS WORTH DRIVING TO NYC FOR! THE DIM SUM BRUNCH AT CAFÉ ATLANTICO IS TO DIE FOR! WHY WOULD ANYONE BOTHER GETTING A SEAT AT MINIBAR!?!?!” Then throughout their meal they drank more wine and got more political and confrontational over issues like giving criminal hackers an opportunity to “work with the good guys” instead of going to jail….and various BORING AS LIVING FUCK topics like that. Funny to me as a lone diner, but yeah, some people just need killing.

So yeah, good meal, glad I went, but I do not know if and when it will make it back on the calendar during future visits.



Leave a comment

Filed under Addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Bariatric Surgery, Bethel Church, Bill Johnson, Blogroll, Christianity, culture, dating, Fine Dining, Food, General Thoughts, Health, Healthy Eating, howard stern, Recovery, religion, Religious Hypocrisy, Washing DC Food, Weight Loss, weight loss surgery

DC Grub 2011: Intro & Eola…

A couple of things before I get into the details of each of the restaurants: First, high end solo dining is awesome. Obviously, the best scenario would have been to have my wife with me so that we could enjoy it all together. BUT if she were with me, there’s no way we would have hit all of these restaurants…this adventure involved a little bit of money.  But as far as going solo, man it is great. In my experience, you are very, very well taken care of…..whether it’s because they feel sorry for the orphan, or because if you are there alone you are there for the food…whatever, no idea. Maybe it’s just me. Not to brag, but if you want the most a restaurant has to offer, I’m  a good dining companion for you. I research the living shit out of restaurants like these before I go, so usually I am familiar with the menu and I constantly engage the staff to discuss the food and various aspects of the service and restaurant itself. I am great at schmoozing….and it’s not fake, I am genuinely happy to be there and if you are good to me I’m your buddy. And I tip really well. So a three and a half hour meal by my lonesome is a hell of a good time. Plus, you get to listen to other conversations and hear things like “Have you had foie gras???  It is SOOOOOOOOO FRENCH!!”. Second, the no-booze thing…..I have this weird inferiority complex, like I’m robbing the restaurant by not ordering wine. So when I declined any cocktails or pairings, it was in an apologetic manner….kind of stupid I guess, because I quickly learned that nobody really cared. Sure, they would love to double your check, but ultimately they want you to have a great experience. Looking at other tables during all of my dinners I saw several folks who, for whatever reason, didn’t order booze. Sure, I miss having wine, but honestly, I just enjoy the food more now….no dulling of my mind and palate from downing a bottle or two. AAANNNNDDD….non-alcoholic drinks and various housemade colas and ginger ales abounded during my stay. No booze was no big deal, and like I said, I tip really, really well….kind of like when you use a gift certificate and you still tip on the original amount.  Part of my tip comes from the fact I just want to give a little extra to my server because I would have normally plunked another hundred bucks onto the bill at a minimum when I drank. Oh, if you are one of those people who subtract tax and alcohol before you figure a tip….please stop reading and go away. Seriously. I hate you.  You are a stupid, stingy fucker with no class and if you’re doing math to save a few dollars off of the hundreds you just dropped, I guarantee you are one of those entitled pain in the ass types who just lacks joy and basic social skills. Fuck off. You are a pariah with a completely flawed philosophy on life. Your spouses and children abhor you and plot against you behind your back.

So now that those pricks are gone, on to the goddamn wonderment….

DISCLAIMER: The following acts were performed by a professional. Do not attempt to recreate this itinerary without extensive research and prior experience.  I shit you not. Money aside, it was very intense. 

DISCLAIMER #2: I have given up on compiling exhaustive and consistent descriptions of dishes. I just jot down whatever hits me, I let go of that bizarre OCD thing.  I’m thankful for others who go to the lengths I used to, I love food porn, but the writing, the picture taking…bleh. I take pictures when it feels appropriate, and always after I get reassurance from a server that the chef and staff don’t think of it as completely douche-y.  But again, I’m not consistent and sometimes I just don’t feel like doing it. I’m there for peace, good conversations, and the food. The food blogger shit is way down on the priority list.

Saturday Night at Eola

Now this is a place I didn’t know existed until I mentioned my love of offal over on eGullet when I began planning this trip.  Initially, the menu sounded a little gimmicky, but the few reviews available were very positive. I actually moved my reservation for Restaurant Eve to Monday night in order to eat at Eola. Smart goddamn move on my part, let me tell you!  Chef Daniel Singhofen is going some amazingly tasty stuff! Wouldn’t it be annoying if I switched into exclamation mark mode when describing the food? WINNING!

So, nice walk-up former residence (I assume) just off of Dupont Circle…low lighting, clean and subtle room, comfy, cozy, lots of dark wood…a pleasant amount of the chill-factor.

As it is with most “faincy” restaurants, the service starts off pretty formal and evolves to suit you and your demeanor and attitude. I’m a guy who wants to have fun, enjoy good food, and be the easiest table the staff is going to have all night long. I put a very, very big premium on waitstaff who are emotionally invested in the restaurant and have real opinions on the food, and are enthusiastic about it. I was lucky on this trip, because I got that at every single restaurant.  Another common element was the sensitivity the staff had towards how you would like to pace the meal. I have a tiny stomach now, so I adjusted accordingly in order to let digestion happen and avoid the bariatric-sweats.

Quick note- there was no initial mention of a tasting menu option when my server presented me with the list of dishes. But as soon as I asked, we were off and running.

Deep Fried Pig’s Ear

The ears are brined, slow cooked, sliced and tempura fried, then served with a housemade tartar sauce. Deep fried lip smackity jaw gumming goodness.

Amuse Bouche- Confit of Pork heart with pecan– a “minerally and sweet” intro to the meal that let’s you know what you are in for.

Sous Vide Duck Egg with garlic broth and comte

This was the only dish I was iffy about, It was very tasty and rich, but maybe too subtle.  Either the broth needed a little oomph or it could have used more texture. 

Chicken fried pork tongue- pickled shallots, lentils, spiced apple puree

The brined tongue had more of a corned beef flavor and texture than tongue, and it was rock star good. This was definitely the “it may have sounded gimmicky at first, but this shit is for-real good” moment of the night. Damn,damn, damn good dish. And it was proof that the Chef Singhofen not only knew how to cook tongue, he knew how to do a proper, crispy, flaky chicken fry. Throughout the meal, whatever direction he took the ingredients, he always started with a very solid technical foundation and went from there. I really like this guy.

FBLT- bacon cured foie gras, truffled brioche, micro greens, madeira reduction

Probably the best dish of the night and without question the richest thing  I’ve ever eaten. Completely and utterly insane. When I say it was the richest thing I’ve ever eaten, I’m not fucking around. And it made me emotional. Fortunately for me, there were a handful of these moments during my whole trip, but this was the first instance…a “what the fuck” moment on steroids. So powerful that the only way I can describe it is to paint a picture….the feeling that hit me so strongly the image that came to mind was a college freshman jock still wearing his high school letter jacket like you see in one of those bad Oxygen movies who is gay but is in such deep and painful denial that he overcompensates with overt but awkward manliness until his first year in college when he has a Brokeback moment that goes horribly wrong….joyfully and blissfully locked in a forbidden embrace until the pain of his closeted existence boils over as self-loathing revulsion; and he reacts quickly and violently…so quickly that the joy has not completely left him, so he sobs as he rains blows down upon the object of his affection, tears streaming, snot bubbles the size of oranges…..letter jacket collar askew, soul torn open, lost, guilty, wide eyed and unable to process the moment……….I hated that sandwich…..I loved that sandwich so much….I could not bite it hard enough but I knew with each movement of my jaw our time together dwindled away…..why did it even have to be here?  Who thought this was a good idea?  Why does it make me feel so dirty? OK- so from here on instead of painting that picture over again when I get to one of those dishes I’ll just say something like “it was gay jock hate crime of love good” or something to that effect. If you’ve seen the episode of HBO’s “The Wire” where Chris beats that guy to death so badly it freaks Snoop out….throw some of that in there too. Just bam bam bam bam bam.

Pig Brain Tortellini

Again, sounds offal-trendy, but the pasta itself was absolutely perfect and the consistency of the brains made it a dish you could pass off as cheese filled.  Singhofen’s hand at homemade pasta is top notch, he knows what he is doing…I’d like to see his exploration in pastas in the same way his chicken-fry technique appeals to me.

Black Cod- sous vide with black olive paste, Carolina wild rice, cayenne glass

I’d had a ton of food already and been hammered with richness, so it took me a few moments to recover in order to enjoy this course. Totally delicious, the sous vide made it feel and taste like a perfectly cooked sweet scallop. Maybe the best texture of any fish dish I’ve had, and the black olive was prominent without being overpowering.  The more I ate, the more I liked it.  An intriguing combination of flavors I had not experienced before.

Lamb Croquette with arugula puree, barley and barley broth foam

 Very rich, a briney flavor to it, but I was told it had not been brined (and from various staff comments, Singhofen is as big a proponent of brining as Thomas Keller). Would make an incredible breakfast dish, or something you’d eat to comfort you while trapped indoors during a blizzard. 

Braised beef cheek with a red wine reduction and Anson Mill grits

What do you say about something like this? Sunday dinner good. Damn I love beef cheek. I do not know why it isn’t on more menus.

Cheese Course– I don’t actually remember what all was there, but pretty standard stuff. A nice small and manageable amount. I’m pretty much over the cheese course as a concept, with two very notable exceptions in upcoming reviews.

Orange Blossom Panna Cotta

My server told me that as he and the chef discussed the construction of my tasting menu, he knew I’d need something nice and light to finish off the meal. Excellent, excellent choice…..a nice few creamy citrusy bites to cleanse my palate and wake me back up.

Speaking of waking up….I am convinced that restaurants should do away with brewed coffee completely and make the switch to French press.  I roast my own coffee, so I’m a pretty tough customer to impress, and Eola does a good job and actually has a selection of coffees from which to choose. 

I’ll definitely go back to Eola, it was a wonderful experience and scratched the offal itch in a big way. The staff is all about the food and extremely willing to accommodate you in any manner as far as portion sizes and progression of the meal. Top notch, highly recommended.  What a wonderful start to my trip.

 Oh, I will at least MENTION the Nuevo Latino Dim Sum Brunch at Café Atlantico Dim…..not going to do a real review or post pictures. Not because it was bad, it just wasn’t a major component of the trip. Even though some of the dishes are classics from the minibar menu, it’s not even in the same galaxy as the minibar experience. Plus, cranking out such a huge number of the dishes and serving them to so many people at once interferes with the quality of the food and the service. Temperatures were a little off on some of the dishes, and in some cases a runner would drop off the food well before a server could come over and explain it.  At 35 bucks, plus the fact I don’t think they charged me for a couple of extra bites I asked for, it’s still a great deal. It’s just not at the minibar level, or even a regular dinner at Café Atlantico for that matter.  I’m still really loyal to the restaurant, and I’m sure I’ll always find a reason to visit when I’m in town, but maybe not the brunch.

Here’s what is on the chef’s menu right now…

Endive w/Queso Fresco Espuma, walnut and orange

Mango Oyster

Tuna Ceviche w/Coconut

Mango and Anchovy foam ravioli

Conch Fritter

Hot and Cold Foie Gras Soup

Potato with Vanilla and Caviar

Sauteed Mushrooms with 63 degree egg

Carne Asada

Pork Belly Confit with Passion Fruit Oil

Coconut Rice

Fried Egg with Black Bean and Pork

Pineapple Unagi

Pan Dulche

So more reviews to follow….there’s a lot to cover but I knew I had to break it all up.

2 Comments

Filed under Addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Bariatric Surgery, Blogroll, Christianity, culture, dating, Evangelical Christianity, Fine Dining, Food, General Thoughts, Health, Healthy Eating, howard stern, Recovery, religion, Religious Hypocrisy, Tent Revival, Washing DC Food, Weight Loss, weight loss surgery