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Central Review: Fancy Cheesecake Factory for People with Food Pretensions

Finally went to Central to see what all the buzz was about. Turned out to be about nothing at all. First the dining room-not particularly warm, inviting or interesting. The noise level is so great that it makes conversation almost impossible. Next the service not bad but indifferent. Finally and most importantly the food-very average. Crab app-way too salty, steak tartare-very odd sort of sweet, mixed salad-mixed baby greens with salty dressing and nothing else. Entrees-Hanger Steak ok but way better at Montmartre, Lobster Burger nothing special and for $29 it should wow, Hamburger good but Palena does it better and cheaper. If you like Cheesecake Factory proportions and want to eat at a place that has the name of a fancy chef, this is the place for you.

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  1. Huh - I have been there a few times and dined only in the bar area. The food was great, the service attentive and I think the setting is calming. Chaque a son gout.

    1. Not saying it was the Cheesecake Factory but it had those kind of portions. Food was ok just nothing special. In my humble opinion this place is getting undeserved raves. You can get alot bistro food in DC for much better prices.

      1. i agree that the lobster burger was pedestrian given the price. way tooo much scallop puree as a binder. fake foie gras was verrrry salty. tuna carpaccio was god. nice clean flavor w/ textural contrast from the small dice of cucumbers. over all, solid but not the hype buzzing meal.....

        1. I wouldn't put it down to the level of Cheesecake Factory, a place I despise...but I too fail to see what all the fuss is about. They could charge 22 bucks for a Ruby Tuesday's bison burger here on a slightly fancier bun and everyone would be raving about the genius of it.

          1. I would disagree on many counts (and agree on some). I had lunch there last week, in a full dining room, and found the noise level to be neglible; it certainly did not interfere with our conversation. The mussel chowder was delicious and a great start to the meal. I thought we would have been served gougeres, but were not (did I confuse Central with somewhere else?). Of the mains, the tuna burger was great, and the lobster burger was better than expected (I had heard it was over-spiced) but not worth $29.

            We had the sides of Macaroni and Cheese (a recipe I would love to replicate), Fries (excellent), and Green Beans (with carmelized onions, nothing special).

            Finally, a Kit Kat dessert, which was a great way to finish.

            The most negative aspect of the meal was the service; while the wait staff were very pleasant, the meal lasted almost 2 hours, which is way too long for lunch. The time it took to order and receive our first order was painful. My only complaint, but a significant one.

            I would certainly recommend Central based on my first experience there.

            6 Replies
            1. re: ooroger

              The gougeres have to be ordered and paid for. You may be confusing them with the popovers at BLT steak, which I think come to the table as the bread service (though I haven't been).

              1. re: Steve

                I could swear I heard they were gratis when the place first opened. Maybe that's were the impression comes from. Can anyone elaborate?

                1. re: monavano

                  They are not gratis, they are like 5-6 bucks and you get more than enough for 3 people- we got two baskets for a table of 6 and there were still a few left over at the end of the meal.

                  1. re: jpschust

                    But, were they initially gratis?

                    1. re: monavano

                      I think for the first week or two, yes.

              2. re: ooroger

                And the last time I was there for lunch they told us that they didn't offer the gougeres at lunch.

              3. We ate at Central on Friday night (6/1/07) and unlike "afrench" I'd say the dining room was warm - to the tune of 85 degrees or so! Everyone at our table was sweating and I can't imagine how the people sitting even closer to the open kitchen were feeling. We complained twice and they told us they were trying, but it only got hotter as the night wore on. We cut the meal short - no coffee or dessert - because the heat was really ruining the night.
                As for the food, I'd say it was better than Cheesecake Factory but nothing to write home about and not worth what we paid. The best thing at our table was the onion tart, and it was fantastic. The portion of steak tartare was immense - practically a cereal bowl full - which made that dish rather unappetizing. The lobster burger was good but not worth $30, and the fried chicken was also good but we expected that dish to be a knockout and it didn't fully deliver.
                It will be a while before we try this restaurant again - there are better options for the price.