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vengroff

Michel Richard's Citronelle

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My husband and I dined at Citronelle on Saturday night. I made the reservation two months ago because we knew we'd be in D.C., so I had been looking forward to this night out for a long time.

Unfortunately, both my husband and I were disappointed with the meal and the service. We did very much enjoy our first course: I had the tuna napoleon and he had the foie gras. Both were excellent. We also loved the desserts (chocolate three-way, and pear and fig crumble).

For the main course, I ordered the lamb rare--but it arrived medium to well-done. My husband's venison was served rare but the chestnut risotto was bland. The thing that upset me the most was that our server did not quality check our table after our mains were served (ie: "Is everything to your liking?" - at which time I would have pointed out that my lamb was overdone). It seemed like we were completely ignored at this point--our wine and water glasses sat empty and we refilled it ourselves. We both left food on our plates. I think our server tried to rectify the situation by giving my husband a generous pour of sauternes during our dessert course, but the evening had already been very disappointing for us. Maybe it was just an off night for them. Even so, we visit Washington DC every year in October on business, but we won't be dining at Citronelle again. Sorry.

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Thinking of going when we are in DC in April, do you think KnifeSkills just encountered an off night? Any recent experiences?

My meal there was last spring, but it was sensational in every respect. Given what I know if your culinary interests I would expect that you would enjoy this restaurant very much. It is a great mix of traditional and creative. While it is possible that the restaurant has slipped in that time, I can't imagine that KnifeSkills experience wasn't more than an unfortunate aberration. Certainly if reports like that become more frequent I will begin to be concerned.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

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I've had stuff I wasn't blown away by at Citronelle -- it's possible that Richard gets about 10% too cute for his own good every now and again, especially on desserts -- but I've never had anything that wasn't impeccably prepared. The service has always been quite good. I think they must have had an off night.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I've only managed to eat there once - and in the down-scaled "cafe" portion (actually, it was summer, so we sat on the rather unappealing "terrace" (a.k.a. the sidewalk)). I had their Tuna Burger - exceptional, but pricey at $20 (they mysteriously ran out of the Lobster Burger... at 6.30pm? :hmmm: ) Oh, but it was a damn good tuna burger... I intend to actually "eat in" next time...

Ulterior Epicure.


Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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I've had stuff I wasn't blown away by at Citronelle -- it's possible that Richard gets about 10% too cute for his own good every now and again, especially on desserts -- but I've never had anything that wasn't impeccably prepared.  The service has always been quite good.  I think they must have had an off night.

"An off night" just doesn't happen. More likely, an off patron.

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I've had stuff I wasn't blown away by at Citronelle -- it's possible that Richard gets about 10% too cute for his own good every now and again, especially on desserts -- but I've never had anything that wasn't impeccably prepared.  The service has always been quite good.  I think they must have had an off night.

"An off night" just doesn't happen. More likely, an off patron.

Au contraire. Off nights do indeed just happen, as dinner service, like so much else in life, tends to accumulate momentum. Once the rhythm gets thrown off, it's hard to get it back -- though I'm certain that happens rarely at Citronelle, and that they recover quickly when it does. And there are personality clashes at restaurants, with patrons and restaurant staff misjudging or misunderstanding one another and exacerbating minor rough spots. All in all, I'm tempted to take knifeskills at her word -- or, at least, give her as much credibility as I grant other posters who've weighed in.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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"An off night" just doesn't happen. More likely, an off patron.

Au contraire. Off nights do indeed just happen, as dinner service, like so much else in life, tends to accumulate momentum. Once the rhythm gets thrown off, it's hard to get it back -- though I'm certain that happens rarely at Citronelle, and that they recover quickly when it does.

I'd bet even Mr. Slater would admit to their having an off night every now and then.

It happens to the best of us. Just less often.


Edited by bilrus (log)

Bill Russell

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Lobster Burger

Wait, hold on....the lobster burger is back?? :biggrin:

chef shogun.

sorry, not to get your hopes up, my one encounter (or near-encounter) with the lobster burger was a few years back...

u.e.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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"An off night" just doesn't happen. More likely, an off patron.

Both are possible, and the although the latter is usually more likely, chances are good that anyone that posts here knows better. Especially someone that would pick "knifeskills" as a moniker! You don't learn that term watching food network.

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And now for a crass question from the cheap seats...

Mrs. BigWyoming and I are moving back to God's Country at the end of the month and as such we're hitting the places we always meant to visit but never did. Citronelle is #1 on the list.

My question is if two people can reasonably get out of there for under $300. We don't want to shortchange ourselves with the experience, but with the move times are tight.

Any thoughts?


<img src= "http://forums.egullet.com/uploads/photo-14279.gif"><p>You haven't had foie gras until you've had it in Big Piney, Wyoming...

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And now for a crass question from the cheap seats...

Mrs. BigWyoming and I are moving back to God's Country at the end of the month and as such we're hitting the places we always meant to visit but never did.  Citronelle is #1 on the list. 

My question is if two people can reasonably get out of there for under $300.  We don't want to shortchange ourselves with the experience, but with the move times are tight. 

Any thoughts?

300 is the right number.


Mark

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sorry, not to get your hopes up, my one encounter (or near-encounter) with the lobster burger was a few years back...

u.e.

I knew you'd only hurt me in the end.... :raz:

Man, if there's one thing I love, it's that lobster burger.


Matt Robinson

Prep for dinner service, prep for life! A Blog

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sorry, not to get your hopes up, my one encounter (or near-encounter) with the lobster burger was a few years back...

u.e.

I knew you'd only hurt me in the end.... :raz:

Man, if there's one thing I love, it's that lobster burger.

sorry shogun...

but, look at it this way, you're luckier than i, as they "ran out" of those apparently popular babies before i could wrap my mouth around one... :sad:

u.e.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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My husband and I enjoyed a terrific meal at Citronelle for under $300 last summer. However, he does not drink, and since I was driving I only had a glass of champagne and a single glass of wine, and we don't drink things like coffee or bottled water. I think we spent about $250ish. It sounds like a lot of money, but it's not for the quality of food and service you're getting...I know enough about food to be truly blown away by many of the things we ate that night.

If that lobster burger ever comes back, you will probably find me standing outside the doors waiting for the restaurant to open with my breath steaming up the glass. And I don't get into the city that often.

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If that lobster burger ever comes back, you will probably find me standing outside the doors waiting for the restaurant to open with my breath steaming up the glass. And I don't get into the city that often.

As would I - except, I still feel a little "miffed" (ie. suspicious) that they ran out of their most popular item at 6.30pm??? We weren't exactly outfitted in the refined raiments that we noticed the man at the next table wearing - he who casually chomped on their supposed last lobster burger while perusing over the post. :hmmm:


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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If that lobster burger ever comes back, you will probably find me standing outside the doors waiting for the restaurant to open with my breath steaming up the glass. And I don't get into the city that often.

As would I - except, I still feel a little "miffed" (ie. suspicious) that they ran out of their most popular item at 6.30pm??? We weren't exactly outfitted in the refined raiments that we noticed the man at the next table wearing - he who casually chomped on their supposed last lobster burger while perusing over the post. :hmmm:

I doubt you were denied the burger based on what you were wearing that night.

Maybe the kitchen didn't have enough lobster for the burger and for service.


Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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yeah, i know, my "miff" isn't really warranted... i have no way of confirming that clothing/apparent stature dictates treatment (at least i hope not!!)... i guess i was just terribly disappointed about the situation... still, 6.30? oh well, i'll just have to go back again!! :raz:


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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yeah, i know, my "miff" isn't really warranted... i have no way of confirming that clothing/apparent stature dictates treatment (at least i hope not!!)... i guess i was just terribly disappointed about the situation...  still, 6.30?  oh well, i'll just have to go back again!!  :raz:

Than why not delete negative speculation that you have absoutely no proof for. DC's best resaturant deservers better than that.

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yeah, i know, my "miff" isn't really warranted... i have no way of confirming that clothing/apparent stature dictates treatment (at least i hope not!!)... i guess i was just terribly disappointed about the situation...  still, 6.30?  oh well, i'll just have to go back again!!   :raz:

Let's see if I can alleviate a little of the paranoia :wink: ...On a given night, the restaurant has x number of lobsters that has to last for dinner service. There's a run on lobster burgers at the bar, and more people than usual at the earlier seating order lobster. There is a chance that there will not be enough lobster to accomodate patrons with later dinner reservations. As the chef would you rather a.) tell the bar patrons that you're out of lobster burgers, or b.) tell the dinner patrons that you're out of lobster for one of the chef's special items? Easy decision. If you saw malawry's post describing her meal last summer one of the highlights at dinner was the "Begula Caviar" one of Chef Richard's whimsical creations featuring, you guessed it, butter poached lobster.


Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Let's see if I can alleviate a little of the paranoia   :wink: ...On a given night, the restaurant has x number of lobsters that has to last for dinner service.  There's a run on lobster burgers at the bar, and more people than usual at the earlier seating order lobster.  There is a chance that there will not be enough lobster to accomodate patrons with later dinner reservations.  As the chef would you rather a.) tell the bar patrons that you're out of lobster burgers, or b.) tell the dinner patrons that you're out of lobster for one of the chef's special items?  Easy decision.  If you saw malawry's post describing her meal last summer one of the highlights at dinner was the "Begula Caviar" one of Chef Richard's whimsical creations featuring, you guessed it, butter poached lobster.

if that's the case, then as a diner at the casual "bar" (or out on the "terrace" as in my case), i'd rather be told (b). Not only is this an honest statement, but also a perfectly understandable explanation. if the restaurant is so concerned that their earlier casual eaters might be disappointed with limited numbers of lobster burgers (especially as early as 6:30), then perhaps they should consider upping x (the number of lobsters ordered). if that's not possible, then an explanation like (b) would be perfectly acceptable to me as an admittedly "casual" diner. i think that if it is the fit the bill as "the best restaurant in d.c.," then that sort of restaurant owes the diner nothing short of an honest explanation. if our server was honest in saying that they had run out of lobster burgers, for whatever reason, then i stand corrected.

Than why not delete negative speculation that you have absoutely no proof for.  DC's best resaturant deservers better than that.

i think that my observations were clearly marked as merely speculative:

yeah, i know, my "miff" isn't really warranted... i have no way of confirming that clothing/apparent stature dictates treatment (at least i hope not!!)... i guess i was just terribly disappointed about the situation...  still, 6.30?  oh well, i'll just have to go back again!!   :raz:

having clarified the situation and my personal misgivings, i don't think that i've done a terrible disservice to the restaurant, nor to the egullters who might wander across this thread. after all, as noted, despite my disappointment, it has not only not deterred me from returning - but actually has given me an extra incentive to do so!

[edited for spelling errors]


Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Read my post again. You misunderstood what I was saying. :rolleyes: In those circumstances, why would telling the bar patrons that they are out of the lobster burger not be an honest answer?


Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Read my post again.  You misunderstood what I was saying.  :rolleyes:  In those circumstances, why would telling the bar patrons that they are out of the lobster burger not be an honest answer?

you're right, it's honest. i desist. :wink:

u.e.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Before I hit 40, had two kids and married a nice Catholic Girl (not necessarily in that order) I committed many an un-abstentious act during the forty days between Shrove Tuesday and Easter Sunday (ironic but meaningless aside: the French word for Lent, “carême” is the same as the last name of one of France’s greatest chefs, Marie-Antoine Carême, an individual surely not known for the austerity of his cuisine). But, in retrospect, the indulgence most likely to land me in Hell if I talk to St. Peter before I have an opportunity to repent is the dinner I ate at Michel Richard’s Citronelle last week. This was my third visit in recent years and the restaurant -- already spectacular, just seems to keep getting better.

A bit of context. Because I live well or because I was kind in a past life or because I just get stupid lucky sometime, I was taken to dinner at four of DC’s best restaurants last week, giving me a chance to compare what Michel – with the able assistance of Sous Chef Cedric Maupillier -- is doing, to the work of some extremely talented chefs in some very good dining rooms. And the context is this: Richard is virtually in a league of his own. The chasm between his four stars and the three – or three-and-a-half -- starholders in town is vast and obvious. He’s just playing in a different league than a lot of people who can more than hold their own on the regional and the national stage.

I don’t want to go through a blow-by-blow of the whole meal; there were four of us, we all shared, and 12 or 16 adjective-packed paragraphs gets a little boring about half-way through.

But some highlights:

A second amuse including a puree of haricot verts tossed with herbs and flying fish roe and served in an eggshell. Green beans and fish eggs not being a combination that comes naturally to me, I was surprised when I found myself begging, to no avail, that my dining companions share with me.

The Mosaic Surf and Turf, which is set before you like a pane of backlit stained glass, as though Tiffany were in the carpaccio business; two dozen translucent rounds of impossibly colored eel and beef and scallop and whatever, as subtle on the palate as they were brilliant to the eye. Best presentation ever.

Lobster “Begula (sic) Pasta,” a caviar tin bearing butter-poached lobster hidden beneath a classic Richard trompe de l’oile, “caviar” made from Israeli cous-cous colored with squid ink. It goes without saying that the lobster was delicious; what pushed it over the top was the textural interplay between the lobster and the caviar. As one companion said: “It was the best thing I ever put in my mouth.” Read into that what you will.

The Scallop with cauliflower cous-cous and egg porcupine. Poached eggs, or in this case, sous-vide eggs, are the new black, it seems. I hardly call it an appetizer anymore unless I have egg yolk running over my tripe/frisee and mushrooms/scallops. This one was more exciting, though, dipped as it had been in fibers of phylo-like pastry and deep fried, giving it a surprising crunch and the appearance of a particularly excited baby hedgehog.

After a brief interlude, marked by Flintstone-sized shrimp, we dug into the entrees.

Sablefish (aka Black Cod) arrived crisp and creamy, melting away in a pool of sauce just assertive enough to underscore the fish’s own meaty, if delicate, taste.

There were shrimp the size of a baby’s arm, with a sauce that almost seemed like barbecue, backed with absurdly compelling onion “carbonara:” long strips of onion imitating your favorite pasta dish.

And the lamb. Just a perfect serving of perfectly cooked lamb, with sunchoke edamame and a little cinnamon beet sauce – yet another demonstration that Richard’s kitchen, rather than relying on bells and whistles, on visual puns and surrealist whims, uses those things to support nuts and bolts and bolts cooking that is virtually perfect.

For dessert, the standouts were the Coco Puffs (yes, Coco Puffs) rolled in more chocolate and serve in a bowl with bergamot ice cream and mint-infused milk, and a meringue mushroom that was almost as magic as the other kind.

It’s not just that Richard’s kitchen puts out extraordinary food. It’s that it has a sense of fun about itself, and ability to combine humor and creativity in ways that enhance, rather than obscure the exceptional quality of the ingredients and skills of the brigade. As the Cat in the Hat said: “it’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how.” Citronelle does, and so do I: eat at Citronelle.

It would be rude and wrong not to acknowledge Sommelier Mark Slater, aka “Mark Sommelier,” into whose hands we put ourselves completely and who responded with the best night of wine-drinking this poor boy has ever had – and who enthusiasm for both the food and the wine is infectious.

My wine descriptions are utterly suspect, but here goes:

Mark started us with a Champagne Veuve Fourny Cuvée R, a blend of three harvests by a very small house in Champagne. Tasted to me like a vintage with a couple of years on it: nutty, a restrained mousse, distinctive, delicious.

Savennieres Clos de la Coulée de Serrantes, Domaine Nicholas Joly 2002 : A Loire wine that combines a floral nose and an almost viscous quality with a little of that good Loire acid. Goes with anything, but especially our apps. Delicious.

Latricieres-Chambertin Grand Cru, Domaine Rossignol-Trapet 2001 : Just a great red Burgundy, an increasingly rare commodity in my life. Try it with the lamb (though delicate enough not to overwhelm the sablefish).

Condrieu Domaine du Chene 2003: We got this by accident. My wife asked for a glass of Condrieu and but when Mark brought the bottle over to see if it was acceptable (as if), we all decided we wanted some (this is why the dessert notes are less detailed) and it was, to my mind, the hit of the evening. Floral enough to be a dessert wine but not even really off-dry, just unctuous and heavenly. The perfect finish to a spectacular meal.

Thanks to Mark, Cedric and Michel.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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