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CityZen - Unimpressed

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My fiancée & I along with a colleague came to DC from NYC for a business meeting. On arrival at the Mandarin, we checked our Zagat app to look for a place to eat. To our surprise the best rated restaurant in the city was just a short elevator ride away. It was a pretty easy decision as we had to get up early.

The restaurant was beautiful, mostly full for a Thursday and we were looking forward to a good meal. All of us ordered the three course meal and a recommended bottle of wine from the sommelier . We started with two back to back amuse bouche. Both were custardy and while good, nothing noteworthy or outstanding.

For the first course I had the pork jowl confit, my fiancée had the pumpkin soup with head cheese and our colleague had the artichokes. My confit was good, but over salted, the same could be said for the artichokes. The pumpkin soup, while not over salted, was again good but nothing outstanding – although it was my first time having head cheese and I really liked it.

The second course I had the duck, my fiancée the pork shoulder and I really don’t recall what our colleague had. But we all had the same comment, “They sure like salt.” I hate to keep using the same phrase, but again everything was good, but not outstanding. Not once did we utter “wow” or “You really got to try this.”

In the Zagat guide CityZen gets a 28 which is pretty much the top. In NYC anything above a 24, and at this price level, usually has a few “wow” dishes and a lot of “try this”, but none to be had at CityZen. In fact my fiancée & I swap plates and neither of us at any point tried to hold on to our plate. And I think my fiancée was relieved to get rid of her pork shoulder for my duck. So either the rating was wrong, very wrong, or it is confirmation that NYC restaurants are truly that much better. Note that I am not bashing DC, as I grew up here, but a CityZen would be hard pressed to get anything above a 23-24 in NYC.

The desserts were another story. Delicious. My colleague & I both had the Sky Bar and my fiancée had the pumpkin bread. Both were very good, although I do make a better ice cream. But the main star shined in both plates.

While a fine dining experience, the decor and service were great, the sommelier picked out a great bottle of wine and we felt well cared after without being smothered, however the food was not up to par, especially when considering the price and the ranking it receives in Zagat’s.

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CityZen Restaurant
1330 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20024

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  1. Thanks for your detailed critique. To me, that's one of the good points about Zagat. It aggregates feedback primarily from locals, along with some visitors. It is not just based on ratings from -- New Yorkers. Sincerely, an (ex) NYC resident.

    1. Having lived in NY I think you are correct in that the Zagat ratings are relative to the area. City Zen is one of the best in the DC area but would probably be ranked slightly lower in NY. That being said, I think that City Zen can be great at times, so you probably just went on an off night. For the wow factor, I would try Komi or Minibar. They are unique and excellent experiences (if you can get in).

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      Komi
      1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036

      1 Reply
      1. re: rappel75

        I went to Cityzen once. I was intrigued enough but am in no rush to go back. I could think on at least fifty places I'd rather return to in the DC area.

      2. I'm not from NYC, and I too was largely unimpressed by CityZen. It was good, but not Citronelle, Komi, Vidalia24, or even Tosca level impressive.

        http://uhockey.blogspot.com

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        CityZen Restaurant
        1330 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20024

        Citronelle
        3000 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20007

        Komi
        1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036

        2 Replies
        1. re: uhockey

          I gotta disagree with Vidalia. The food was good, but the experience was nowhere near as good as CityZen. I think that when you make reservations for that "once a year" $400-$500 dinner that you can fall victim to Stockholm Syndrome where you fall for your captor or restaurant. I thought Vidalia was good and had good food. I loved the onion soup.

          But for ambiance and the total experience, it didn't compare to CityZen.

          1. re: Dreamworks

            I have plenty of "once a year" dinners each year - I did Komi, Vidalia24, Volt Table 21, Eve's Tasting Room, Inn at Little Washington, Citronelle's Tasting, and CityZen on the same trip. CityZen was the only one that didn't wow.

            http://uhockey.blogspot.com

            -----
            CityZen Restaurant
            1330 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20024

            Citronelle
            3000 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20007

            Komi
            1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036