Other appropriate names for this post:
We're Number One
How The Other Half Lives
Hm--I Don't Know What It Is But It Tastes Great
The experience I had at Michel Richard's Central last spring, while very pleasant, does not even fall upon the same map as what happened to me yesterday. We arrived at Citronelle and our friends were stuck in traffic--we later found that this doesn't matter when your dinner is 5 hours long, because they aren't expecting to ever turn your table over. Until tomorrow. Hah.
When you walk through the doors you are at the bar, and down a few stairs a friendly-looking man is smiling at you, wondering if he can lead you to your table downstairs. And he did.
We had the nine course tasting menu, and I wouldn't have done anything differently. The idea of fifteen was a little scary, and any less than nine would have sacrificed the experience of tasting more of the kitchen's magical creations.
As a whole, the menu was fantastic. I tried foods I'd never had before, and even if I had, those foods took on a completely new and unexpected form. The wine was incredible (we shared two bottles, one white and one red, instead of doing the pairings), the sommelier was so adorable we wanted to take him home with us (yes, and he was very learned in the ways of wine selection), and the thick pieces of crusty bread kept reappearing on my plate all night long. At first I was confused, because I was sure I had eaten it all, but BAM there it was again.
While everyone had a different opinion about what was out-of-this-world, I'll give you my highlights from the complete menu, or at least my favorite part of each dish.
1. Amouse bouche: The escargot crumble (crumble being mainly pistachio nuts) was the most incredible item on the plate, but best presentation goes to the egg surprise (cauliflower mousse topped with tiny pieces of smoked salmon, inside a perfectly-lengthwise-cut hollowed eggshell with a tiny round handle glued (?) to the top half).
2. The chestnut-peanut soup was smooth and rich, not too peanut-y.
3. I liked the abalone, but can't explain why. Leave me alone!
4. The sablefish was marinated in miso for three days, and you can taste that fact. The top had those delicious flavors, while the inside was creamy and just melted in my mouth. The temperature was nice and hot, but the fish was still so moist.
5. My favorite part of the fun lobster burger was the incredibly tiny and perfect fresh bun and the homemade potato chips that tasted like a piece of heaven. A friend said they were "salty" but I respectfully dissent!
6. The veal steak was tender and flavorful, and the sweetbreads, despite their happy sounding name, come from a strange place--but they tasted great to me, almost in a crispy outside--it seemed like if you had breaded and fried something with the consistency of a soft fresh mozzarella, very smooth and creamy.
7. The imported cheeses were great, I loved the goat and the blue (bleu?) in particular. J & I were surprised at how well the dark raisin/pistachio bread slices we received complimented the cheese so well. How can we be skeptical of these people, they clearly know best, but still--he's not the biggest fan of raisins OR nuts. If there was ever a time for us to trust the chef, it was last night.
8. Jolie Pomme: This deconstructed caramel apple might have been my favorite dish--definitely my favorite "dessert." The most real tasting mini-apple-shaped granny-smith-apple sorbet with a vanilla/cinnamon piece of bark for a stem, sitting on just enough caramel. Those are paper-thin slices of apple in the photo. which tasted almost like a sugary-candy that melts on your tongue, but we were assured they were real apple. Photo credit to Washingtonian magazine.
9. The chocolate three ways had one piece I found bland, the white chocolate panna cotta, but the middle piece was a gem--very cold chocolate-shell-covered chocolate mousse on a mini popsicle stick. It was good AND fun to eat.
10. The petit fours gave me an unexpected (and unwanted) surprise in the chocolate/raspberry malt ball. But another, what seemed to be a ball of white chocolate with a lemon meringue pie explosion inside, was very fun. Dessert in one bite.
Will I go back? If I can, I will--but it may take years. I had never been exposed to a tasting menu before, and it's everything I've ever wanted (besides good health, world peace, safe families, etc etc). You can have just a bit of everything without being wheelbarrowed home. The food was like art--luckily I didn't think it was too beautiful to eat.
I don't know if they read the blog, but I want to thank our hosts for providing the best company a couple could ask for, and inviting us to the best meal we've ever had.
Michel Richard Citronelle
3000 M Street NW
Metro: Get to Georgetown (walk/shuttle from Foggy Bottom or Rosslyn Metro, or take the DC Circulator)
Better off in a cab or valeting.