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Jan 13, 2008 05:08 AM

Central on a friday night...

WEll we finally went to Central after making a res 6 weeks ago for this past friday night. Went to Proof first for wine & cheese which was great as always. Then cabbed over to Central. The din in the place was enough to give me a headache right out of the shoot...yes i know 7 on a friday is still happy hour but the acoustics of that place are NOT conducive to a date or get-together for people who want something of a calm and civilized evening. At least we got a good 2 top that wasn't smashed next to another 2 top which most people there had. Service was really good--- almost too quick though. We ordered a nice Syrah which was thankfully served at the right temp!! Then hubby ordered the cheese puffs which arrived almost instantly, which would have been nice if they had been hot or even warm. I suspect they had been sitting there waiting for someone to order them. They were tasty though but cold cheese puffs just don't cut it in my opinion. Main courses arrived almost right after that (could it be they were trying to move us thru quickly??) Hubby had the NY strip and frites, which came on a plate w/ a nice field greens salad. The frites were the best part of either meal. He said the steak was flavorful and done as ordered. I had the beef cheeks w/ tagliatelle which were marginal. The wine sauce was good, but the beef had alot of fat in it. The pasta was ok but lacked real flavor. For $28 i kind of expected the meat to be leaner. The good news was that by the time i found enough pieces that weren't fat, i didn't have enough for a doggy bag (which fits in w/ my new year's plans to only eat 'bad' one day a week!) I wouldn't go back. To sum it up: the good things were attentive service (but almost too quick), good wine temp, good frites and supposedly a good steak (although i didn't try it). The bad things were cold appetizer, a feeling of being rushed, marginal beef cheeks & pasta (lots of fat) and the NOISE LEVEL. We saw a couple a short distance away who appeared to be on a date, perhaps a first date, and i was like, oh my, how can they even talk?? Would i go back? No. I'm going to try Brasserie Beck next time i want a new experience since everyone seems to like that.

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  1. I am completely at a loss as to how someone could expect beef cheeks to be a lean cut. It's a very, VERY fatty cut of beef. Go check out the dietary exchanges - a single serving of beef cheeks is ZERO lean meat exchanges, and SIX fat exchanges.

    2 Replies
    1. re: DanielK

      i realize it isn't an inherently LEAN cut of meat; but i did ask the waitress right up front about it. As in, "are there chunks of fat in the meat or is it just a marbled cut?" I was assured it was NOT chunks of fat and what i got WAS chunks of fat.
      Apparently i am not as well versed in the minutia of beef as yourself however...which is why i rarely order it. I know it's a nutritional disaster. I'm more of a fish person but none of the fish offerings looked good.
      i will stand forwarned and not attempt to order cheeks of any kind in the future unless they come from a sea creature.

      1. re: DCDOLL

        You were misinformed by the waitress, though I would point out that fish cheeks are also likely to be a fatty cut...

    2. My two experiences at Central were very different from yours - for example, I sat at one of the two-tops by the open kitchen both times, and I never saw the gougeres sitting for more than a few seconds. We did not feel rushed and timing was appropriate. I had the fried chicken last time. It was very good, and those mashed potatoes were yummy. It's possible you got a bad wait person or were there on an off night.

      As for noise, my experiences with Beck is that it is as loud as Central. Also, while I loved the food at Beck, we had a very careless wait person. There was a large table that he was also serving, and he wasn't paying very much attention to us at all.

      What's great about this forum is that we can share experiences of good and bad experiences - and everyone can make his or her own choice. But I wouldn't hesitate to return to Central, or to Beck...but I take each with it's inherent weaknesses...noise being one of them!

      8 Replies
      1. re: dcandohio

        Beck and Central definitely aren't much different in terms of noise level. The service I experienced at both was seamless in some visits, inattentive during others. Food was solid across the board, though!

        1. re: humblegourmand

          maybe i will have to rethink the Beck's thing then...i just hate a place with a din like a food barn. Even when the food is good. Proof never seems to be like that; maybe it's just the acoustics of the room because they sure have a happy hour just as rockin' as anyplace.
          To me, spending a couple hundred bucks should involve a somewhat soothing atmosphere and not having to shout over a cacophony all around me.
          Can anyone recommend someplace newish that isn't loud like that? My faves in terms of noise level are 1789, Obelisk, Palena, and any other place where you can actually hear the music playing.
          I'd love other suggestions!

          1. re: DCDOLL

            Corduroy isn't very loud in it's current dining room; who knows though when they move.

            It does seem that restaurants around here don't pay any attention to acoustics when designing their dining rooms. It doesn't bother me as much as some (I have pretty good hearing, but taking my friend with a cochlear implant out is just terrible), but it seems like a fairly minor thing to consider prior to opening, especially given the number of complaints that come up in discussion about the noise level.

            1. re: reiflame

              I'm beginning to wonder if they're doing it on purpose! They are spending SO much money and paying so much attention to so many other things that this can't be falling through the cracks. Especially since it's not that hard.
              Maybe they think that the noise level gives the impression of a "buzz" or something when you walk it. Great restaurants full of people enjoying themselves do have a buzzy din that even gets noisy at times, but it's not just the unpleasant noise like these places have now.

              1. re: MakingSense

                Recently, I have enjoyed several places that had good food and were NOT loud: 701 and Butterfield 9 were both very reasonable at dinner, and Acadiana was good at lunch. At these places normal conversation was was possible (and my hearing is not great). Bardeo had very loud music playing when we first walked in, but the server immediately reduced the volume and it was fine - being in a booth helps with conversation, too. Ardeo next door is conducive to conversation. Komi is conducive to quiet conversation! It's possible to have a good, even a great meal in DC while being able to talk quietly.

                1. re: dcandohio

                  I totally agree with you, but it would be nice if restaurants paid attention to accoustics. As pretty as places like the Blue Duck Tavern are, the concrete and glass just makes for a terrible din at peak hours.

                  It doesn't seem like it would be too much effort to incorporate this when designing a restaurant, and it would aleviate a very common complaint that people have (regardless of the city they're in).

                  I agree; Butterfield 9 isn't loud, and the Passion Food restaurants are pretty reasonable as well (Ceiba, DC Coast etc). Also, although it's not feasible now, in better weather dining outside quiets things down too. Bardeo has been blisteringly loud the two times I've been there, and I've found the food and service to be solidly mediocre.

                  1. re: dcandohio

                    Several of the places you name are geared toward the lunch time expense account business - not the after work, happy hour, small plate "scene." Butterfield 9, 701, Acadiana, Ceiba, DC Coast, and a lot of other places downtown do that kind of business. Komi has only dinner - no bar crowd. Blue Duck could have kept the quieter acoustics of Melrose.

                    Maybe a lot of this has to do with the audience that the place is trying to attract. If you want to be a "scene" place, you design a noisy "scene." BLT Steak is noisy. Charlie Palmer isn't.

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      thanks for the recs! i will add the few that we haven't been to to the list. it is just a total experience for us when we go out to a nice dinner; of course food is the top concern but atmosphere (including noise) and service are right up there. If any of the 3 aren't there, the evening just isn't a total success when you are talking a couple hundred bucks. part of the atmosphere equation is the tempo -- don't like to be rushed nor do i like to be licking the bottom of the bread basket in desperation... :)