Ah, Central. The poor wo/man's Citronelle. Another birthday destination, here. I had SUPER high hopes, after reading and reading about it, seeing how the reservations filled up quickly as soon as the date became available for booking through Open Table (I believe it was 1 month in advance). If you are looking to impress coworkers who are "in the know" about DC restaurants, Central is a good place to start. You can definitely get away with a classy but funky dinner there without blowing a hole through your wallet.
The decor is minimal, typical of Michel Richard, but the clean lines are pleasing to these eyes. The bar is nice to look at, too, and I'm sure a great place to enjoy a more upscale happy hour than we're used to having. I will say that I was surprised that with all of the clean lines and elegant details, the beautiful bathroom had a major detraction--a plastic bottle of Softsoap. I know it's petty, but with so much thought going into the other "little things" that plastic container was an eyesore!
Also, this may seem obvious but I (of course) didn't think of it before we went: it was REALLY LOUD in there. SERIOUSLY loud. Maybe it would be different if the bar wasn't so crowded (it was a Thursday) but who knows. Loud = not romantic.
And the woman at the table next to ours was seated so close to us that she jokingly said, "Hey, sorry we're late!" as she and her husband were seated. Despite her early attempt at light-hearted humor, she went on to be the most obnoxious customer ever, glaring at our server when he tried to do anything right, complaining when he took things away (or didn't take them away soon enough), and made a remark every time he left their table. It would have ruined my meal if I didn't have my cool-as-a-cucumber dining companion smiling across the table. The problem is, if you have some cranky customers and you sit them SUPERCLOSE to non-cranks, the cranks ruins other people's meals. The solution is don't seat people that close together.
On to the eats: We started with the homemade cheese puffs because I felt like we had to--that's what everyone talks about! I know, I'm a slave to fashionable appetizers. They were okay. I almost wanted just a few to taste, and not the rest--they come in a wire cone, and there were a lot. The flavor wasn't quite what I expected, but the first few were definitely delicious--still warm, even. A better appetizer for 4 people maybe than 2, because midway through we were sort of sick of them.
For dinner I had the mussels. They were very good--then again, steaming mussels isn't exactly rocket science.
J had the 72 hour short ribs. They were soft, flavorful, and the sauce was "tasty." Overall a happy camper.
DESSERT! THE HIGHLIGHTIEST HIGHLIGHT OF THEM ALL!!! Richard's homemade kit-kat dessert was delicious. Chocolatey wafery happiness, put in a take-out container for the very full diners aka us.
I hear the lobster burger is to die for, and on a return visit I plan on trying it or having someone I'm with try it.
1001 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20004