I was too young to remember my first visit to Washington, D.C. with my parents. The Dr. has never been. So when we heard that Arcade Fire was playing in D.C. before New York, we bought tickets and decided to make a weekend out of it. It was just icing on the cake when I found out that Miriam was moving to the District from San Francisco (she’s in-love; bless hear heart).
Michel Richard was inducted in the James Beard Foundation even before bloggers out there knew how important James Beard was to the culinary industry. His flagship Washington, D.C. restaurant, Citronelle, has been numerously named as one of the best restaurants in the country. When he decided to open an affordable bistro on Pennsylvania Avenue called Central, loyal fans and curious eaters waited eagerly.
I’ve never been to Citronelle so I have no way to compare head chef Cedric Maupiller’s signature dishes with Michel Richard’s. The French onion soup was simple; breaking into the cheese was like opening a surprise gift. The frisÃ©e salad was served with a poached egg. I appreciated the fact that after we requested it be split in two, we each got our own egg. The filet mignon tartare tasted all of mustard and pickles. I couldn’t savor the beef flavor I always look for in tartare. The crispy fries that came with it, though, were addicting. My soft-shell crabs were meaty and I could have eaten them on their own without the coleslaw. The fried chicken was buttery but surprisingly light. Even though we were never told where the dozen oysters specifically came from, we enjoyed them with our rosÃ© sparkling wine. The small Brussels sprouts reminded me of mashed potatoes in my mouth, mushy and wet, but nothing cooked with bacon ever disappoints me. After a second bottle of wine, we ended our night with the famous Kit Kat bar which tasted like, well, a giant Kit Kat chocolate bar. It was so rich that the ice cream with it was almost unnecessary. It was definitely for someone with a sweet tooth and a lot of room after a full dinner. The mostly American fare came together at the end, but the service provided wasn’t up to par.
Our waiter was a little bit surly. Perhaps because we asked to move to another table as soon as we sat down. Perhaps because we couldn’t make a decision on what to order. When we finally did, we chose mostly appetizers. There was a lag in service in between our oysters and our orders. When our food came, the empty oyster shells were still on our table. He made up for the surlyness by requesting the kitchen to appropriately split a couple of our dishes in two as we requested, but he made me wonder about what we or anyone else did to ruin his night. And though most people may not care, I was a bit surprised that our used plates were stacked on top of each other when the staff was cleaning the table. Surely, they do not do the same thing at Citronelle. Do regular citizens like us have to receive a lesser quality of service just because we’re dining at the bistro and paying $100 less?
Central Michel Richard is at 1001 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, 202/626.0015
Where to stay in Washington, D.C.: The Carlyle Hotel
Washington, D.C. photos on Flickr