Todd was in town a few weeks ago. We have a tradition of meeting him in Washington, DC and finding an interesting spot for dinner! Last time, Chris Ann was with him and we checked out Potenza. This time, Todd had CityZen on the radar. CityZen is at the Mandarin Hotel in DC. It was the middle of the week and the streets were quiet, so was the hotel. We were greeted kindly by the doorman and walked in. The matrie d’ greeted us and politely explained to us that we would have to sit at the bar. You see, Devon and I had jeans on…expensive, Joe’s jeans, but in CityZen world, jeans are jeans. We glanced around and quickly assessed it wasn’t too busy, there were empty tables. But, matrie d’ went on to explain that if he made an exception for us, he’d have to do it for everyone. We looked behind us to see if there was a line that had somehow formed without our knowledge. Nope.
Devon and Todd indignantly took their seats at the bar.
And when we were handed the “bar menu” that is only for those step children banished because of their jeans, the boys were ready to move on to a more welcoming jaunt. But, me, being a blogger, sniffed a good story in what was unfolding! We stayed. After asking the bartender, Sharon for the “real” menu, explaining our money was as good as suit-wearing-dude’s seated in the main restaurant, she excused herself to see if an “exception” could be made.
She returned with new menus. My camera came out. She asked to take our drink orders and we asked what she recommended. She quickly explained the beauty of the Manhattan she had mastered. The tension began to dissipate as we settled in and watched her work her magic! Todd and Devon were still exchanging a few remarks under their breaths, “This better be as good as they say!”
One sip of the Manhattan and we began to open our minds to CityZen a little. I have to pause here and tell you, typically, Devon and I enjoy sitting at the bar of a restaurant because the bartender usually is loaded with information about the establishment and willing to talk. You see, we like it relaxed ie jeans, but we also appreciate the finer things!
The menu really was masterfully put together! But, what do you expect from a James Beard award winner? Chef Eric Zeibold won the “Mid-Atlantic, Chef of the Year” James Beard award in 2008, among many other awards!
We began to pour over the menu. The decisions were hard, but the three of us chose different items in order to sample everything our heart’s desired!
Our appetizers were served. I ordered the Warm Salad of Butternut Squash. Oh my! The cipollini onions were like candy! Those coupled with butternut squash pierogi, fennel and baby mache made me swoon! This was no ordinary restaurant. This dish was created by an artist. It was immediately apparent Chef Zeibold’s techniques were honed and refined! Devon agreed.
He had Confit of North Atlantic Octopus. This was an elegant dish of fresh octopus with fingerling potato confit, preserved meyer lemon and bottarga de mullet.
Todd started with Clam Chowder Crepe Soufflee. This amazing dish was balanced with salty, flavorful applewood smoked bacon and fresh clams in a soft crepe. It was a soft envelope full of love.
We ordered a bottle of 2007 Catena Malbec. Andy Meyers, sommilier presented and served the wine.
…all joking about jeans had dissipated. We were being won over.
The second course was ushered out with “white glove” excellence. Our eyes began to sparkle as we set them upon the latest gifts. I had Crepinette of Florida Red Snapper with caramelized savoy cabbage, applewood smoked bacon, pearl onions and grain mustard sauce. This snapper held it’s own and tempered the powerful flavors the other ingredients brought to the dish!
Devon had the Roasted Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Rib-Eye. This crispy lamb flank was served with toasted farro and baby turnips. I’m not sure Devon wanted to share bites with us. He kind of went into his own little world, savoring every bite!
Todd was presented with Beef Tenderloin with abalone mushrooms. It melted in his mouth!
Can I just pause again? When our meal was delivered, so was a little wooden box. Another present! I carefully lifted the lid and was delighted with mini, steaming, Parker House rolls. This dinner elevated to a whole new level!
With dinner done and plates licked clean, (ok, not really, but those rolls soaked up every last drip!) I ordered coffee. To me, if the meal finishes with a good cup of coffee, if every step of the way is thought out, then they are exceptional! (There is nothing worse than having an incredible meal and it’s finished with a cup of freeze dried coffee! Ugh!) Can I just say, not only was my coffee delish, but they brought my cup out with a small plate of cardamom cakes! Ok, now the banishment because of our jeans had faded like a distant memory and was replaced by jewels…little, spongy, delectable, cardamom jewels! Chef Zeibold, for me this little gift was the highlight of my visit to your table bar!
We did have amazing desserts to round out the evening! I had the Mont Blanc Souffle. The Valrhona Chocolate Ganache, kissed the souffle!
Devon had Banana Fritters with Creme Brulee ice cream and mocha coulis.
AAA gave CityZen five diamonds in 2008 and 2009. I couldn’t agree more…ok, maybe four and a half…a half taken off for not allowing us the full experience of sitting in the dining room! Nonetheless, this was a denim to diamonds experience for us!