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A meal a month...

You gotta eat right? My wife and I are about to ring in the new year with one meal a month (we've got reservations through March so far) at a great restaurant. I'd love to hear thoughts and comments on our selections and I'll be posting details about the menus and our experiences. Here's the itinerary so far:

New Year's Eve - City Zen, Washington DC
January - Restaurant Eve, Alexandria Virginia
February - Per Se, NYC
March - The Inn at Little washington, Washington Virginia

The only one on this list that we've been to is the Inn at Little Washington, we were married there. We've been a number of times and each time is great.

This is my first post on Chowhound and I'm looking forward to the insight, opinion and conversations which I've enjoyed reading for so long.

Cheers!

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  1. Komi in DC and Volt in Frederick.

    7 Replies
    1. re: MrsWheatie

      Thanks, I'll check out the websites!

      1. re: MrsWheatie

        I second Komi and Volt. To the list I would add:

        Marcel's
        2941
        The Oval Room
        Palena
        Obelisk
        Corduroy
        The Source
        Rasika
        Proof

        That should keep you busy for awhile!

        1. re: foodtrip

          Thanks for the input! Only one we've been to is 2941. Had the tasting menu and thoroughly enjoyed it. Great dining room, great meal - was all good. I'm going to check out your recommendations and add some to the list. I may have to bump this to 2 great meals a month!

          1. re: 3crazydogs

            First report from my 'meal a month' endeavor.

            City Zen on New Year's Eve. We had not been but had heard and read many good things and were greatly looking forward to it. While New Year's Eve is always a busy night out, the restaurant had a number of seatings and I don't suspect it was any busier than a normal busy weekend night.

            Before I get into the food a couple of comments about our arrival at the restaurant. We had a room at the Mandarin Oriental so luckily we were able to just head downstairs for dinner which made tor a relaxing start to the evening. We were greeted upon entering and immediately shown to our table. The NYE decorations weren't over the top. A few hundred balloons floated near the ceiling and were in shades that matched the walls/chairs etc. One of the staff mentioned that some of the bigger balloons, 5' in diameter, cost $200 a pop. Ouch. We were left at our table for a bit (~10minutes) until someone acknowledged us which to me is always a bad thing. I like to be greeted when I sit down, handed a menu, offered water etc - at $225 per person for the NYE menu these little things are important. At any price these little things are important.

            On to the menu.

            My wife had the vegetarian menu, I had the 'meat'atarian menu. Unfortunately I didnt capture all the courses on the vegetarian menu but many of the courses were similar to mine, they just were prepared without the meat.

            Amuse -
            Lobster Bisque - Not sure why but I like soups served in a demitasse/espresso cup. Tasty, great lobster flavor. A bit of foam on top which helped to create the look and feel of drinking an espresso drink.
            Savory Custurd - This was great. Basic custard, somewhat eggy but the cooking was stopped just in time so no fear of scrambled eggs. An herb and paprika infused oil on top, all served warm. Nice.

            Course 1 - Sweet onion and applewood smoked bacon tartiflette with poached quail egg and white truffle.
            This sounds better than it was. Somewhat bland and such a ridiculously small amount of shaved bacon that it barely added anything to the dish. I understand a tartiflette but this was served on something resembling in every way a Carr's Table Water Cracker. Taste, texture, look - it was a water cracker. Ok, I most likely won't like every course, I thought...

            Course 2 - Sashimi of Blue Fin Toro, Cardoon Ceviche, Yukon Gold Potato Crisp, Meyer Lemon Paste and Radish Salad.
            This was a nice dish. The blue fin was fresh and had that great blue fin mouth feel. The ceviche was ok, the flavors were a bit muted. It was nice but that's about it.

            Course 3 - Jerusalem Artichoke Agnolloti, Pickled Leeks, Baby Pea Shoots and Smoked Steelhead Trout Roe.
            Finally a dish that made me sit back and say wow. This was the standout. The balance of flavors was well thought out. The richness of the pasta and cream, the sweetness of the artichokes countered with the smokiness of the roe was fantastic. The roe were fresh and perfect. Each globe of bright orange delight exploded against your palate releasing little drops of flavor. This was a great dish.

            Course 4 - Pan Seared Main Diver Scallop Rossini, Yukon Gold Potato Puree, Foie Gras Confit and Sauce Perigourdine.
            This was a good, not great dish. The scallop was huge and cooked correctly. The foie gras confit was sliced thin and placed on top of the scallop. The foie was nice, not great. The puree and sauce perigourdine were delicious and the consistency was spot on. This is very similar to a signature dish at the Inn at Little Washington. Just look on the cover of Patrick O'Connell's most recent cookbook. That dish has cauliflour puree instead of potato. It was fun to compare the dishes and note how the addition of the foie gras changed the flavor profiles. I think on taste the Inn at Little Washington's dish wins but this was a good dish.

            Course 5 - Swiss Chard Wrapped Squab Breast, with Musguee de Provence pumpkin confit and Sauce d'Epices. Let me start by saying that I don't think I get the opportunity to eat pumpkin often enough. It's a great thing to eat and I was happy to see it used so creatively here. The pumpkin flavor was prominent but not overwhelming. The squab was good, cooked to medium, tender but lacked seasoning. This dish was just good.

            Course 6 - Herb Roasted Calotte of Prime Midwestern Beef, Celery Root Ribbons, Hedgehog Mushroom Ragout, and Buerre Moelle.
            This dish should have been great. I wanted this dish to be great. I love steak and was really looking forward to this. Huge disappointment. Sigh, what a letdown. By this time in the meal I had settled in and really wanted to be knocked out by at least one dish. Here's the deal with this dish: Imagine you're about to eat a 2" thick ribeye and you cut off a piece large enough for a large bite. That was the portion size of this dish - one large bite. Now, I can sometimes look beyond portion if the flavor is there but this wasn't the case. The steak was fork tender which was great but no seasoning and no flavor. The mushrooms seemed as if they had been purchased dried and only partially reconstituted, the stems were like chewing on toothpicks. The celery root was flavorless and had the consistency of twist ties. This was just all bad. The server had really gotten me ready by saying this was the main entree and that they were excited about me trying it. I'm a pretty forgiving diner but this was just all wrong. More about the server and the lack/over abundant seasoning below.

            Course 7 - Lemon sorbet palette cleanser - tasty but seriously tiresome. Dessert - some type of flavored ice cream on top of french toast surrounded by a light creme anglaise type of sauce. The ice cream was too powerful for me although my wife liked it. The presentation was dull, the plate was dull, the dish was dull - just dull. For guests staying until midnight there was to be a dessert buffet provided but as we had other plans we were left with the second tier dessert.

            Couple of thoughts on the miscellaneous items provided. The breads were okay. House made foccacia, whole wheat and brought in sourdough. Salted and unsalted butter provided which I think is great as certain breads lend themselves to each. A loaf of a very rich, buttery egg bread ( think cross between the richest brioche and challah you've ever had) was served in a little box along with the main course (the steak). This was a good tasting loaf although so rich a litte goes a long way. A nice plate of pate de fruit (never sure of the spelling of that), mini-chocolate cookies and peppermint bark at the end.

            Wine - was ordered by the glass and consisted of a very nice viognier and Gruner Veltliner. Per glass prices were good at $11-15.

            Ok, if you've stayed with me this long I promise I won't keep you much longer. I referred above to the server and the lack/abundance of seasoning in some dishes. Most of the dishes on the meatatarian menu were seasoned ok, a little light if anything but not too bad. My wife had two dishes that were so overseasoned you couldn't taste anything but salt. You don't have to be a culinary grad (which I am) to tell that these were way out of whack. The first dish was sent back and the server apologized profusely. It would have been okay if she had let it go but she kept asking my wife about the taste and was she sure it was salty? Not good. The third course on my wifes menu was equally oversalted and this time replaced with a version equally as salty. Now i know that the prep of some ingredients require salt but this needs to be considered when final seasoning is added on the line. Again, these were way out of whack. The server again questioned my wife about the seasoning at which time I interupted that we would just move to the next course. My wife was put on the defensive and felt as if she was being a 'problem child'. In no way should a server do anything but apologize and offer a substitute. They should definitely never make the guest feel bad for not liking a dish. If the guest feels its too salty, then it's too salty - nothing else matters. HUGE guest relations error. Now, to be fair, they adjusted the bill to compensate for the 2 courses my wife could not eat which was noted and appreciated. Just too bad that it had to happen.

            So there it is. Sorry if I have been long winded but I thought it would be good to give a bit of an overview.

            In summary, would I go back? Maybe for lunch -- maybe.

            Next up, Restaurant Eve on Saturday, January 9th.

            1. re: 3crazydogs

              Wow, 3CD. Sorry you didn't enjoy CityZen as much as you had hoped. It's still on my list though (ideally not on a crazy evening like NYE). Regardless, I REALLY appreciate the level of detail you included in your course-by-course review. Best of luck in your upcoming culinary adventures.

              1. re: bordeauxfan

                Thanks for the feedback. Definitely keep City Zen on the list. Could certainly be possible that if I go back the experience may be completely different. I'll post again this Sunday with comments about Restaurant Eve.

              2. re: 3crazydogs

                I really enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for taking the time.

                Is there a reason you have not mentioned Citronelle on your list?

        2. There may be no talking you out of Per Se, but I would say it's simply not worth it. I've been to the other restaurants on your list, and all the ones listed below (except Komi, unfortunately), and I agree with all the recommendations. But Per Se is simply too expensive. It was a very good meal, and the service is outstanding, but it was well over $700 for two people with one bottle of wine (cheapest on their list, but still probably $80). I was prepared to pay that, but it should have been the meal of the year, and it wasn't. In 2009, I had better tasting menus at Volt, 2941, Teatro Goldoni (chef's table), and others. For a really innovative meal in New York, try WD-50.

          5 Replies
          1. re: mnadel

            Thanks for the caution. I've got to admit, I've been going back and forth with Per Se. I know it's going to be costly, most likely way too costly, but I think I've got to scratch the itch and check it out. Come February I may very well be sending you a note that you were right! Volt is going on the list for March. I live less than an hour from Frederick so should be a piece of cake to get over there. Thanks for the tip on WD-50. I've read good things about that and it very well may be on the list for the spring trip to NYC. We try to get up there a few times a year. Thanks again.

            1. re: 3crazydogs

              I lived in NY for the past 9 years and just moved to DC last February. I've done quite a bit of eating in this city (Volt, Minibar, Komi, Inn at Little Washington) and while Per Se may be expensive, it was honestly the best meal I have ever or will probably ever have in my life. Granted, I didn't pay, so that may have skewed my opinion, but the meal was amazing, and I had use all my willpower not to lick the plate clean.

              1. re: snackpig

                Thanks for the input - I'm going for it!

              2. re: 3crazydogs

                Make your reservations for Volt immediately. Ever since chef Brian Voltaggio was on Top Chef it's booked well in advance -- even the main dining room.

                1. re: foodtrip

                  Thanks foodtrip - I'll give them a call today or tomorrow at the latest.

            2. A former New Yorker living in baltimore now. It's hard to argue with Per Se but someone on the thread has already made a fairly good argument.
              If you're going to be in NY and want a wonderful meal without all of the expense of Per Se you ought to think about Le Bernadin. Not inexpensive by any means but it is unquestionably NY's finest seafood restaurant and you really can't go wrong there.

              1. Suggest Charleston in Baltimore.

                2 Replies
                  1. re: elegantelliot

                    Thanks for the great suggestions. Le Bernadin is definitely on the list as is Minibar. I think Le Bernadin will be on tap for the mid-summer trip to NYC, we try to get up there a few times a year. I have relatives in Brooklyn so I can use a family visit as a good excuse. ;)
                    I definitely want to get into Baltimore more frequently, I'll check into Charleston.

                    This Saturday it's Restaurant Eve's tasting menu which we're definitely looking forward to.

                1. On Sat the 9th we hit Restaurant Eve. I'll be giving a course by course review when I'm home from work this evening but suffice to say it was fantastic. Each course was great, well thought out, excellent. More detail to come...