Puchina

Muze (Formerly Sou'Wester and Café Mozu), Chef Mark McDonnell's Modern Asian in the Mandarin Oriental

142 posts in this topic

We had an amazing experience at Cafe Mozu this winter, with a great selection for RW and impeccable service.

Ceiba was atrocious. The service was, well downright "ghetto." When it came time for desserts the waiter recited- "bread pudding, chocolate cake, or ice cream." I asked him if that was it since it didn't sound too appetizing and he said yes. The dessert was delicious, but the lackluster description kind of killed our buzz. Later, we were able to read the dessert menu (outside of the restaurant in the little case) and we saw that the written descriptions were lovely. The rest of the food was mediocre, with a pretty limited selection of starters. The conch chowder was a mystery. How they could turn something that is normally so good into something so bland is beyond me.

Vidalia had decent service, if not a little rushed, but had some misses on the menu. The catfish was a real loser, but everything else was good. Not the best southern food I've had, but alright for restaurant week. While not everything was available for RW, you could pay a little extra to have entrees and starters that were not included ($4-$8).

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I had a lovely lunch on Friday at Cafe Mozu. It is a very attractive setting and where else in DC can you get a fabulous meal, plush surroundings, with an expansive garden and river view? This place and its lounge could be my new favorite summer drinks place.

Three of my companions had the daily special bento box -- six small portions of delicacies ranging from halibut to tempura shrimp to orzo salad to flank steak. The presentation was lovely and portions disappeared very quickly. I had the lobster salad with pancetta, avocado and arugala on tosted brioche. It was two decent-szed rounds piled high with lobster salad. The avocado added moistness and flavor and allowed for scant use of mayo in the salad itself -- a plus in my book. The pancetta was a subtle note and not a major ingredient. This was served with a side of housemade spiced potato chips. They were cooked dark (a plus) but they were greatly underseasoned. The one off note in the lunch.

We had a round of iced teas to go with our meals. They brought quite the assortment of sugar packets (regular and in the raw), artificial sweetners (both equal and splenda), and a pitcher of simple syrup.

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I had a lovely lunch on Friday at Cafe Mozu.  It is a very attractive setting and where else in DC can you get a fabulous meal, plush surroundings, with an expansive garden and river view?  This place and its lounge could be my new favorite summer drinks place.

Three of my companions had the daily special bento box -- six small portions of delicacies ranging from halibut to tempura shrimp to orzo salad to flank steak.  The presentation was lovely and portions disappeared very quickly.  I had the lobster salad with pancetta, avocado and arugala on tosted brioche.  It was two decent-szed rounds piled high with lobster salad.  The avocado added moistness and flavor and allowed for scant use of mayo in the salad itself -- a plus in my book.  The pancetta was a subtle note and not a major ingredient.  This was served with a side of housemade spiced potato chips.  They were cooked dark (a plus) but they were greatly underseasoned.  The one off note in the lunch. 

We had a round of iced teas to go with our meals.  They brought quite the assortment of sugar packets (regular and in the raw), artificial sweetners (both equal and splenda), and a pitcher of simple syrup.

You've convinced me - I just made a dinner reservation for Restaurant Week.

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I had an interesting experience last year at Cafe Mozu. We went there for my brother's law school graduation. While we were waiting for the rest of our party to arrive we decided to order a cocktail and sit in the lounge area in front of the restaurant. After 10 minutes of waiting and no server showing up, my brother went to ask the host what the story was. Apparently he got very defensive towards my brother and told him "not to tell me how to do my job" and proceeded to blow him off. My brother, who was irate at this point, proceeded to get the food and beverage manager for the hotel and explained the situation to him. He was very apologetic and ensured us he would rectify the situation. As it turns out the whole bill of about $900 for seven of us was comped. Frankly, I think it was due to the fact that a prominent national news anchor was in our party. Regardless, I think this speaks to the level of customer service of this establishment.

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I'm from a Scandinavian community in the midwest, a place so far from oceans that black cod suggests rotten lutefisk. When my waitress and my dining partner suggested together that I might be unreasonably prejudiced, I suggested they'd both lost their minds. (No, not on the lutefisk, and yes, there is a difference between rotten and not. Drench it in butter, stuff it into mashed potatoes, wrap everything in lefse, and shut up.)

They were right. The stuff is butter marinated in seawater, and Mozu renders it brilliantly, with a tangy ponzu accent circling the curvacious fish. "I should give you a taste of my steak," said my partner, when the cod had dwindled to a final bite. I hastily speared the fish into my mouth, chewing thoughtfully. "Yes, you should," I replied.

I like this place. My salad was light greens in a spicy-sweet dressing, wrapped in fennel, the waitress promised, and cucumber, my eyes and tongue assured me. Service was kind and unobtrusive--an hour into our meal, we realized that we'd eaten dry bread and caught up on much that was important, but forgotten to order. We caught our waitress's eye. "Are you ready?" she asked. "I didn't want to interrupt your conversation."

Outside, the river was shimmering in the fading sunlight; inside, a solo traveler snuck a book beneath his table, like a grade school child, and men in shirt-sleeves drank wine while sneaking glances at women in V-necked dresses. Dessert was the bento box with tastes of all the chef's pastries, all fine, though I wished, at the end, that I'd forgone the sweets for a glass of Macallan's in the lounge, where a pianist was playing. The mess of roads surrounding the building guards it as well as any moat, and Mozu makes a fine, fine oasis.

Edited by babka

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Cafe Mozu tonight. Special RW menu, consisting largely of the menu options from last month. Tasty sesame salad w. lotus root, ok duck spring rolls, good steak, overcooked cod, good black & white martini, lemon tart that tried to please all at once and utterly failed. Not, all in all, their best cooking, though perfectly pleasant for the price and a reinforcement of the idea that it's far better to save food dollars for weeks that aren't restaurant week.

We asked about an additional cheese course and were presented, cost unasked (our fault), with the single saddest plate I've ever encountered. If your customers can ID the cheeses to their local Safeway, it's probably not worth serving. We tasted each one once, decided there was no point in continuing, asked for the bill, opted to convey our unhappiness with the pathetic, uneaten cheese when we saw the $25 cost for a "special food item"---and they immediately agreed that the plate wasn't up to the quality of their normal cheese offering, apologized for the chef, who was slammed, kindly removed it from the bill, and gave us a gratuis glass of (flat) champagne.

service was, across the board, a gem. welcomed with a smile, seated with a smile, served our entrees (granted, before our before appetizers had been cleared) with a smile, finally given a steak knife with a smile, offered champagne with a smile....

by all means, go to Mozu.

next week.

Edited by babka

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RW

Went to Cafe Mozu Friday night. After a wonderful experience from the previous RW, we made reservations again. We started with the duck springrolls and the dumpling soup. The duck springrolls were great. The dumpling soup base seemed to be a little too gingery and salty for my taste. For the entree, I chose the NY strip steak and my s.o. got the cod with pomegranate. The steak was overcooked for my palate but the sauce companion (korean chili paste) made it okay. My s.o.'s cod was wonderful. It literally melted in your mouth, but could not taste the pomegranate distinctive flavor in the dish. We finished with their signature black and white martini shakes for dessert.

I thought the service was a little bit rushed, but overall attentive.

I would recommend this place as a great date atmosphere!

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I was this weekend and was suprised to see that the Restaurant Week deal was still available (maybe it is permanent). Nothing spectacular but what a bargain!!

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Decided to cap off RW at Mozu and was, unfortunately, slightly underwhelmed. Started with a coconut milk-galangal concoction with bits of shrimp and wild rice that was a delightful mix of two very distinct flavors. Went very nicely with our too-hard-to obtain rolls (see below). Main course was the "szechuan" ribeye steak. I failed to see any resemblance in the preparation to any cuisine I've had from that Chinese province, but the steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare and was well-flavored. My guest had the tuna steak and that was a fine cut of tuna also cooked quite well with a squash puree on the bottom. Dessert consisted of a trio of selections ranging from tiger cake, a chocolate-type cake with a wafer crust, and a passionfruit pudding of sorts. Very sweet and very sizeable.

While I expected a bit more out of the food, I was generally satisfied. What really set me off was the service. While us foodies are forgiving due to the crush of a typical RW crowd, it frankly wasn't particularly busy this evening at Mozu when we were dining there (maybe 75% full). We arrived about 30 minutes early with the intention of checking out the Mandarin Oriental's chic lounge. I headed over to check in and was told we could be seated immediately...an offer that we took them up on. That is until the head hostess (or maybe she was just the other hostess) literally stopped the other hostess from leading us through the door and told us that we'd have to wait a a few minutes for her to tell us if the table was available or not. We were then left to wait for another ten minutes until I walked up and asked again if we could be seated or should just head over to the lounge. After another five minutes or so we were finally seated. Bottom line, I have no problem waiting till my actual reservation time, but just let us know if we should stick around or head over to the bar.

Hoping that the worst was behind us, our server left much to be desired as well. Things started off fine as he was quite cordial, but that's when the waiting game started...first he forgot the bread (which was eventually delivered, after being asked, with our first course), then the time between courses started growing to the point where we literally sat there for at least 20 minutes between finishing dessert and any other approach by him to the table. As I was walking back from the restrooms I overheard another table chewing him out for not offering them coffee/tea until after the arrival of their desserts (an offer which my guest and I didn't get, period). Clearly he was getting mobbed, which I can understand since his section was full. The problem I saw here though was that none of his fellow servers (with nearly empty sections) were helping the poor guy out. In any case, I was just surprised with the service, particularly given the international reputation of the hotel (perhaps the restaurants are run by a different company).

Bottom line. Food = thumbs up with room for improvement, service = thumbs down with LOTS of room for improvement. Next time I'm back at the hotel, hopefully I'll have a more pleasurable experience when I head next door to City Zen!

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i went there for RW the other night. here are my positives and negatives.

positives:

service (overall) - they were very attentive, placed my napkin on my lap for me. were fast and polite

decor - the inside is pretty nice

entree - i had some fish. i think it was hake. it was good, not great.

dessert - this was by far the best part of the meal. the citrus praline tart was amazing. unfortunately they only make it for restaurant week. i might go back during lunch just for that

negatives:

service - (for me) the service was good, but i personally didn't like it. it was just too formal for me. i can see why some people like it, but i personally don't need to be pampered all dinner.

appetizer - some shrimp salad sandwhich. it was not good.

seating - they were about half full at the very most, prob closer to 30%. yet we still got stuck sitting in between 2 other tables. the tables were like 2 feet apart. it was very cramped and we were basically forced to listen into other people's conversations.

overall, i liked it. i can't say whether or not i'd go regularly since none of the restaurant week menu, besides the sushi, is available on a regular basis. also, i did hear the server tell the next table that their sushi chef is the only master sushi chef in dc. i don't know if that is true or not. had my waiter told me that, i would've had the sushi.

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Having had the sushi there before for lunch, you didn't miss much. It was fine but certainly nothing particularly special.

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Was there last Sunday for a very late lunch/early dinner. This after an 'Oriental Harmony' massage there at the spa (highly recommended!). Shared a sushi roll with my wife and it was quite good (the one with 'red beet' rice) and very pretty, too. I moved on to the chef's bento box and was pleased with the selection (the scallop was particularly nice).My wife had a sea urchin pasta that was quite good.

She went back this week for lunch as she works very near there and was raving about her lunch there. The soup in particular won her over. I wished I could remember what else she told me she had.

As for service, we've had nothing but good service there. I do not understand, though, why they choose to seat folks at tables right next to each other if/when there are plenty of other tables available (even plenty of directly in front of the window tables, too!).

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Had a Restaurant Week lunch here yesterday. I work nearby but had never eaten here before. We both had the RW menu - my friend and I started with a creamy lobster celeriac soup with toasted leeks, which we both enjoyed. One had the red snapper over orzo which she enjoyed; I had the grilled sushi sampler which I thought was only ok. We both had the panne cotta for dessert which was decent. I would recommend this for restaurant week - a relatively limited menu, but very pleasant service and a pretty atmosphere - ask for a table by the windows and it is worth every penny for the view. The full menu is also available - I will go back again post RW to try the bento boxes.

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Continuing my "Tour of Treason," I breached the (E-)Maginot line (Ligne Imaginot being an old French joke (as was the Renault <<Le Car>>)) and slunk into Cafe Mozu. Before seating me, the gentleman at the host stand showed me a little grill with plastic food on it, and explained that this March, they're featuring a special Ku Shi Yaki menu. A solo diner, I was immediately offered reading material, and seated at a comfortable deuce overlooking the dining room. One thing you'll notice right away here is that you're at a Mandarin Oriental (*) which comes with all sorts of architectural and service-related perks. Cafe Mozu is a lovely dining room.

I headed straight for a glass of "Divine Droplets" sake ($13), and the Sashimi Appetizer ($12) which is listed on the menu as having "fresh arrival fish." These three little words, to me, conjure up notions of the fish having just been whisked out of the waters that very day, and arriving by motorboat at the pier in back of the restaurant. Or, perhaps the "fresh arrival" was just a delivery truck: The three fish on the plate were hamachi, sake, and maguro, which are probably the three most common fish you see at sushi bars. (Remember just a few years ago when hamachi was a rare and unusual indulgence? Right, well, not any more.) Species-wise, and fat-content-wise, there was nothing special here, but the six pieces of sashimi were thick-cut and had clean flavors. At a relatively calm $2 per piece, given that the presentation was snazzed up with a little seaweed, this was a perfectly respectable dish for the unadventurous sashimi enthusiast.

The Ku Shi Yaki menu lists seven a la carte items, and then two combinations. The Special Combination ($10) consisted of four different skewers: duck thigh and Japanese scallion, Japanese chicken ball (ground chicken meat with egg, Japanese taro, and Sancho powder), Shi Shi Tou (green pepper), and Ebi Oni Gara Yaki (a whole shrimp). As wildly appealing as this all sounds, it was really a bland, even boring, plate of food, despite being served with semi-interesting Se Chi Me and Sweet Soy sauces.

And then, if you'll forgive me, I ordered a California Style Roll ($13), because rather than nasty surimi, it was made with Maryland crab, avocado, and cucumber. This was a very good, ample roll, the crab being made into a salad with some mayonnaise, although the sushi rice left something to be desired. Taken as a whole, this was an enjoyable meal with attentive service in pleasant surroundings.

Beatback Time

Being in the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Cafe Mozu was justified in pioneering the $10 Maki in this area, but when did this become the socially accepted norm? Cha and Sei have followed suit, and I don't like the systemic price-creep I'm beginning to witness.

Cheers,

Rocks

(*) Especially since you just walked through the lobby to get here.

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Changes afoot at Cafe Mozu.

As someone who lives in SW, I am glad to have a great but more affordable option so close to me. We needed something between CitiZen and Cantina Marina, and for me, MoZu was just too pricey to be a weekday kind of place.

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As someone who lives in SW, I am glad to have a great but more affordable option so close to me. We needed something between CitiZen and Cantina Marina, and for me, MoZu was just too pricey to be a weekday kind of place.

Additionally, according to Tim Carman, recent DR.com chat victim subject RachaelH, "CityZen's second-in-command in the kitchen ... will be the chef de cuisine at the revamped MoZU".

Congrats, Rachael!

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waiting for the explanatory phone call ... angry look on his face ... tap ... tap ... tap ....

I would like to take Don's post as an opportunity to express that an enormous amount of thought has gone into the concept and philosophy of the restaurant. If there are some things that make you wonder or roll your eyes, I would merely ask that you give us a chance to develop our identity and the culture of our restaurant before forming an opinion. Let the restaurant become what it is planned to be and I think you'll like what you find. We hope to have a place that becomes an important part of Washington DC, and what it means to be a part of the community here, IN WASHINGTON.

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Couldn't happen to a better place. I've worked for almost six years two blocks away from Cafe Mozu, and I've been twice. We go to places in that price range occasionally but make sure to go elsewhere (which means Metro-ing somewhere considering there is nothing else around there comparable other than -maybe- the restaurant at Loews). Food was always decent, but way overpriced.

Can't wait to see what transpires here.

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Recently featured in Modern Luxury (see attached).

I can't wait!

Cool. According to this Craig's list posting it will be opening in September.

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I received an email from CityZen the other day that says to save the date (Sept. 20) to celebrate CityZen's 5th anniversary and "the birth of Sou'Wester Chef Eric Ziebold's latest culinary venture." So does that mean they changed the name to Sou'Wester instead of South By Southwest?

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I received an email from CityZen the other day that says to save the date (Sept. 20) to celebrate CityZen's 5th anniversary and "the birth of Sou'Wester Chef Eric Ziebold's latest culinary venture." So does that mean they changed the name to Sou'Wester instead of South By Southwest?

If so that might be the worst restaurant name I've ever heard.

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I received an email from CityZen the other day that says to save the date (Sept. 20) to celebrate CityZen's 5th anniversary and "the birth of Sou'Wester Chef Eric Ziebold's latest culinary venture." So does that mean they changed the name to Sou'Wester instead of South By Southwest?

Here is the info on the name.

The chef of CityZen, the Mandarin Oriental's luxury retreat, is taking some ribbing for the name of the new venue: Sou'Wester. "We wanted a nautical theme," explains Ziebold, who last month was forced to abandon his original choice, South by Southwest, when officials of the Austin-based music festival of the same name complained.

BTW, according to the article it will be opening on Sept. $14.

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