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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Central Michel Richard

Plaudits: Washingtonian Top 100 2013, 2012, 2011 #10, 2010 #13, 2009 #13, Washington Post 2012 Fall Dining Guide
Neighborhood: Downtown

The Setup

For our Valentine’s Day dinner, Official Co-Writer/Fiancee of DCWD Texas and I headed to one of the few places that would let us have a 10pm reservation: Central Michel Richard.

The Vibe

Central’s dining room is the picture of class and brightness. There’s the marble bar which runs alongside the restaurant’s entire right side braced by some small bar tables and square leather-topped bar stools. On the other side of a small divider is the main dining area, a row of four-tops and some lone two-tops sandwiched between two aisles of half booths on either side. Everything, from the furniture to the walls is awash in a light birch finish accented by beige, which has the effect of brightening up the room, even at this late juncture. Giant tube like light fixtures in beige and soft crimson are above, while a peek of the kitchen can be seen through some wall length wine shelving. The key word here is clean: everything is easy on the eyes, straight-lined and functional.

The Food

To start, we split a pork belly starter, with four sizable pieces of fatty belly atop a bed of stewed lentils. For me, using pork belly in a dish is like fishing with dynamite: the only way you could screw it up is by blowing it up entirely. Still, this dish exceeded my expectations with meaty chunks that were beautifully unctuous, blending wonderfully with the mild bean mash below it. The whole dish was so imbued with flavor that it was hard to stop eating.

For my main course, I had the trout almondine plated atop a bed of salsify and sunchokes. I supposed it doesn’t get more French classic than something like this, but it was executed perfectly. Beware that they’re not kidding on the almondine part: there probably were just as much almonds as trout, and at points the nut slivers overtook the dish itself. In point of fact, the most enjoyable part of this dish was the salsify/sunchoke combo, which brought a subtle brightness to everything.

For all of the traditional French flavors we had eaten before this, Texas went instead with her secret indulgence: fried chicken with mashed potato. Central’s fried chicken is well-known, mostly for the fact that you can have it in a KFC-style bucket to go, but also because of its taste. A little bit crispy, a little bit high class, and a lot of classic French flavors that blend the whole thing together.

For dessert, we split Michel’s chocolate bar, a homemade version of a Kit Kat. Texas and I fall on two very different ends of the chocolate spectrum: I like mine light and subtle, she likes hers heavy and dark. This was more on my end, with bits of wafer providing some nice crunch to go along with some familiar sweetness.

The Verdict

Classic French, good fun.

Food Rating: ****
(out of 5)
Date Rating: 3.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code:
Bar Rating:
Classy Crowd
(out of 5) ($75-$100 for two)
: Stop by the Old Post Office before it turns into a Trump Hotel, and catch a view of the city from th old clock tower.

Central Michel Richard on Urbanspoon

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