Monday, February 5, 2007

Central Michel Richard -- Not the Center of the Dining World, But A Welcome Addition to DC

Bobby: We decamped from Giada's DC office to Michel Richard's latest venture at the corner of 10th and Pennsylvania. Both of us are fans of Richard's Citronelle, so we entered the restaurant with high hopes. For the most part, we were not disappointed.

Giada: Bobby had particularly high hopes, since this would combine his love of burgers, fries, ice cream, etc. with his love of high-end cooking.

Bobby: When we arrived at the restaurant, there was some mix up about the reservation time. We had booked for 8; they had us down for 9:30. After a few minutes of back and forth, they gave us a table in the front of the restaurant.

Giada: While I was happy that the restaurant managed to seat us (it was a pretty busy night), I definitely felt like they thought the mistake was on our end, even though Bobby had said that Central had called that morning to confirm.

Bobby: The table was less than ideal in a couple of ways. First, it was miles away from the beautiful open kitchen in the back of the restaurant.

Giada: The kitchen is amazing. It sort of seems to glow in all its stainless steel splendor. It's too bad it's not located where all patrons can enjoy the view.

Bobby: Second, the table leaned back and forth, which was annoying. And Giada is not a big fan of annoyances like that. From lizards on the floor of restaurants in Aruba, to nighttime drug exchanges in local parks, to creaking tables, if there is something amiss, Giada is going to be focused on it.

Giada: Seriously? The table wasn't just tippy, it was literally rocking back and forth to the point where I thought we were going to spill our drinks every time I leaned on it. I would have done the trick of placing a napkin underneath the shorter leg, but my folded napkin would have been about 6 inches shy of solving the problem.

Bobby: However, despite the above problems, the experience at Central was, on the whole, a pleasant one.


Bobby: I'd describe the decor of the restaurant as sleek, modern, and classy in a casual sort of way. Which is how I'd also describe myself. So needless to say I liked the decor. I'd give the layout of the restaurant a few demerits because the tables were a little crowded and many of them don't have a view of the open kitchen, which is the focal point of the restaurant.

Giada: I really liked the decor, and agree with Bobby on all points. Also, the bathroom was nicely done as well in a bright shade of pink, although they need some sort of cupboard in which to put the extra rolls of tiolet paper. Those weren't the most attractice accessory.

Bobby's Decor Rating: 8 out of 10
Giada's Decora Rating: 8.5 out of 10


Bobby: Bobby is a simple American fellow. He enjoys hamburgers, ice cream, and cheesy things, so the food at Central suited Bobby quite well. Bobby also a little pompous, thus the use of the third person.

Giada: Bobby's also going to ruin our fledgling blog if he doesn't cut the act.

Bobby: Anyway, I started off with the cheese puffs for the appetizer. They come in a cool little cup and they're delicious. No need to order anything else.

Giada: The cheese puffs were very tasty (sort of like puffy Cheez-Its). The cup, while cool, didn't do much to keep the puffs warm though, and its a generous serving that will remain on the table for more than a couple minutes. I had the proscuitto, which was easily the best I've ever had. It was served atop a small cutting board, each thin slice was perfectly pink, and a small amount of olive oil was drizzled on top to complete the minimalist presentation.

Bobby: For the main course, I did the hamburger. It was very good. Was it the best hamburger that I'd ever had? No. That honor belongs to Houston-based chain of Beck's Prime and Maui's Bubba's Burgers. But for an upmarket burger, it was very tasty. Highly recommended.

Giada: According to Bobby, all of the "best" food is in Texas. Like any good Yankee, I remain skeptical.

Giada: I went with the lobster burger. I expected something like a crabcake sandwich, but with lobster. I got something that was more like a lobster roll, but served on a hamburger roll. By that I mean that the burger is almost pure lobster. It's not lobster and other seafood and breadcrumbs. It's LOBSTER. So, yeah, I can't complain. I mean, even for $18 I can't complain.

Bobby: For dessert, I had the banana split. The reason to get the banana split is the strawberry ice cream. I'm somewhat of a strawberry ice cream aficionado, and people, this was the best strawberry ice cream I've ever had.

Giada: You mean the best strawberry ice cream ISN'T in Texas? I don't think they're going to let you back in the state.

Bobby: The rest of the split was also good. But the strawberry ice cream would, contra Prince, make doves sing.

Giada: I am not a huge fan of strawberry ice cream and people? This stuff was good. It was honestly like eating a frozen creamy strawberry, sweetened just enough. Also, I feel like Bobby is giving the rest of the split the short shrift, as it was also very good. The ice cream is served in separate sections of the dish, which are also separate from the large section holding the bananas, sauces, and whip cream. So you scoop up a little ice cream, then scoop up your bananas and sauce separately. And it's all pure and fresh and simple and lovely.

Giada: Now that I'm done doing Bobby's job, I can tell you about my own dessert, which was the Richard's famous Kit Kat bar. It's layers of chocolate and thin crisps, and it is very delicious, but if I went back, I'd probably go for the ice cream. First, because the ice cream is just that good. But second, because after a meal of burgers and fries, ice cream just works.

Bobby's Food Rating: 8 out of 10
Giada's Food Rating: 8.5 out of 10


Bobby: This is the part of the Central experience that could be drastically improved. Service was a little slow and the waiter seemed to forget about us a couple of times. Plus, there was the reservation snafu. But the restaurant opened recently, so hopefully it will become more seamless as time goes on.

Giada: Agreed. The waiter seemed a little new to the biz. But he was nice.

Bobby's Service Rating: 6 out 10
Giada's Service Rating: 7 out of 10

Dining Companions

Bobby: Because the tables are so close at many restaurants, the people next to you can make a big difference in the overall experience. So I am starting a new segment of the review: Dining Companions.

Giada: Ahem? You didn't even ask me. [Walks away sulking]

Bobby: Guess I'm fielding this one solo. Anyway, to our right, there was a couple of the May-September variety (he wasn't old enough for December). It was apparently their first date. He was trying hard to impress her, but he mostly came across a little awkward. Giada, being a very juvenile type of girl, told me that I should say to her, but very loudly so that the couple would overhear it, "I think that girl is a prostitute." The reason for doing this would be to see the gentleman's reaction. I didn't end up doing it, as I'm too old and boring. But it does raise the good question of how one should respond to such an obvious insult. I told Giada there is really no response but to request the action move outdoors. Perhaps others have a different view. Anyway, the couple was a little annoying, but not too bad. Definitely not as bad as "large party" girl and "I wear all black" guy at Cashion's.

Bobby's Dining Companions Rating: 5 out of 10
Giada's Dining Companions Rating: None [she's still sulking]


Bobby: Overall, I think that Central is an excellent addition to the DC dining landscape. I'd definitely go back. Giada?

Giada: Fine. I'm back. ... I enjoyed it as well. The food was outstanding, prices were "reasonable" for this sort of place, decor is fun, and service is decent.

Bobby's Overall Rating: 8.0 out of 10
Giada's Overall Rating: 8.5 our of 10

Website for Central (not much to look at as of the date of this posting)

1001 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004

No comments: