Finally went to Citronelle... lounge, for wife's 47th Bday. Our under $50 p/p dinner.
So, I posted here the other day for suggestions on where to take my wife for her 47th bday with 2 friends, on a Sunday at 630pm for under $50 p/p. Some of you said to try Citronelle Lounge so we did.
I got there and noticed that parking was $10, so I thought I'd take a stab at finding a spot in Georgetown. I did find one, on K St, about a mile away! It was a long walk back to the restaurant to meet up with my wife who I dropped off earlier. I arrived to find her already seated in the lounge, having drinks with our friends who arrived early too.
For some reason, I didn't expect it to look like a restaurant bar lounge, but it did. I was distinctly unimpressed. I mean, it was restaurant bar lounge, so I'm not sure why it through me, but the table looked too tiny for the large armless chairs, and it had zero romantic atmosphere. I saw down, hoping they were thinking what I was thinking, so I asked them "So, maybe we could have a drink here and then head over to a more romantic restaurant in Georgetown, maybe Bistro Francais?" I had just passed it on the way to Citronelle and it looked like it was happening, the food smelled great, and I had eaten there many times before with little disappointment.
They said that they wanted to eat there so we did. We stayed, looked at the Citronelle menu and ordered the Mushroom cigars (per your suggestion) and the Tuna Napolean Nicoise to start and split 4 ways. I would have been happy just eating that incredible bread they served with the food. Even the butter tasted good.
The Mushroom cigars were interesting, a great novelty and fairly tasty, but nothing to scream with excitement about, other than their amazing visual appeal. The Tuna Napolean was 99% eaten by our friends and they seemed to really enjoy it. It was worthy of a picture. The tiny "egg" on the side was a great source of conversation. Of course it wasn't an egg but it sure looked like an egg. As you know it was mozzarella cheese and a tiny yellow tomato.
Next we got the Lobster Burger for my wife and I got the Tuna Burger, both with a scrumptious little salad with chopped tomatoes. Every bite of my heavily sauced Tuna Burger was delicious. We both seemed to like it better than the $28 Lobster Burger, though it was good as well.
Our friends also had a Lobster Burger and the Fried Chicken with dijon dip. It was a very large appetizer, the chicken, enough for a meal. He loved it.
Our waiter had a very thick accent but he was professional and attentive, despite the fact that we were basically eating in ... a bar. He explained all the ingredients of the dishes and really understood the menu. When it time for dessert, no one jumped on it right away. My wife was stuffed and I had to coax her to just say "yes" to the Chocolate Three Ways. We ended up all splitting this one dessert. When it came out, we were in awe of it. The shape of the 3 desserts in one was outstanding. It was a work of art, almost too pretty to eat. It deserved a picture and possibly and ode could have been written about it. Every bite was thrilling and made us all smile. After we each took our approximate 1/4 of each piece there was still a small amount left for my birthday girl to savor.
Was it worth $94 per couple? Not so sure. Was I glad we finally tried at least "part" of Citronelle? Yes. After we left, and my wife asked me how much it was, she mentioned that we could have gone to a place like Ruth Chris for the same amount of money. We usually split a steak there, a large salad, a side dish and a dessert. She intimated that maybe that would have been a better value for the money. We both agreed after talking about it for a couple of minutes that it was worth the money, and we were glad we got to try some of Richard's cooking. He was actually in Seattle for a book signing today, but you get the idea.
On to the next restaurant. We're trying Indique Heights for the first time this Saturday night, I'll be trying Oya for the first time with a group of friends this thursday night, and Zengo for the 2nd time Nov 14th.
You went there on my suggestion, since I am crazy about the lounge at Cironelle as a place where you can casually eat exceedingly well prepared food and not have to go through the rigamarole of reservations, time commitment, plus you can order just an appetizer and that's fine too.
However, if you have to question if it's comparable to Ruths Chris, then I guess we won't be bumping into each other at Citronelle too often!
My dear Daddy raised me with a great piece of advice which he repeated often: "Take care of the little money, Honey, and the big money will take care of itself!"
Instead of going to four restaurants in two weeks, you might have done better spending your money enjoying the dining room at Citronelle.
My daughters and son-in-law took me to Citronelle Friday night as a birthday gift and it was wonderful. I would have been disappointed at the crowded bar too, but the dining room was spacious and elegant. We had a table overlooking the spectacular kitchen.
I'm cynical enough that I almost expect to be let down by restaurants that receive so much hype but Citronelle did not disappoint. The food was absolutely everything that I had heard - perfectly prepared, wonderfully flavored, beautifully presented, showing the personality of Michel Richard and his sense of humor and zest for life.
The service was impeccable without being overbearing and it was never pretentious. The sommelier was more like a godfather to the room, circulating constantly to make certain that all were enjoying their meals.
There was a family at a table near us with two young sons, the younger about 12 years old. The staff doted on him like a favored child and he just beamed. They seemed to be telling him little things about what must have been unusual food for even the most sophisticated child.
Everyone in the room received the same careful attention. What a pleasure to see that level of service.
We didn't have the full tasting menu. (I'm not a fan of tasting menus.) Each of us somehow ended up with different things for each course and we did share samples. Everything was wonderful! My entree was the "rabbit tasting" - rabbit prepared four different ways and I can't choose my favorite!
As it was a gift, I didn't get a good look at the check but I did sneak a quick peek - about $500. For four with a bottle of good wine, 2 additional by-the-glass wines, after dinner coffee and espresso plus a copy of Happy in the Kitchen, Richard's book, which was a little extra birthday gift from them to me.
For that meal, a bargain! We were served exquisite food in beautiful surroundings by an exceptionally well-trained staff.
The evening was a pleasure. We lingered over dinner for hours - and only left to go catch the last innings of the World Series to see my son-in-law's beloved Cards win the World Series. How good can it get?
So, following Daddy's advice, I'll eat some cheese sandwiches, save my money and go back to Citronelle.
Wow, what a write up. Now I really want to go back to experience the full deal. I thought it was $155 p/p plus tax and tip. I guess you can do cheaper tasting menus like the $95 one... I just scrolled down and found that one on their website. Maybe next year for MY birthday! By the way, the reason we're going out 4 times in the month is because Oya is my Guy's Night Out meal. Once a month a group of us guys pick a new place to try and one of the gents picked this place. The other night is a dinner with friends and since I liked Zengo so much last month at our Guy's Night Out, she wanted to try it now too. I actually really liked this place...
The other places are with family to Indique Heights and one other place with other folks I can't remember right now.
Please do yourself a favor and scratch Oya off your list. While the decor is stunning, the dinner we had their with friends was not worth one half the cost. Several of the dishes were so salty we went them back. One of the four entrees was note-worthy, the rest not worth the price of admission. Rather I would sacrifice the decor and dine at Corderoy. in a heartbeat.
Also must agree on Citronelle with other replies. One of our top five meals of our 37 years of marriage was there. And comparing it to Ruth's Chris seems like apples and oranges to me, but that is what makes a horse race. I guess.
I second Maryland Crab's advice on Corduroy. Nothing spectacular about the decor but hardly anything to complain about. Very comfortable and lovely. The food there is wonderful.
Both Citronelle and Corduroy break the old "Don't eat in hotel restaurants" rule.
Stop spending money on so-so meals in trendy hotspots! There are fabulous restaurants in town that are consistently under-rated. Corduroy is one of them!
Save your money and go back to Citronelle for the dining room - not the lounge!
Most restaurants having lounge or bar areas will serve off their regular menus but that's different than from the dining experience. Steve was looking for a nice birthday dinner for his wife.
Instead, they ended up in what is clearly a lounge area. They saw beautiful appetizers that frankly aren't designed for sharing. Their entrees were very upscale "bar food" instead of the fabulous offerings in the main dining room and the dessert was just enough for tiny tastes all around. They missed the amuses bouches, intermezzos, and after dinner sweets of the regular service.
The experince of dining - ambience, service, companions, music, timing of service, spacing of tables, furniture, lighting, etc. - make a difference.
It isn't enough to just go around town finding a way to eat the latest trendy offering and then say you have experienced what a chef has to offer. Michel Richard could just open a carry-out if that were the case.
Again, just for the sake of accuracy, I'd like to point out that the cigar mushrooms (which are served in the main restaurant) ARE DEFINITELY designed to be shared and would be too much for one person to eat if you're going to order something else.
Also, I recommend getting the vegetable pearl pasta, which can easily be shared and is served downstairs as well.
Although the OP chose main courses that are indeed unique to the lounge, there are three or four main courses from the downstairs restaurant that appear on the lounge menu as well. The dessert menu is mostly the same.
If you "would have been happy just eating that incredible bread" you can but it at Bread Line which is where Citronelle buys it.
I join the chorus that say if you want to enjoy Citronelle, eat in the dining room. Better to eat once at Citronelle than twice at lesser restaurants, e.g., Oya, Zengo. Better to eat at Cityzen once than at both Poste and Corduroy. Etc.
As far as "Don't eat in hotel restaurants," the rule referred to lesser stars. Often now only hotels can absorb the the costs of a high-end restaurant. Witness Citronelle, Cityzen, Maestro--three of the best in DC.
re: Dakota Guy
Darn, Dakota Guy! The No Hotel Restaurant Rule is gone. All 4 of Sietsema's 4-Stars are in hotels or (in the case of The Inn at LW) with a hotel.
And now that I think of it, I've eaten at some other really great restaurants in the past couple of years that just happened to be in hotels even if they weren't owned by the hotel. From LA to Miami to NYC to NOLA and lots of places in between.
Thanks for adding the Inn. I wasn't sure if I should include it. I hear rumors that Eric Ripert (of New York's Le Bernardin) may be opening a restaurant in Georgetown's Four Seasons. Le Bernardin is one of my world favorites. Of course you have to like seafood. I heard that the new place will feature organic food (a la Nora Pouillon) rather than specialize in seafood.
Curiously, the hotel phenomenon is less pronounced in New York. Alain Ducasse in the Essex House and the new Joel Robuchon place in the Four Seasons are the only NY hotel restaurants worth eating dinner in.
Whats in an atmosphere? after the first ten minutes of sitting at the table of a top restaurant, the minute the first drink hits the table most diners forget all about the world around them and the focus is about good food. Good looking food?.....no ...Good tasting food. I think restaurants and their patrons sacrifice food quality for theme too often. I was one of the guys that was @ Zengo with Steve a few weeks back. Amazing atmosphere - so so food. Everyone I was with raved about the damned place so much i think i was brain washed into believing i had some incredible dish in front of me. NOT! I'm not saying I had a bad meal, but quite frankly no 4 or 5 star has ever compared with some of the smaller, heartland family restaurants i've eaten in. One member of our party was served their entree nearly 20 minutes after the rest of us. When I finally got up and said something to the floor manager - she scoffed "we never serve every thing at the same time here at Zengo, you are supposed to share with the others at your table". Bullshit, ...I'm not buying that. Despite the fact that we had indeed been sharing with the poor chap who would otherwise have been chewing ice cubes, the feeling i got was that i should consider myself privelaged to be in such a place and that next time I'd better check my po'dunk suburb etiquette at the DC line. If i want to visit another dimension....I'll go to Epcot!
Actually, I think there is a lot in atmosphere, but only when combined with quality food and quality service. [Thanks for the tip about Zengo, I just crossed it off my to-do list.]
There are places with great food and no atmosphere, e.g., oohh's and aahh's. There are places with great atmosphere and poor food, e.g., Mie-n-you. Thank God, there are places that have both AND have friendly, attentive staff. This is what places Citronelle, Cityzen, Komi, Restaurant Eve, etc., at the top. Their attitude is that it is a privilege to have you as a guest, not that you are privileged to sit in their restuarant.