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.



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