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Brasserie Beck and Central

Meg Mar 5, 2008 04:53 AM

Catching up with long lost friends Saturday night. Looking for:

- non-stuffy, hip atmosphere
- terrific food without breaking the bank
- nice bar (for starters)
- good wine list
- can hear one another talk
- takes reservations

Are these bistros too noisy to qualify? If so, any other options come to mind? I want to try Hook but we have a non-seafood eater in the party. Thought about Dino, but concerned about the noise level there too on a Saturday. The same person who doesn't eat seafood isn't adventurous with ethnic food so Indian, Thai, Ethiopian, etc, is out. TIA.

  1. HSBSteveM May 19, 2008 03:00 PM

    I love the atmosphere at Beck and the seafood is great, especially the skate wing, but it's deafening in there!

    1. d
      dementm May 17, 2008 07:29 PM

      Central is AMAZING. Quality of the food is superb. Also just visited Citronelle and can see why. Visited Brasserie Beck a year ago and was sorely disappointed, so much so that I refuse to return. Proof is also a great recommendation. Would definately go for Central over Beck.

      21 Replies
      1. re: dementm
        e
        Ericandblueboy May 17, 2008 07:49 PM

        Central is good but not amazing. My feeling is that the DC food scene is alot of hype. People hype the new restaurants more to show how hip they are than the food. The Pied de Cochon at Central isn't very good. The burger is pedestrian at best. The charcuterie plate is okay but I detested the faux gras....all richness but no flavor. The one perfect dish is the braised rabbit with spaetzle. M.R. does not show his creativity here so I don't know why this place gets all the raves while Citronelle hides in the background. It should be the other way around.

        1. re: Ericandblueboy
          Joe H May 18, 2008 08:14 PM

          Citronelle hides in the background? Really. Beard certainly recognized him last year as the national chef of the year for his performance there. What do you think of Komi by the way?

          1. re: Joe H
            e
            Ericandblueboy May 19, 2008 07:52 PM

            When I say Citronelle hides in the background, I mean it from a chowhound poster's perspective. I haven't been to Komi yet. I've schedule my tasting for August 2.

            In the next 2 months, I plan on doing the tasting menu at Citronelle, CityZen, Komi, Eve, and Minibar. I've secured reservation at 3 restaurants. I'll have to call Komi and Minibar at the appropriate time.

            From your write-up of Komi, I anticipate an extraordinary meal. Is Komi your top DC restaurant?

            1. re: Ericandblueboy
              Joe H May 20, 2008 10:13 AM

              At the moment, probably yes. I've had outstanding dishes at the others (when Richard was in the kitchen Citronelle was superb) but would probably pick Komi as my favorite today with Maestro gone. (Fiamma is different and, I think, is not as good by the way.) Roberto's "duck stew" is still missed by me as is his Laboratorio. I prefer Beck's moules et frites over all of the others in the D. C. area although the place is unbelievably noisy. Central is excellent for a bistro; Citronelle, at its best, is simply a different restaurant on another level. Is it on this level now? I don't know. When Corduroy goes to its prix fixe menu you should try it also; Tom Power has a great deal of talent and this could be a fantastic showcase for him. He deserves a place like this-but with a different and more diverse menu than the old second floor restaurant. I also understand that Obelisk's chef is back and the restaurant has returned to its earlier standards with an expanded menu. I would also add this.

              Overall Washington has a number of restaurants that match New York's best; the difference is that New York has quite a few more.

              I'll also add this: with Obelisk at its best, Maestro and the Lab open I am convinced that Washington was the best city in America for Italian. Fabio, like Jean Louis, was a treasure.

              1. re: Joe H
                w
                Wallowing Gourmet Jun 2, 2008 02:54 PM

                Komi was the best dining experience of the four nights I just got back from today. Went there on Thursday night, and did the degustazione menu with the five glass wine pairings. The wife opted for a single white wine, not being a big drinker at all. Simply put, I'd have to say that the only thing that compares in my recent experience is Cyrus in Healdsburg, CA. It was stellar, but you have to commit to the format of the tasting menu to really enjoy it. We started out with nine or ten "mezzethakia" courses, which are basically beautifully presented small plates of one or two bites each. Things like amberjack ceviche with chives, diver scallop cevice two ways - one with tarragon yogurt dressing and a hint of mustard A "breakfast radish" with sea salt. A "caesar salad crouton" which was a crouton filled with wha tasted like caesar salad - a one bite fantasy. A date filled with mascarpone cheese and topped with sea salt (you might gather that Chef Johnny Monis likes sea salt by now. So do I. A cornet filled with beef carpaccio (or was it lamb?) and a quail egg - fabulous! An eggshell filled with butter poached lobster, egg yolk and quince - Oooooeeee, baby! The cutest little mini "gyros", which were great.

                Then, for the mains, I chose the house made spaghetti with the lobster, sea urchin and habaneros - to die for. I love uni sushi. The wife had the grilled baby octopus with the fava caramella, and then we shared the "Katsikaki for two", which is spit-roasted goat that was so incredibly moist, tender and tasty, that I feel like a sinner for not having tried goat before. By that time, I was feeling pretty full, but there's always room for dessert, of which there were three courses, two of which the chef chose, and one of which we chose. The first was a goat cheese, with a balsamic cherry, and the second was a mango puree shooter, if I recall. Both were great. The ones we chose were a basil panna cotta for myself, and the Greek doughnuts with honey for the wife. We each loved them. I wouldn't have thought of basil as a flavor component of a panna cotta in a million years, but it really worked for me, as I love basil.

                The wine pairings, and the knowledgeability of the sommelier, were tremendous, and in at least one case iconoclastic, but the pairings all worked. The sommelier was great, and he and I hit it off from the outset. Too bad the wife wasn't up for the pairings, but she wanted to be able to walk home, and I'm not up to carrying her.

                The service overall was wonderful, passionate, knowledgeable, and friendly - in a word, totally professional. It's so nice to deal with people who love and believe in their work. It took about three hours to get through this procession of dishes, and that was just about the perfect amount of time for us.

                I can't recommend Komi highly enough, and to me, it is a "destination restaurant" worth the over four hour drive from the North NJ area I live in. Of course, it helps to have a Bed and Breakfast to stay at that's only about five or six blocks away.

                Komi is definitely in my top ten tier of restaurants, and may well be in the top five.

                1. re: Wallowing Gourmet
                  Joe H Jun 3, 2008 07:31 AM

                  Thanks for a wondefully expressive review.

                  1. re: Wallowing Gourmet
                    alkapal Jun 8, 2008 08:24 AM

                    wallowing gourmet, i adore your screen name. it makes me laugh!
                    and thanks for the komi review.

                2. re: Ericandblueboy
                  w
                  Wallowing Gourmet May 20, 2008 06:00 PM

                  I'm going to Komi on 5/29, and I will be sure to post the results here. I'm already pretty excited about it, as it will be our first night out in DC in a couple of years. Also going to Olives, Westend Bistro, and Capital Grille, in order. Can't wait to get there, as the wife and I just love DC. Too bad Laboratorio is down for renovations, but I'll get there one day or another, for sure.

              2. re: Ericandblueboy
                s
                Steve May 19, 2008 02:47 PM

                I would say the fried chicken, the tuna burger, the softshell crabs, and the faux gras show plenty of creativity. Sorry you don't like the faux gras, but you are really spitting in the wind on that one. You are welcome to your opinion, of course, as it's always interesting to hear other viewpoints.

                The reason why Central gets plenty of acclaim is that I don't think there is a better bistro around. Not here, and judging from the comments I read on the Chowhound France Board, not in Paris either.

                BTW, for the folks who hype whatever the latest is, Central is sooo last year. Those folks are already onto the places that are having their soft openings next week. Or weren't you invited?

                1. re: Steve
                  e
                  Ericandblueboy May 19, 2008 07:54 PM

                  fried chicken, tuna burger, softshell crab and faux gras shows creativity? why don't you try something unique? That is nothing compared to Citronelle's offerings. Why aren't people going to Citronelle more? My complaint is that people are raving about the bastard son rather than the real father.

                  1. re: Ericandblueboy
                    r
                    reiflame May 19, 2008 08:49 PM

                    Because it costs $200+ per person. Central is about $75.

                    1. re: reiflame
                      ktmoomau May 20, 2008 09:40 AM

                      We do Central for $50 pp that is less than even many other mid range restaurants and DC and the food is better, you are getting more than wait you pay for which is why people rave about it the food matches the price tag and you can do it without breaking your bank. We spend $50 per person normally at Zola with wine, or Sette Bello or etc, so to get that quality food for the price is great. I think Citronelle is posted about on here all the time. Fried chicken to him is something special, if you watched the weta program on fine dining he talks about coming from France and having I think Popeyes maybe and how the chicken was so crispy and yet juicy and he really loved it (they don't have fried chicken in France). And you have to like and appreciate the "faux" style to like his cooking, he likes to have a trick between the eye and the taste like breakfast for dessert, if you don't appreciate that you won't get it. But yeah we can't afford to just eat out at anytime Citronelle not at least until I pass the bar and get hired :) It is definitely a major special occasion for us, as is Marcel's, Komi, etc. Plus he has been recognized for years for Citronelle while Central is still fairly new, but I think it allows more people access to his quality food without the price tag.

                      1. re: ktmoomau
                        f
                        foodcheck Jun 4, 2008 12:08 AM

                        Why is his liking Popeye's chicken not giving me warm and fuzzies in anticipation of his version? Or his predilection for chef-indulgences like fake food (er, I mean faux, that's so much classier) - like,hamburger that looks like corn flakes, who cares? Or the mundane lobster sandwich that costs as much as four whole lobsters in the market?
                        I admit I haven't tried it, but you guys are scaring me away from a restaurant with a supposedly great chef and I don't really want to be.

                        1. re: foodcheck
                          r
                          reiflame Jun 4, 2008 05:21 PM

                          Michel Richard started doing faux-food well before it became a trend, and he does it way better than anywhere else I've tried. He also does it without the use of nasty chemicals like you'll find in so many "molecular gastronomy" joints.

                          His love of Popeye's stems from when he first came to American and tried fried chicken. His point is that French food doesn't have a ton of texture, so eating something crunchy like that was a revelation for him.

                          And seriously, don't be dismissive until you try it.

                      2. re: reiflame
                        e
                        Ericandblueboy May 20, 2008 05:38 PM

                        is this chowhound or dealhound? There are too many recommendations to inferior restaurants without caveats.

                        KTmoomau, I watched the WETA special and I recall the KFC reference. He likes fried chicken, but that doesn't make it creative.

                        I did have the "fettucine" without the pasta at Citronelle. That is what I think exemplifies his creativity, which is not present at Central.

                        If your're ordering a la carte, Citronelle isn't that much more expensvie per person than Central. It's not like appetizer at Citronelle is $20 and $5 at Central.

                        1. re: Ericandblueboy
                          d
                          dcandohio May 20, 2008 06:09 PM

                          "is this chowhound or dealhound? There are too many recommendations to inferior restaurants without caveats."

                          That's really kind of harsh. Lots of folks can enjoy Central (or Beck, or Zola...) at that price/value point far more regularly than they can enjoy Citronelle or anyplace at a much higher price point. It's reality. None of us makes as much as we'd like to support our food habits. Does that mean that we should only dine out when we can afford the top of the line? How boring life would be! The whole joy of Chowhound is finding great eats at EVERY price/value point, from the taquerias and food carts to the most spendy places around (and we all know that spendy does not equal chow-worthy...).

                          So while the Citronelle/Central debate might certainly be entertaining to some, it misses the point of the OP - given a set of parameters, which restaurants most excellently fit the bill?

                          1. re: dcandohio
                            e
                            Ericandblueboy May 20, 2008 06:22 PM

                            I fully understand your point. I just wish people would caveat their recommendations. If your recommend 5 Guys, please tell people that it's a fast food chain. If you recommend Central, please say it's the red-headed step-child of Citronelle, and not the other way around. Lately I've read more bashing of Citronelle and more raves about Central.

                            1. re: Ericandblueboy
                              ktmoomau May 20, 2008 07:07 PM

                              No this isn't dealhound, I read every post very carefully and really think of what they are asking for and what would meet their requirements. I really try my best to read every post carefully, I normally do not post to a thread either unless I have read every response, just a general chow courtesy to everyone on the site.

                              In this post they specifically requested something not breaking the bank, so I and most posters posted places that didn't break the bank. If you look at threads where people want the best in DC, as in your thread about the best, you can see I have posted other places. I think Central is good food without breaking the bank. I think Citronelle is excellent, as you can see in other posts about Citronelle where I have posted, but it isn't what the OP wanted.

                              I feel like I caveat some places as chains, and other things, but I feel like recommending Citronelle regardless of the persons request isn't doing a favor to anyone on this site, especially not the OP.

                              1. re: ktmoomau
                                alkapal May 21, 2008 05:39 AM

                                "deal" means quality for value. i'm all for it!

                      3. re: Ericandblueboy
                        s
                        Steve Jun 1, 2008 07:05 AM

                        Fried chicken, tuna burger, and soft shell crabs all appear on the menu at Citronelle. Sometimes the prep is a bit different or simply better executed at Citronelle, but all of those items have made it onto the tasting menu in the dining room at one time or another. To say these items are not creative is to miss the boat. If you'd like more info, I recommend you look up Todd Kliman's article in Washingtonian.

                        1. re: Steve
                          e
                          Ericandblueboy Jun 3, 2008 08:15 PM

                          whether they were served at Citronelle is irrelevant. If MR serves a slider a Citronelle for one night, does that make sliders creative? I like Central, I think it's a better rendition of a celebrity chef's bistro than Westend. I think it's just as good as Bouchon or Boulud in Vegas, but there's something lacking there. If I had the choice between French Laundry or Bouchon, I'd try French Laundry. If I have the choice between Citronelle and Central, I'd try Citronelle.

                2. ktmoomau Mar 5, 2008 05:42 AM

                  I think Beck is noisier than Central, I don't really think of Central as overly hip, but it is delicious, IMHO best food. Hook is excellent, they normally have one non-fish option you could call to see what it is (the website menu isn't the same as when I went last week it is the older one we had a couple weeks ago) they have a better noise level and it is very hip and has an excellent bar in my opinion. Also have you already checked on reservations? Most of these three places will probably be booked already unless you have an odd time you want to go.

                  Other hip places if those are in the price level are Zola and I have heard excellent things about Mio although I haven't been. I am hoping to get to that one soon.

                  Proof is just as noisy if not noisier than Brasserie Beck and Central.

                  Also perhaps Oya? Hip, good food, nice bar, can hear people talk, takes reservations.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ktmoomau
                    f
                    food.fiend Mar 5, 2008 06:02 AM

                    Actually, I think Mio would be excellent for what you're looking for! It is really delicious food, there are many non-seafood options, thought they do have some good fish, and the atmosphere is great. Not-too loud, as the bar is in the front and far enough away that the noise doesn't really carry to omuch, and definitely hip. I went for dinner with two girlfriends to catch up, and it was perfect.

                  2. e
                    Elyssa Mar 5, 2008 05:25 AM

                    The non-seafood eater will be able to find plenty of things to eat at Proof...including a few non-meat items as well.

                    I've never been to Central, but Beck can get pretty noisy. I'm told the tables in the back are better though, so you might want to request those. I personally feel the same way with Proof. When I went we sat near the bar and it was a little noisy since the place was totally packed.

                    Reservations are probably a good idea at any of these places. If you can't find a reservation at these 3 spots you might want to try PS7 or Zola.

                    1. d
                      DCLindsey Mar 5, 2008 05:21 AM

                      Proof isn't a seafood only restaurant, perhaps you are thinking of Hook? I've not had a full meal at Proof but other reviews here reflect a lot of other non-seafood choices...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: DCLindsey
                        Meg Mar 5, 2008 05:23 AM

                        Whoops, yes, I meant Hook. Edited my original post. Thanks.

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