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Michel Richard's Citronelle


vengroff
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My wife and I went to Citronelle on a Saturday night a couple of weekends ago and ate in the bar. Very comfortable table in the corner, out of the way from the hubbub. Holy cow was the lobster burger with fries (fried in clarified butter, no less) amazing. Was sort of interested in the 'breakfast' dessert but it isn't on the bar menu. Did manage to flag down and introduce myself to Mark who was quite gracious with his time on a very busy evening.

And, though I didn't necessarily consider it an accomplishment at the time, we did make it back with all of our digits were in tact. Great story Kim.

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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Citronelle is my favorite high-end restaurant in DC. I don't get to go very often, but I always enjoy myself when I do go. And it's even more fun now, as our very own Mark Sommelier works there. It was my first time meeting him (although me might have been there when I ate there previously), and that was kind of fun.

They offer two set menus: the "Laurence Menu," which is what we had, and the even longer "Michel Menu." Wine pairings are offered with both menu. We had the Laurence Menu, which was more than enough food. And a wine pairing.

"Amuse Bouche." It was a few spoonfulles of tomato water, with little bits of green bean, tomato, and caviar...served in an eggshell. Very pretty, and very tasty. Okay, it was very very pretty.

"Eggplant Tart." Think of amini pizza, about three inches in diameter. Even worse, think of a mini frozen pizza: the ultra thin crust, the not-quite-there flavors. Eggplant and gruyere was what it was supposed to be, but I couldn't tell. This dish was an absolute clunker.

"Irish Coffee, mushroom consomme and potato chantilly." It wasn't Irish coffee, but it looked like Irish coffee. It came in a tall bar glass, and was a thick dark mushroom consomme on the bottom and white potato--do I use the word?--foam on top. A straw stood up in the center. This was the only dish that came with instructions; we were supposed to drink from the top and the bottom with the straw, but not mix the two liquids. I really enjoyed this.

"Vitello Tonato, caper emulsion." A beautiful and delicious dish. The thin slices of tuna and veal were perfectly assembled; it looked like a piece of layer cake. The caper sauce accented the flavors beautifully. Perfect in every way.

"Boudin Blanc, cinnamon port sauce." The sausage was duck confit and foie gras--not your traditional boudin blanc by any stretch of the imagination. But it was tasty, even though the very fine forcemeat felt odd at first.

"Lobster Medallion, roasted artichoke, citronelle sauce." Nothing wrong with this dish.

"Squab, leg confit, minute steak breast, macaroni gratin, and black truffle." This was a complated dish. It came on a big square plate, with four little plates on it--kind of like a bento box. Little plate one: squab breast with squab jus and black truffle. Little plate two: penne pasta with squab mousse and foie gras, held together in a little cake. Little plate three: basil crusted squab leg. Little plate four: shredded snow peas.

Dessert. We ordered two desserts for the two of us. I completely forgot about one of them, because I was so taken by the other. It's called "Breakfast for Dessert," and it is just about the silliest dessert I have ever seen. It's worth going to Citronelle just for this dessert. There's nothing breakfasty on the plate, but it all looks like breakfast.

You get a yellow hemisphere of some peach something in the middle of a cream cheese sauce--that's the fried egg. You get two strips of crispy black-and-white chocolate puff pastry--that's the bacon. You get cubes of cinnamon apples with raspberry sauce; it looked so much like hash browns and ketchup that I had trouble eating it. You get two triangles of pound cake and a small dallop of vanilla ice cream--toast and butter. And finally there's a passion fruit merangue mixture that's served in an eggshell and looks for all the world like a soft boiled egg. Breakfast for dessert--you have to order it.

And finally, Petit Fours. Some of them were really good, but my notes kind of petered out at that point.

As usual, an excellent meal.

Bruce

Edited by Schneier (log)
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  • 1 month later...
  • 1 month later...

Dinner at Citronelle Saturday night. Getting in was a pain. It was graduation weekend, and all the good restaurants were booked solid. Mark Slater got us on the waiting list, and even pushed us into a 7:00 slot when someone canceled the day before. Serous thanks to him.

They've redone their menu. The offer one tasting menu: Promenade Gourmande. It's seven courses, an amuse and petits fours at the end. Cost is $125, and $200 with wines. They also offer a four-course a la carte menu--a starter, a fish, a meat, and a dessert--for $85.

Karen (mnfoodie) and I ordered the tasting menu.

Amuses: Chopped asparagus in cucumber water, served in an eggshell: nice and refreshing.

"Vitello tonatto": basically tuna and veal pate in small layers, much like a small cake piece. Delicious last time, and delicious again. An addition from last time is a piece of cheese toast with mushrooms. Absolutely fabulous; I could eat a dozen of those.

Small eggplant pizza: If you read my previous review above, I panned this last time. On this trip is was much better. It wasn't overcooked. There was more cheese, which blended better with the eggplant. I don't know if I got a bad one last time, or if Richard tinkered with the recipe. I really enjoyed this, and would have gladly eaten more.

Course 1: Irish Coffee: reviewed last time.

Course 2: A piece of seared foie gras in a lentil crust, served with mushroom sauce. Nice combination of flavors and textures.

Course 3: A soft-shell crab stuffed with blue crabmeat. It was served tempura-style and a ratatouille-style vegetables and chili oil. Absolutely fabulous. I love soft shell crabs, and stuffing them with crabmeat is brilliant.

Course 4: "Lobster medallion, citronelle sauce, brunoise of chayote." Similar to what I was served last time, but now with chayote squash. Good dish.

Course 5: Squab, both a piece of breast and a leg crusted with potato. It was served with crispy potato, risotto, and a cinnamon port reduction. Delicious in every way.

Course 6: Cheese - Camembert, Forme d'Ambert, and cheveron.

Course 7: Chocolate dessert: chocolate ice cream, chocolate mousse, and the best Kit Kat bar you've ever tasted. Yummy.

I also ordered a "Breakfast for Dessert" for Karen.

Great meal, fun time. Thanks again, Mark.

Bruce

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From Tom's chat today:

Tom Sietsema: News flash: Michael Hartzer, the executive chef at Michel Richard Citronelle in Georgetown, has announced his resignation after almost five years with the four-star French restaurant. Tomorrow is his last day in the kitchen. The 28 year-old talent told me this morning that while he has no specific plans (other than moving homes next month) he is mulling a range of his own: "It's time to do my own thing," he offered. And yes, he'd prefer to continue cooking here in Washington.

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Ok, now that the weekend's over and I finally have time to sit down and post... (warning, this one's going to be long)

We went to Citronelle for dinner on Friday evening. It was busy, as expected on a holiday weekend, and there was a fairly high elderly-gentlemen-with-medals quotient, also as expected. I didn't take notes, so details won't be perfect, but it was a fabulous dinner.

After we sat down, at a particularly nice table with both a view of the kitchen and the rest of the dining room, we were greeted with a glass of one of the small producer Blanc de Blancs (Pierre Peters). I'd read the Terry Theise catalog that talked about this particular producer, so it was a real pleasure to get to try one of the wines at last. Lovely and dry, without being so dry it evaporated before you could really taste it, or left that sour after-whang. And since Dave was driving, I got to drink most of it. Yay! :biggrin:

Amuse: Asparagus in eggshell, vitello tonnato, eggplant tart. All three good; I think my favorite was probably the eggplant tart, but the asparagus, which was a cold preparation of tiny baby asparagus in asparagus aspic, was surprisingly un-asparagusy - if I had to pick one word to describe the taste, it'd be "green." And I feel really sorry for whichever poor bastard on the kitchen staff has the job of splitting the eggshells in two - the cuts are incredibly precise, and I suspect there are a lot of oopses before they get enough done for service.

First courses: Dave had foie gras three ways, I had the Irish coffee. The foie came with a shot glass of foie gras/lentil soup, a foie gras mousse topped with a foie gras tuile, and a roulade of foie gras and what looked like mushroom. I'm assured it was all very tasty, but the winner was apparently the roulade.

There's been a lot of talk about the Irish coffee, but very little about how fantastically amazingly wonderful the potato is. Quite possibly the best mashed potato I've ever had - it's not a foam, really, but just loose enough to be slurped through a straw, and it's clearly made that way with oodles of butter and cream. And the little grilled mushroom-and-Gruyere sandwiches on the side were a nice touch.

(Along about this time, another couple were seated next to us - middle-aged guy with one of those unfortunate blue-sleeves-white-collar-and-cuffs shirts, accompanied by middle-aged woman who was skinny enough to wear an Hermes scarf as a full shawl. This will become important later.)

Second course: Dave had soft-shell crab tempura, stuffed with crabmeat, in chili sauce; and I had the virtual fettucini. Mark said someone had described the soft-shell as a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade crab balloon, and I can see why - it was delightfully puffy with crabmeat, and the chili sauce was just spicy enough to complement it without overwhelming.

The fettucini was amazing. I knew I was eating cuttlefish. The menu said I was eating cuttlefish. It just didn't feel like cuttlefish - it felt and tasted like pasta al dente. And the sauce, made with crab and fresh corn, was gorgeous; not that it's easy to screw up crab or corn at this time of year, but it was texturally light enough not to overpower the "pasta," and let through plenty of the flavor of both the crab and the corn. I could eat this every day - it was that good.

I got a glass of Chassagne-Montrachet, of which vintage or vineyard I have no idea, for this and the next course. Since I can't drink reds, I tend to go for whites with oomph - this one fit my oomph requirements very well.

(At this point, the next table has gotten through a round of cocktails and is being overly fussy about their wine choices. Hemming, hawing, lots of "well, do you recommend the x or the y?" not because they were that indecisive but because they wanted to look like they knew what they were talking about. You know the type.)

Entrees: Dave got the duck, which came in a variety of preparations; aiguillette served medium rare, so much so that it could easily have recovered given a little cossetting; boudin blanc, a cepe and leg confit ragout, accompanied by tiny brussels sprouts. He reckons it's the best duck he's ever had; I didn't try it, but it did smell fantastic.

I got the veal "tongue 'n cheek pie, osso bucco." If you order this expecting actual osso bucco, you missed the pun - there's not much resemblance except in ingredients. What I got was two meltingly fabulous pieces of veal cheek and one piece of veal tongue in a "bone" made of pastry, accompanied by simmered baby carrots and onions and a sauce of diced tomato. I tried to make myself try the tongue, but I just couldn't do it - food that tastes me back is right out. I still can't decide whether I liked the veal cheek or the little simmered onions better, but they were both good.

Dessert: I adore sorbets, so that's what I got. Dave ordered the "Breakfast at Citronelle," about which much has already been written. One thing that hasn't been mentioned is that the "bacon" has almost the same texture as turkey bacon.

My sorbet (coconut, guava, and raspberry) came with the Happy Birthday marzipan thingy - good marzipan. We also got a plate of petits fours, which were outstanding - the highlight being a tiny pastry square with a baby peach on top. Tasted just like a peach, except it was the size of a blueberry! The others were a super-dark-chocolate opera cake, raspberry and almond tuiles, and a passionfruit couscous pudding bite.

At this point, we're just sitting and letting things digest, when the next table decides it's time for dessert - except that instead of dessert, they wanted cheese. And not just any cheese, either. They first quizzed Mark's assistant about what sort of cheese it was, and then grilled the poor waiter about what kind of cheese it was and where it was from and what temperature it was served at.

Apparently his answers were Just Not Acceptable, and they got progressively nastier to him. It bugs me when people are rude to waitstaff who are obviously trying their best; it's even worse when they suck up to the people they perceive to be in a position of authority (like the assistant sommelier) and crap on the others. Finally they asked to see a manager, and at this point we slipped out to the main entrance, having pretty much lost the ability to keep from laughing at this point. We did gather that the woman had "just come back from Paris (!)" where apparently she was followed around the entire time by enormous cheese trolleys oozing with raw milk funk everywhere she went, and was offended that the same was not in the offing here.

We wanted to make sure before we left that Pablo (the poor waiter who'd been dealing with these people all night) wasn't blamed for any of the things they were obviously preparing to say about him. Of course, he wasn't - everyone was well aware what horses' asses they'd been all night. We were immensely impressed with how well the entire staff handled these people despite how obnoxious they were being.

They got their check and left. We got a tour of the wine cellar. All's well that ends well. :laugh: And we'll definitely be going back, hopefully sooner rather than later. Our thanks to Mark and to the entire staff for a wonderful evening.

"Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!" --Eddie Izzard
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  • 3 months later...
  • 2 months later...

It’s time to begin thinking in historic terms about Michel Richard.

When Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive games played, the great Brooks Robinson took the microphone. I don’t remember the exact words, but they were something like this: “People see me, and they say I’m ‘Mister Oriole,’” and then he looked at Cal Ripken, and said, “Cal, YOU are Mister Oriole.”

Jean-Louis Palladin has justifiably been considered as THE great Chef ever to set foot in Washington, but it’s time now for the great Jean-Louis to consider passing the torch to Michel Richard.

Pork Rinds and Hot Dog – Billed as the “Not-Yet-Famous Pied de Cochon,” Michel Richard’s soon-to-be legendary dish is worthy of awe. A “sausage,” if you will, consisting of pigs’ feet, foie gras, sweetbreads and chanterelles (I will repeat this in a minute), is served on a bed of potato puree, surrounded by a mushroom puree, and topped with a huge pork rind which is a rectangular “tuile of pig skin” completely masking the hot dog.

Please allow me to repeat this again:

The sausage consists of pigs’ feet, foie gras, sweetbreads and chanterelles, and it’s covered up by a rectangular tuile of pig skin.

Tonight I had this for the second time, and the only comparable dish I've had recently is the dish immediately preceding: the “Tuna Napoleon ‘Nicoise,’” which is a multilayered tower of raw tuna resting on thin wafers, each layer stuffed, and the whole thing topped with all the ingredients in a classic Nicoise salad. A straightforward and pure presentation, except that in a gesture of typical Richard playfulness, the quartered hardboiled egg is not an egg: it’s mozzarella, stuffed with yellow-tomato puree.

Michel Richard is the greatest chef ever to grace Washington DC. He has taken the longevity and tradition of Jean-Louis Palladin, the technique and promise of Yannick Cam and Gerard Pangaud, the charisma of Roberto Donna, the youthful whimsy of Fabio Trabocchi, the buzz of Eric Ziebold, the innovation of Jose Andres, and combined them all into a … no.

No. I saw what I was writing there, and it’s wrong. Michel Richard is Michel Richard, and he is not a derivation or combination of anyone. He is what he is, and he’s the best chef I’ve seen here in my lifetime.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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It’s time to begin thinking in historic terms about Michel Richard.

[sNIP]

Michel Richard is the greatest chef ever to grace Washington DC.  He has taken the longevity and tradition of Jean-Louis Palladin, the technique and promise of Yannick Cam and Gerard Pangaud, the charisma of Roberto Donna, the youthful whimsy of Fabio Trabocchi, the buzz of Eric Ziebold, the innovation of Jose Andres, and combined them all into a … no.

No.  I saw what I was writing there, and it’s wrong.  Michel Richard is Michel Richard, and he is not a derivation or combination of anyone.  He is what he is, and he’s the best chef I’ve seen here in my lifetime.

Cheers,

Rocks.

With praise like this, it is hard for me not to be excited about my first trip to Citronelle, which will be later this month! Is the "Kit Kat" bar on the menu?

"My cat's breath smells like cat food."

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With praise like this, it is hard for me not to be excited about my first trip to Citronelle, which will be later this month! Is the "Kit Kat" bar on the menu?

I recently had the chocolate 3 ways and it was part of that dessert.

Wearing jeans to the best restaurants in town.
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When Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive games played, the great Brooks Robinson took the microphone.  I don’t remember the exact words, but they were something like this:  “People see me, and they say I’m ‘Mister Oriole,’” and then he looked at Cal Ripken, and said, “Cal, YOU are Mister Oriole.”

Brooks Robinson is still Mister Oriole to me. But, it was a gracious statement for him to make and the memory of that night still makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Nice on what is a very chilly morning.

So, when my husband and I make our next somewhat rare DC appearance, I'm now thinking it should be Citronelle rather than Maestro...although, Fabio certainly has his fair share of groupies. Anyone have any thoughts on that? I know, we should come down a little more often and try both. We did eat at the Baltimore outpost of Citronelle many moons ago and it was quite good but it sounds like this is on a whole new level.

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So, when my husband and I make our next somewhat rare DC appearance, I'm now thinking it should be Citronelle rather than Maestro...although, Fabio certainly has his fair share of groupies.  Anyone have any thoughts on that?  I know, we should come down a little more often and try both.  We did eat at the Baltimore outpost of Citronelle many moons ago and it was quite good but it sounds like this is on a whole new level.

This is one of those rare moments in life where you could flip a coin and walk away happy with your decision. Poor, but happy. :smile:

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  • 3 weeks later...

My wife and I ate at Citronelle for the first time last week. I had high expectations for the restaurant and was not disappointed. Even the cheese straws that they serve in the bar were terrific and a sign of great things to come.

We were fortunate enough to be seated at a table with a "birds-eye" view of the kitchen. Request this table when making a reservation! It was a terrific "dinner theatre" experience to watch the kitchen in action. Also, do not bother reading the wine list. We put our wine selections in Mark's hands and they were phenomenal. It was great to finally meet and chat with the legendary Mark Slater, who took great care of us the entire night.

My wife's appetizer was the Tuna Napoleon Nicoise, which was (almost) too pretty to eat. She had the Squab with apple risotto for her entree. She enjoyed both tremendously.

I ordered the Wild Mushroom Tart as my appetizer, which contained the meatiest mushrooms that I have ever eaten. I had the Venison with black cherry sauce as my entree. This was a delicious dish. The venison was great on its own. However, when combined with the black cherry sauce, it suddenly tasted like pepperoni (in a good way). It was really strange, but terrific nonetheless.

The desserts were fantastic. I had the Chocolate Three Ways, which included the famous "Adult Kit Kat Bar". My wife had the Chocolate Flakes, which was a cereal bowl containing shards of chocolate with minty "milk" poured over it. Also in the bowl were essentially cocoa puffs on steroids; cocoa puffs cereal coated in additional chocolate. It was not what my wife was expecting when she ordered it, but she thought it was pretty good.

Oh yeah, we also ordered the cheese course, which was terrific. I can't remember any of the cheeses, but I did enjoy them all. Thanks again to Mark for taking great care of us!

"My cat's breath smells like cat food."

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Mark's dreaminess overflows from his tastevin. Go to Citronelle and order "Clos de la Boudriotte", Chassagne Montrachet, D. Ramonet 1998.

Slurp. Only Markie has it.

Flavor flav!

Edited by eatdrinkummm (log)

“Let us candidly admit that there are shameful blemishes on the American past, of which the worst by far is rum. Nevertheless, we have improved man's lot and enriched his civilization with rye, bourbon and the Martini cocktail. In all history has any other nation done so much?”

Bernard De Voto (1897-1955) American writer and critic.

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  • 3 weeks later...

THE LOBSTER BURGERS ARE BACK BABY!!

Met up with mnebergall and Chef Shogun for what was supposed to be a quick bite, but we lingered. Anyway, I really do not know what to say except get your butt to Citronelle and have one. They are served up on a fresh brioche bun with wafer thin potato crisps, a slight bit of mayo (could have been seasoned), a surprisingly fresh tasting slice of tomato, and a side of fresh greens tossed in a vinaigrette. Simply put, this ain't no lobster roll. Try it with a glass of the Alsace Riesling or the Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc.

Wearing jeans to the best restaurants in town.
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Okay, I have to have one of these.

Having never been to Citronelle, is the "lounge" easily distinguishable from the more formal restaurant?  How busy is it generally for dinner?

The Citronelle Bar is at street level and accessed from 30th Street. The restaurant is downstairs. Its hard to predict how busy the bar will be. The kitchen opens at 6.

Come on down!

Mark

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Ooh- perfect time for this thread to reappear, as my fiance confessed that he is planning to take me there on my birthday next Thurs. (though, as of now he has no reservations and is scheduled to work...). Anyway- as I've never been but have heard much about this lobster burger- is it only available in the lounge?

If so- what are my best changes at scoring a table in the lounge sometime next week? Does the lounge even take reservations?

(Of course, I welcome anything anyone has to say/recommend about any part of Citronelle...)

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