Visited my daughter in college in D.C. Went to Citronelle last Friday night. We were looking forward to a fantastic dinner. (Poor kid is sick of burritos and pizza.) Appetizers and desserts were excellent. We both thought our main courses were disappointing.
She started with a cheese souffle nestled in mushroom soup. The soup was perfectly flavored, this was our favorite dish of the night. I started with lobster pasta, which one week later I remember liking (but not as much as her soup.) Mains, she ordered the chateaubriand with syrah sauce. I thought the beef lacked flavor and wasn't a great piece of meat. The sauce was fine, but nothing spectacular. I had the monkfish with roasted spinach and oyster ravioli. It was a lovely piece of fish, but the coating was too salty for my tastes. I told the waitress who offered to exchange it, but I scraped off some of the salt and ate it. (It was late, we were tired and hungry.) The desserts were excellent, raspberry vacherin and chocolate flakes with minted milk and ice cream, yum. The waitress brought us a plethora of additional sweets to taste, more than we had room for.
Service was excellent, not sure I'd go back for the food.
I concur. I had a similar experience recently. I also found the Monkfish lacking in addition to the pasta.
The desserts are definitely the main attraction there, but otherwise, I don't see the allure.
I hae never had a disappointing meal at Citronelle. The last time we were there I found the lobster "Begula Pasta" to be superb. What a fanciful and amusing appetizer. The Mosaic "surf and turf" carpachio was also a major hit with everyone at the table.
I've never tried the monkfish, being more of a carnivore than that, but my wife had the Sablefish with a leek brandade and potato gratin. It was absolutely fantastic. It was so rich and flavorful that you had to put down your fork after every bite to savor it. It literally melted in your mouth with a burst of flavor that was almost orgasmic. My Colorado rack of lamb with soft polenta, sunchoke endamame, and garlic herb sauce was perfectly cooked medium rare, and the bone literally slid out of the meat. Couldn't have asked for better.
I agree that the desserts are fantastic, but the overall experience, from the great service, the fantastic wine list, and the great food make Citronelle one of our favorite restaruants in DC.
I'll join with Dinwiddie on this discussion. I have never had the sable fish, other than that, I [or my girl friend] have had most of the dishes. Last time I ate there was about two weeks ago and we had the tasting menu [again]. While not all dishes rise to the level of extraordinary, never have I had a disappointing dish. From amuse bouche to petit fours, we have enjoyed all we have been served and have never had an issue with seasoning or with the quality of the ingredients. I am truly sorry that Sandra W was disppointed.
My only complaint is that never, despite my many visits, have I ever seen Michel Richard in the kitchen. That is not true for any other significant restaurant. Robert Donna came out and spoke with me at the bar at Bebo Tratorria last Friday; I saw Eric Ziebold in the kitchen at Cityzen last Wednesday, etc. Citronelle is a great restaurant; Chef Richard should stop by!
There's nothing like foodie disappointment! But I have to say that except for a lamb entree prepared using the sous-vide technique, I've had consistently great meals at Citronelle, through and through -- clever and whimsical, outstanding in flavor and presentation, terrific service.
Plus, for less ambience but great food and a (relatively) smaller check, grab a bite at the Citronelle bar/lounge. My personal favorites are the unique goat cheese Caeser salad, top-quality smoked salmon served with brioche, and the outstanding tuna burger (better taste and value than the lobster burger if you have the choice).
I agree with Night Owl. The bar food is great.
Also, Michel Richard was classically trained as a Pastry chef... He might show up in the mornings only. Maybe that's why the desserts are so darn good.