Since I just discovered this board and have posted a question I thought it only fair to post a recommendation, too. In recent months I have had the pleasure of dining several times at Gerard's Place on 15th St NW. The first time, to be fair, was only, well, fair. However, the second time (at lunch) was excellent, prompting me to try them again for dinner (on my birthday, no less). That time I had the chef's tasting menu, which was absolutely superb. It was a challenging menu for a wine selection, containing everything from seafood to poultry to game, but the waiter's recommendation--far from among the most expensive wines on the menu, no less, was perfect, and suited all the courses very well indeed. Granted, this is not the cheapest place in DC, but it is also far from the most expensive and I think an excellent value.
I personally think Pangaud is the best french chef in the city. I appreciate Gerard's cooking much more than say Kinkade, Buben, Gray, etc., (who I understand are not french chefs) and even Richard and Weidmaier (who debateably are.) I would have said best chef period, but I still think that belongs to Donna for all he does in both sourcing and even creating the best possible ingredients (eg., making his own prosciutto.)
I guess if I knew more about the restaurant business I would understand Gerard's Place better. The food is often stellar, well reviewed, yet still largely ignored, or maybe "left out" is a better term. I'm surprised that he remains satisfied with such a less-than dramatic restaurant. The interior, besides from being small, is not decorated as a place where I want to enjoy big occassions. Does he recognize that his style has limited appeal and therefore limits his overhead?
And the inconsistency you point out has been eched by many. Is he not in the kitchen every night?
I like to go with my wife. But it's an expensive let-down if you take a group and they are not there simply to appreciate the food or if you experience a poorly executed dish.
Part of a restaurant experience is the ambience as well as the service and the style. For this reason Kinkead's, for ambience is terrible. The service is excellent as is the food. But insistence on two seatings with little flexibility and a rather "banal" dining room/s do not create an experience that is world class. But the food, often, really is.
I have not been to Gerard's Place. But part of the reason that I have not is that it does not have the image of a truly special place, one to go to celebrate an anniversary, a large sale, a birthday. Below I posted a note on L'Auberge Chez Francois where some of the food is superb but, overall, is really just very, very good. What puts this D. C. tradition over the top is its ambience and style which Kinkead's does not have and, apparently, Gerard's Place does not have either. Obelisk, where my wife and I have gone to celebrate four anniversaries in a row, is not an "over the top kind of restaurant like, say, the Prime Rib. But I believe it has the best food in Washington. (This includes Little Washington also.) If its chef/owner ever opened a restaurant with, say, the style of L'Auberge this would become one of America's best restaurants.
The ideal is when a great chef finally realizes a stage appropriate to his talent. Unfortuantely this does not happen very often. But when it does it is truly memorable.