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citronelle = big disappointment

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citronelle = big disappointment

b l g | Jun 16, 2004 02:56 PM

after several years of living in dc and hearing of citronelle's preeminent reputation, my wife and i decided to try it for her birthday. our dinner certainly had its high points (i.e. the wagyu beef tenderloin). but overall it confirmed my long-held belief that any dc residents looking to splurge on a fine meal (check was $450 for two) should hold off until the next time they find themselves in new york or san francisco.

richard is totally taken with clever, whimsical, even post-modern, presentations of traditional dishes. but he's veered far into whimsy for whimsy's sake. note: i am not opposed to this approach on principle and in fact have had my favorite meals at the hands of similarly inspired chefs (alain ducasse in nyc, michelle bras in france). but when this derring-do falls flat, as in richard's case, boy does it fall flat.

the amuse bouche was a parfait of various goops, covered with rice krispies. not only was it nearly impossible to mix as directed, but the overall effect was totally uninteresting. (in fact, just a week later i have no taste memory of the ingredients, even though i can tell you nearly all of the courses i had at ducasse and bras, which were 4 and 1 year(s) ago respectively).

then came the fois gras three ways, which means drinking lentil and foie gras soup through a straw, eating foie gras mousse over frisee, and spreading cold pate encrusted with, again, lentils, on a full-grained bread. the soup just tasted salty and overwhelming, the mousse had little taste at all (and was overwhelmed by the rather bitter frisee) and the cold pate was, again, overwhelmed by the awful lentils (plus being repetitive of the "first" way). not one of the "ways" improved in any respect on a simple sautee of the bloc foie gras. my wife had the irish coffee, which is a mushroom preparation in, again, a glass with straw. as above, the soupy preparation just seemed salty and heavily flavored--but far from interesting or original. and it came with pieces of grilled cheese (and mushroom) sandwich, which, though warm, seemed like it had been under a hot lamp for too long.

main dishes were, for me, a saddle of lamb encrusted with something green and rather unpleasant, and with a garlicky ribbon of orange goo on top and little orange wafers (making a sort of spine). it was superbly prepared (red-pink, but firm, throughout)--but all the green and orange stuff got really unpleasant after teh first few bites. my wife got the wagyu beef tenderloin. it was, again, prepared impeccably and, thankfully, simply served with a traditional brown sauce and mushrooms. delicious.

cheese course was not a cart from which we could choose, but rather a set menu of four cheeses. a pretty big omission in a resturant of that caliber (and price). and the cheeses selected (goat, bleu-like, softish-parmesan or something like it, and a fourth i forget) were lacklustre and the order they were presented was also weird (the waiter suggested eating the mild goat AFTER the incredibly strong moldy cheese).

desserts were pretty, but not really remarkable. napoleon for the lady, creme caramel cheesecake for me (ended up being a scoop of caramel ice cream in a little dish set about two feet on the opposite side of a long plate from a little dish of cheesecake). nice dessert wine for me and port for her, tho.

the petits fours were pretty tasteless (except a really tart apricot something or other). the wafer mocked up to look like salami was a nice effect, but it also looked too plastic and tasted like plastic as well. like a promising joke with a lousy punchline.

and then a $450 check. ouch!

again, i really want to emphasize that i actually like innovative food; just not this innovative food. the service was impeccable; the wine was superb and the sommelier gracious; but the food was OK. i enjoyed the meal, but it hardly felt like money well spent, and i could probably have been just as happy at a reasonably-priced mid-market place in town.

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