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Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Plaudits: Washingtonian 2010 #50, Washingtonian 2009 #71, 2010 RAMMY Nominee - Pastry Chef of the Year, 2009 RAMMY Nominee - New Restaurant of the Year
Neighborhood: Downtown - K Street/McPherson/Farragut

The Setup

Perhaps the Restaurant Week meal I was most excited about was Adour, Alain Ducasse's outpost restaurant in the St. Regis Hotel. Say what you want about outposts, but any restaurant from the chef with the second most Michelin stars ever has to be at least good. With that in mind, I recruited Official Friend of DCWD Anna, on her way to Afghanistan for three months, for likely her last real meal in the US for a while.

The Vibe

As the restaurant inside the St. Regis, Adour is already fishing with dynamite in terms of decor. If you've never been to the St. Regis, it's a beautiful hotel, with a black European-style awning and stylings, and Palladian windows. The path to the restaurant leads you through double doors into a lounge area, and then another set of doors into the dining room itself.

The interior is gorgeous, with tones of ebony and ivory and dark brown. The first thing you notice is the gorgeous wood beam ceiling, beautifully ornate and painted, which frames the whole room and contrasts with the otherwise modern decor. In this way, the architecture and the furniture are a pairing of sorts; the charming turn-of-the-century hotel interior with the almost modular furniture.

The other noticeable features are three half-circle booths set into the wall, which have a slight golden glow to them. The border of the dining area is made up of several floor-to-ceiling wine vaults and the restaurant's two-tops, which include several half-couch tables. Larger tables fill in the center. What this means is that the two-tops are fairly on top of one another, so much so that we involved ourselves in a three-table conversation about the menu with our neighbors.

The Food

The nice thing about Adour was that it did not shy away from complimentary dishes; as soon as we ordered, a plate of gougeres arrived from the pastry chef, which were delicious and a beautiful start to the meal. Frankly, I could have eaten twenty of these and I was sad there weren't any more to be had.

I thought this was going to be the amuse bouche, but out came another bite, a shot glass of red pepper hummus with a piece of baguette. It was fine, but a step down after the gougeres. It definitely didn't do the job of an amuse: excite, stimulate, and foreshadow. It was just a little too plain for me I guess.

For the first course, I let Anna take the head-above-shoulders choice: a daurade ceviche with an avocado base and topped with popcorn in a spicy tomato syrup. The daurade was wonderfully fresh but not overly fishy or citrusy as ceviches can sometimes get. The dish was also good in that it was a study in textures: the crunch of the popcorn with the slimy tenderness of the fish with the cream of the avocado. About the only thing that was truly out of place about it was the spicy tomato syrup which was just a shade too much.

Having conceded her the daurade, I went with the chilled heirloom tomato soup with basil and chunks of watermelon. Poured tableside (one of my favorite presentations of soup, by the way), it was nice albeit not too substantial. Flavors were clearly presented though the overall dish wasn't anything super creative. I passed on the $12 upcharge to add lobster, a decision I don't particularly mind in hindsight.

Now seems the appropriate time to mention that Anna and I decided to go with the wine pairing. The incredibly friendly sommelier presented us with the same wine with the first course: a 2008 Quincy sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley. A fairly good pairing.

For the main course, Anna ordered the olive oil poached yellowtail served on top of sauteed baby bok choy and salsa verde. The tuna was beautifully cooked, seared perfectly and super tender from the poaching preparation. The whole dish had a clarity of flavor that I appreciated, though the ingredients seemed much more Asian than French in profile. Fairly well paired with a 2008 chardonnay from Burgundy, it was a great albeit simple dish.

This theme was continued by my entree, a hanger steak with potatoes boulangere and baby spinach. On top of this, I splurged with the $12 upcharge for a nicely sized seared piece of foie gras. As with Anna's dish, the parts and preparation were simple, but the execution was flawless. The boulangere was classic, and the combination of the foie and the steak was just beautiful. It's hard to describe why I love foie so much, though I tried to Anna, who appreciated the flavors, but thought it was "just like really good fat." But to me, there's nothing like the taste and texture and beautiful flavor of a piece of seared foie. So maybe this dish had that going for it, but I thought it was also well done. Sadly, this pairing was the least effective, a 2007 Oxford Landing merlot from South Australia. Sort of muddied the flavor a little too much for me. Then again, not a huge merlot fan.

For dessert, we both went with the obvious choice (sorry, but I never order the ice cream/sorbet dish at a restaurant... boring), a milk chocolate dome on hazelnut cookies. Almost simultaneously, we were given a third complimentary dish, shortbread-sized almond madeleines. The chocolate dome was fine, fairly rich and creamy, but it was the almond pastries that won the day for me. They were light but moist, and packed a nice amount of sweetness.

More importantly though, this was the best pairing of them all, and one that made me jump out of my seat when I saw what the sommelier brought: a 2000 late bottle vintage Ferreira port. I wrote about it before and I'll say it here again. This was a brilliant port.

The Verdict

There wasn't much in the way of true creativity in the menu, outside of the ceviche. But the execution was spot on, something that gets lost sometimes in more adventurous menus but is perhaps the most important part of the food. And what's more, the setting was beautiful. Maybe not the best example of an Alain Ducasse restaurant, but definitely a good one.

Food Rating: *** 1/2
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 4.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Smart Casual
Bar Rating:
Classy Crowd
(out of 5) ($75-$100 for two)
: Take a two block walk down to the Renwick Gallery, which at the very least is a beautiful walk through Lafayette Park and one of the prettier facades in DC. Plus, if you like early American art and craftwork, then there's that too.

Adour (St. Regis Hotel) on Urbanspoon

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