Central Michel Richard

My actual birthday fell on a weeknight (Wed, May 28th), so after an insane 30th bday celebration over the weekend, we decided to take it easy. My stomach was also not feeling so hot after I abused it during the all the eating and partying. Neil had originally planned Restaurant Eve, but given my exhaustion, he suggested Michel Richard’s Central. Although, it has a major kink (service was awful), the food was absolutely delicious, and I will be returning.

Central is a French bistro, highlighting DC’s top chef, Michel Richard’s cuisine in a more informal and less expensive setting. It gives people like me (that can’t go to Citronelle every month) a viable option. The menu choices can be described as fun, comforting and elegant. There are cheese puffs, burgers, and even bangers and mash. Of course, more “gourmet” entrees, such as steak au poivre, also exist. We were started off with delicious bread having a crispy exterior and super soft interior. This is the way real French bread should be! I could have eaten the bread all night with some wine, but I saved myself. The menu is very extensive (especially the apps), and it was very difficult decide, especially since it was only the two of us. We ended up ordering a lot more than we could eat, but all worth it! Due to my stomach, we stuck w/ some of the safer options follows:

  • Crab Cake w/ Leek Tartar- Absolutely perfect! It was all big chunks of crab and the leek tarter was so refreshing and tasty on its own. Neil was eating the tartar alone by the spoonful. The portion is a nice size as well, and it should be at $22.
  • Mushroom Pearl Pasta Risotto- Creamy and delish. A very generous portion as well. My only criticism would be to add porcinis into the mix. I wanted a deeper mushroom flavor, but the texture was divine.
  • Spinach & Goat Cheese Torte- Beautifully presented spinach and goat cheese sitting on top of a very thin, flakey crust. The spinach portion was very creamy and dense. Nice flavor combination.
  • Hamburger- Definitely worth the $16. We were hesitant to order it, because after all it’s a burger. But, wow, each bite just got better and better! And the brioche that it sits inside is buttery and soft. The meat was cooked to a perfect temperature also. Get a side of mayonnaise to go with the fries!
  • Macaroni & Cheese side- Not very “safe” for my stomach, but I couldn’t help it. Very creamy, tangy, and cheesy. It was made with a penne, so every bite oozed out with luscious cheese. It also had a very crisp, charred top.
The food is definitely worth the price, especially given the nice portion sizes. And I was surprised that they have tasty options to please a vegetarian’s palette as well. The wine list is also affordable. I had a couple glasses of Malbec at $9 a glass and only $36 for the bottle.

I wish I could be as complimentary regarding the service, but it was just terrible. Our waiter couldn’t care less. We asked him simple questions about the menu, and his one word responses obviously didn’t help. He wasn’t attentive at all, and he appeared thoroughly annoyed that we were taking a while deciding on what to order. Had he assisted, we probably wouldn’t have taken as long! I have heard of other patrons having similar experiences with the wait staff at Central. This is a major fault of the restaurant.

Neil told them it was my birthday, so they brought our dessert (not complimentary) with a candle on it. It was pretty awkward actually, because the waiter just put it on the table and quickly ran off. If I remember correctly, the candle almost blew out, because he ran away so quickly. But, when the check came, he said happy birthday to me repeatedly (for the tip of course). Anyways, we had the chocolate lava cake a la mode, which was your typical dessert, but delicious, nonetheless.

Central is a comfortable restaurant, but doesn’t offer much in terms of ambiance and d├ęcor. There wasn’t anything that stood out to me. However, I didn’t get to sit near the open kitchen. In fact, it wasn’t even visible from my table, but I hear it’s really cool. Perhaps sitting there would have changed my opinion on the ambiance. The restaurant is mostly meant for small parties. If your party is over 10, they require you to use their private room that has an up charge and minimum that you have to meet.

It’s very hard to get reservations, and even on the Wednesday night that we went, it was completely packed. The bar area is first come first serve. I may opt for that area next time to get a different experience. I hear the cocktails are really good. I plan to go back to try more adventurous dishes. Maybe the service will be better, as I can’t imagine it being worse.

1001 Pennsylvania Avenue
NW Washington, DC 20004

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