I just wanted to report on my experience last night at Central. We went there to grab a quick dinner before the Wizards game (got there just before 6). We didn't have reservations and expected to eat at the bar which we've done several times. They did have three small tables free for open seating at the front but on the opposite side of the entrance as the bar and the rest of the open seating. I'm not sure what kind of service you'd get there (all of the times I've been I've had pretty good service both at the bar and at tables) so we looked in the bar area and found two seats down at the end of the bar where the servers pick up drinks and the TV was showing college hoops.
i've always been impressed with the level of service the bartenders manage to provide to people eating at the bar while constantly mixing drinks. I don't think I ever saw them stop moving. We didn't order appetizers but I did order a rhubarb sour off their drink menu which was perfectly balanced.
For dinner I tried the cassoulet, which i've never had. It was very good; definitely a comfort food dish (i.e, do not order if you want something light). The beans were just right, not mushy at all. The meats in it were two different sausages (I'd guess they're made in house though I didn't ask), braised pork belly, and a duck leg confit. Like I said, definitely not light but really good. My wife had the ribeye and substituted extra green salad instead of fries (it comes with both normally; we love the fries but she's doing low carbs). The salad was dressed perfectly. The steak came out juicy, tender, and perfectly cooked as she'd requested (between medium and medium rare). It was very good but for the price ($38) I think you get something with more character at Ray's (not that Central is supposed to be a steak place). I know it's been often mentioned that the bread is excellent, but I'll confirm that yet again -- really good bread.
For dessert we "shared" a chocolate lava cake (I say "shared" because since my wife is on a low carb diet I had to enjoy her portion for her :)). I know it's a dessert that's been overdone all over the place, but it is really good and well done. It came with a scoop of ice cream that was just at the right temperature (not melting all over the plate and not rock hard). The ice cream was super rich and had a sprinkle of crunchy nut on it. The taste and textures were a perfect combination. We also had coffee that you could tell was excellent just from the aroma when they set it down.
The one thing i really wanted to comment on was the service. I'm sure they've had off nights and people have had bad experiences, but i was really impressed not only with our service, but with what I saw sitting at the bar. As it was Friday the place was packed both in the dining room and bar. The bartender that served us was very attentive even though he was in constant motion making drinks. Sitting at the end of the bar there were several times we overheard the servers asking the bartenders how certain drinks were made. I thought this is a good indication of how the place is run in that the servers educated themselves so they could be more knowledgable for customers and the bartenders always took the few seconds to explain precisely what went into a particular drink and how it was made.
One other incident pointed to very good training/management of the staff. An order of food came to the bar and when the bartender was turning with the plates the top of the bun of a burger slipped off the plate onto the floor. The server who had brought the burger saw this and immediately went back to the kitchen to get another top. She came back with the bun top on a small plate and handed it to the guy bussing plates in the bar area as the bartenders were at the other end. He took the bun on the plate over to the backside of the bar where the food was, grabbed a clean fork from the silverware supply, and carefully slipped the top onto the burger without touching the bun. I know that sounds like a little thing but I found it impressive that even the guy who clears the plates knew how he should properly handle food (we were probably the only ones who had the angle to see what he did).
We had yet another great meal last night. Great bread, a usual, and the spinach goat cheese torte. Two perfect burgers, grilled sausages with mashed potatoes, and my daughter had her usual macaroni and cheese. We had not tried the sausages before and they came with carmelized onions whose sweetness paired perfectly. We all had dessert: 2 kit kat bars, chocolate mouse, and a slice of cheesecake. We had not tried the cheesecake before. The slice was huge with fresh raspberries and raspberry sauce. It was much lighter then most cheesecake though the size of the slice was more than enough for one person. Everything else was also excellent.
re: chicken kabob
Finally got my Central fix last night. I really do love this restaurant. I have yet to have a bad/mediocre meal there.
My friend and I split the frisee, lardons and poached egg salad. It was delicious...incredibly dressed and lardons were smokey and added a nice layer of flavor. A nice touch was they split the salad on to 2 plates and gave us a poached egg each. It just showed Central's attention to detail in terms of service and presentation.
I then had the mussel chowder. WOW! I'm not always a soup person but I've been sick so I wanted something warm and comforting. This soup was delicious! Lots of flavor, creamy, and delightful. There were about 6-7 plump mussels in the soup. The waiter recommended it (vs. the french onion soup) and I'm glad I followed his lead.
My friend got the fried oysters. In typical Michel Richard fashion, there weren't your typical fried oysters. The breading almost looked like shredded coconut (but it clearly was some sort of bread). It was lightly battered and the inside oyster was almost half raw....not sure how he managed to do that. It was very good and different though.
The icing on the cake was my first major Obama Administration sighting: Giethner walked in with a security detail, nodded at the hostess and walked right over to the table. Didn't see what he ordered but it was a fun sighting nontheless. (He might be getting grilled on AIG but at least we know he is a foodie :) )