You should know that most of these meals are comped. I can’t afford to go to 24 places in a day and pay for all of them. I think that’s obvious from how well orchestrated the event is, but I just wanted to reiterate that before I make this statement. Going to a place like Citronelle and receiving the kind of attention and care in service I was administered makes me want to work that much harder to cut an exceptional review for them. That’s not to say that the places like Pho 75 and Tangier Lounge aren’t going to receive my full attention when editing (I have a body of work to compile and any slacking would be evident), since they offer a consistent level of service to their clientele; it is more to put the focus on how much goes into the actual dinner service and effort that goes into making people happy at places like this. Zaytinya was the only other restaurant at which I felt the same way. From minds the caliber of JosÃ© AndrÃ©s and Michel Richard, I expect nothing less.
Watching the tape of dinner again, I think Ania may have had many small food orgasms at Citronelle because she kept saying, “Oh my God!” We started with the mosaic; several different carpaccios on an elegant square plate as pleasing to the eye as it was to the palate. Erik let me have the eel, since there was only one (there were conveniently three of everything else for my companions and I), and it was certainly the highlight of the dish. The true, eel-y sweetness set against the tart greens was an excellent juxtaposition of flavor. The second course was something like an eel-plant parmesan (an eel prepared like an eggplant parmesan served with mussels and fresh chopped tomatoes and garlic), and then we had the Begula Pasta. Risotto, poached egg, and lobster – a truly beguiling presentation as the squid-ink saltiness of the risotto doesn’t reach the saltiness of caviar I was half-expecting. The third dish we had was the 72-hour short rib. I didn’t know this was coming because Tom from Market Lunch told me he’d had it at Central (Michel’s other restaurant). He told me he’d never ordered another item off the menu there, and with one bite I saw why. I don’t know if I could really call it a bite because you can cut this meat with a spoon and eat it without dentures. The three of us were flabbergasted.
Citronelle wins the Best Restaurant award for 24 in 24: DC with the Best Bite award going to the 72-Hour Short Ribs. Everything about the experience was exemplary. Mel and J.J. are uber-personable, attentive, and just plain designed for service. I can’t explain how excited I was to eat here, and my high expectations were met to a T.
Let’s head over to the hill for some Capitol Lounge.