DonRocks

Gerard's Place, McPherson Square - Pan Go.

32 posts in this topic

[posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

Many years ago, I was the very last diner ever to leave Gerard Pangaud's Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton in Pentagon City. It was after 1 AM, each table had a black rose on it, and it was the end of an incredible era in Washington dining, perhaps the best food this city has ever seen. That evening was yet another example of the amazing talent and technical abilities of Gerard Pangaud, one of the finest cooks (if not the finest) ever to set foot in this area.

Fast forward to the future: at 11 AM the morning that Gerard's Place opened in McPherson Square, I was nearby and happened to remember it was opening day, so I ran a few errands waiting until 11:30, and ended up being the very first diner ever to set foot in that restaurant. I remember to this day that the thermostat on the wall, right next to my table, had been put on upside down by mistake.

Gerard's Place has been good, even great, in the past, but the financial power of the Ritz Carlton chain has not been there supporting the genius of Gerard Pangaud, and so things have never been the same.

Nevertheless, when Gerard has been in the kitchen, there were glimpses, sometimes strong glimpses, of the brilliance that made him the youngest Michelin two-star chef in the history of France.

The last time I ate there was several years ago. It was the latest in a string of disappointing meals, and the service was inexcusable. I said to the hostess on the way out that I had seen enough, and that I wasn't coming back.

Fast forward to the present: after years of hearing through the grapevine about the mediocrities of this underachieving restaurant, I had begun to hear some positive things on occasion, and even whispers about a comeback from people I trust - it was time to try it again.

I was to meet a knowledgeable friend for lunch, and he balked when I suggested Gerard’s Place, saying that he had been there about five times in the past, and had left disappointed each time. However, like me, he hadn’t been there in several years, and so I was able to talk him into it. Gerard's must be the most expensive restaurant in the city, with main courses at lunch mercilessly creeping into the $30s and at dinner well into the $40s.

First of all, the wine list. Overpriced and mediocre, featuring poorly selected Bordeaux and lots of mainly negociant red and white Burgundies at triple retail (the highly overrated Girardin, Chartron et Trebuchet (huh?), Laurent Roumier, the list goes on). How about a 1990 Latour at $1200? Too expensive? No problem! They have the 1999 at $500 (spare me). There was virtually nothing worth ordering, and so we settled for by-the-glass selections: a perfectly fine Touraine Sauvignon Blanc and an adequate red Bourgogne, which was served ten degrees too warm. Gerard’s Place does offer patrons the courtesy of bringing their own wines and paying a $40-per-bottle corkage which - I hate to say it - is the best option.

The $17 sweetbreads appetizer featured small-cut sweetbreads on a bed of excellent mushrooms (trumpets, etc.) sitting atop a reduced sauce of butter, mushroom and chives, all topped with a small fanfare of microgreens. I liked this dish a lot, apparently more than my friend did, as he commented that “whenever I see chives like this in a sauce, I think of some cowboy chef back there in the kitchen, wailing away with scissors.”

Not wanting to open myself up to libel, I cannot say that my $26.50 duck confit main course had been microwaved, because I don’t know if they even have microwave ovens. Nevertheless, what am I to think when the confit arrives, looking like the skin at one time had been perfectly crisp, and yet it was lukewarm, rubbery and soggy? When I cut the duck open, and steam roars out like it's coming from a deep-sea vent? (I expected to see a ventworm nut or two) When the juices in the meat are unevenly distributed, some parts being wet and steaming hot; other parts being less wet and merely warm? When the bone itself is as hot as a poker pulled from a fire, as if it had been heated from the inside-out? I’ll tell you this much: if they didn’t microwave it, then they sure fooled me. The dish came with really bad oven-browned fingerling potatoes, and a frisée salad that was notable only for its use of raw garlic. I ate precisely half of the dish, and could stomach no more of it.

Dessert was better, but not by much: the $9 trio of sorbets had a scoop each of green-apple, blood-orange and “exotic-fruit” sorbets, and the blood-orange was quite good, as good as I could possibly expect. But the other two were simply too dense, more like ice cream in texture, and they were both dull and uninspiring.

I have a friend coming in town next week, and coincidentally he wanted to have dinner at Gerard’s Place with me. I mentioned to him that I was having lunch there, and that I’d make a dinner reservation on the way out if I felt the restaurant was back on track: I did not make the reservation, as I’m not willing to take the expensive gamble.

Cheers,

Rocks.

P.S. I alerted my dining companion to this thread, and he sent me the following note:

But your post on our lunch was admirably concise and judicious. If you feel like it, add a note from your "anonymous lunch companion" to the effect that he (I) felt the food displayed a certain contempt for the American diner. To ask THOSE prices for THAT food in THIS city where at least 18 restaurants exist serving FAR superior food at lower prices is either blitheness, blindness or contempt.

No amuse-gueule!

Sweetbreads tolerable, sauce too chivey (it's an innately vulgar flavor) and the whole sweetbread-nugget thing seems antithetical to the gooey umami ju-ju that is the raison d'etre for sweetbreads.

Duck confit not inedible but "incorrect".

Diagnosis: whoever was expediting the lunch line today is not tasting the food.

Dessert: 2 of 3 sorbets laughably inept, mushy and grainy.

Service: competent and pleasant.

Wine list: insulting.

Ambience: more elegant than what's on the poor plate, that's for sure.

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Thanks for posting this. Your description of the wine list was one of my favorite eG posts.

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Thanks Don. I too was a big fan of GP in its day. And I too was within weeks of a re-try.

I'd be interested to hear how many other tables were taken, given it was a July lunch. I've wondered how they keep the lights on. Is there a small but devout following that is sure to dine there only when Gerard is in the kitchen and therefore enjoys a different meal?

-Pappy

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Unrelated vocab question: is there a difference between an amuse-bouche and an amuse-gueule?

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Although I had several excellent meals years ago at Gerard's, I had stayed away for a while due to this thread - despite my office being located in close proximity. Today, I tried it again.

The ice tea was very good! Actually worthy of comment.

Nothing else about the meal compared. The leak salad appetizer was boring, the lamb -although itself tasty and tender - was covered mounds of soggy carrot slices.

On the fixed price menu there were two options for desserts: one was figs with licorice ice cream; the other was some sort of chocolate with pistachio sauce. I thought that the figs sounded great, but I don't like licorice. I was first to order, and I asked if I could have it without the ice cream and the waiter indicated that it was better served together. So, I ordered the chocolate. The waiter informed me that it was a slightly different type of chocolate, but I verified that it was served with the Pistachio cream like the one on the menu. He said yes. Great. So, my two companions also ordered the chocolate dish. When the desserts came, mine had pistachio cream and theirs both had the licorice ice cream. Neither of them liked licorice either, and they had both ordered it for the pistachio cream as well. It seems very odd that the only two options for dessert on the fixed price menu require a taste for licorice ice cream. Unfortunately, we were running late, so we did not have time to try to get a replacement.

All in all, a dissappointing - although not horrible -experience. I probably will not be trying it again for some time.

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The ice tea was very good!  Actually worthy of comment. 

Cool! Thanks for taking one for the team. I wish they had bubble tea.

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On the fixed price menu there were two options for desserts:  one was figs with licorice ice cream;

We have a finalist for "most disgusting sounding dessert". Gah.

Edited by Heather

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I know we're being discouraged from nonsubstantive posts but I had to call attention to, and applaud, Rocks' dining companion's coining of the musical phrase "gooey umami ju-ju."

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What's the statute of limitations on being a "two-star" chef? As far as I know, no one for Michelin has motored into any of Gerard's places for over a decade, and nothing said about him (outside Wahingtonian) in almost that long indicates that they'd be handing out multiple stars even if they had.

I move that references to his two stars be banned henceforth.

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What's the statute of limitations on being a "two-star" chef?  As far as I know, no one for Michelin has motored into any of Gerard's places for over a decade, and nothing said about him (outside Wahingtonian) in almost that long indicates that they'd be handing out multiple stars even if they had. 

I move that references to his two stars be banned henceforth.

Does Michelin give stars to chefs or to restaurants? I always thought the stars were awarded to the whole package: food, presentation, service, decor, wine list, etc. The chef is just one component of the award. That Gerard Pangaud was once a chef at a restaurant that was awarded 2 stars at one time should be, at least in theory, relevant but not determinative of the quality of the subsequent establishmenet.

Edited by Jacques Gastreaux

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[posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

Not wanting to open myself up to libel, I cannot say that my $26.50 duck confit main course had been microwaved, because I don’t know if they even have microwave ovens. Nevertheless, what am I to think when the confit arrives, looking like the skin at one time had been perfectly crisp, and yet it was lukewarm, rubbery and soggy? When I cut the duck open, and steam roars out like it's coming from a deep-sea vent? (I expected to see a ventworm nut or two) When the juices in the meat are unevenly distributed, some parts being wet and steaming hot; other parts being less wet and merely warm? When the bone itself is as hot as a poker pulled from a fire, as if it had been heated from the inside-out? I’ll tell you this much: if they didn’t microwave it, then they sure fooled me. The dish came with really bad oven-browned fingerling potatoes, and a frisée salad that was notable only for its use of raw garlic. I ate precisely half of the dish, and could stomach no more of it.

This is classic, old-school DonRocks! I love it. Whichever of you finds the microwave: I'll buy you a glass of wine and a Stouffer's pork cutlet to heat up at home.

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Does Michelin give stars to chefs or to restaurants?  I always thought the stars were awarded to the whole package: food, presentation, service, decor, wine list, etc.  The chef is just one component of the award.  That Gerard Pangaud was once a chef at a restaurant that was awarded 2 stars at one time should be, at least in theory, relevant but not determinative of the quality of the subsequent establishmenet.

According to "The Perfectionist", the book about Bernard Loiseau -- the 3-star chef who committed suicide -- the official position of the Michelin people is that it's all about the food, and the chefs who go into debt and stress lining up swank interior designers and buying crystal and silver aren't actually improving their chances of acquiring (additional) stars. It's all about the cooking.

Clearly, there are a lot of chefs who don't believe thta, but that's what they say.

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What was up with Gerard Pangaud being nominated for a Beard award in 2004 (Best Chef Mid-Atlantic)? I guess that organization totally discredited themselves anyway, with the financial scandals...

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Does Michelin give stars to chefs or to restaurants?  I always thought the stars were awarded to the whole package: food, presentation, service, decor, wine list, etc.  The chef is just one component of the award.  That Gerard Pangaud was once a chef at a restaurant that was awarded 2 stars at one time should be, at least in theory, relevant but not determinative of the quality of the subsequent establishmenet.

I may indeed be wrong, but I believe that the star goes to the restaurant and does not transfer with the chef if he moves.

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The star is for the restaurant. Sometimes a star will stay, even if the chef moves on or dies (as with Loiseau's joint) and sometimes the restaurant will lose the star(s) when the chef goes, as happened to La Bouride, a former 2-star, now no-star place I ate at in Caen.

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The beet salad four-ways at Gerard's Place is unbelievable, Gerard Pangaud at his bring-tears-to-your-eyes finest.

Small-chopped local beets "with oranges," which means small local cubes of beet, with touches of orange rind, in a light-touched sauce of olive-oil and the occasional grain of coarse salt.

Napolean with goat cheese

Carpaccio with Passion-Fruit dressing: a classic Pangaud nautilus of yellow beets that recalls his mango tarte tatin

Mousse with walnuts: a crescent-shaped beet mousse, maybe with walnuts or walnut oil in the mix. The echo was on the carpaccio: a couple of very finely chopped walnuts were on top.

Cheers,

Rocks

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Gerard's Place is going to institute a new formula beginning February 27th: a $59 three-course dinner menu, and a $29.50 three-course lunch menu. And! Beginning sometime in April, the restaurant will once again be opening on Sunday nights, with a reinstitution of the NO CORKAGE FEE policy.

I've discussed this with Gerard, and I think it's a great idea! There won't be as much foie gras or caviar on the menu, but the restaurant will become more accessible, and Gerard will be cooking almost every night.

A sample dinner menu:

DINNER 59.00

Carrot Soup with Ginger and Blood Oranges, Warm Madeleine

***

Salad of Endives with a Cream of Avocados

***

Feuillete of Snails with Herbs (parsley,chive,chervil,tarragon and sorrel)

***

Golden Crust pate “a L’Ancienne” with Foie gras

***

Delice of Crabmeat with Blood oranges

***

Scallops with Parsley Mousse,Lemon Butter

***

Sauteed Foie Gras with Caramelized Mangoes (suplt 10.00)

*********

Napoleon of Salmon and Crisped Potatoes with Horseraddish and Dill sauce

***

Baked Black Grouper with a Tart of Caramelized Fennel, Blood Orange Sauce

***

Poached Maine Lobster with a Ginger, Lime and Sauternes Sauce,

Diced Red Pepper, Avocado and Mango (suplt 15.00)

***

Breast of Duck  with Blood Oranges, Confit of the Legs with a Galette of Potatoes ,Flan of Lettuce with Cumin

***

Braised Short Rib with Potatoes, Pearl Onions,

Mushrooms and Bacon

***

Roasted Pheasant with Braised Endives and Chestnut, Celery Sauce

***

DESSERTS

Mango Tart “Tatin” with a Passion Fruit Sauce

***

Warm Chocolate Cake with Avocados and Bananas Sauce

***

Coconut Dacquoise of Glazed Tangerines, Tangerine Sorbet

***

Tart of Caramelized Apples and Dry Fruits, Caramel Sauce

***

Lemon Souffle with Strawberry Sorbet (Suplt $5)

And a sample lunch menu:

LUNCH 29.50

Lentil Soup

or

Salad of Cauliflower with raisins

*******

Biscuit of Salmon with Sorrel Sauce, Safron Rice

or

Roasted and Stuffed Chicken with Fresh Herbs, Baked potatoes

*******

Fondant of Chocolate with Cherries “Confites”

or

Also stay tuned for upcoming details about a Sunday cooking class open to members here.

Cheers,

Rocks

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I think this is a very smart move. Remember how the front room at Palena used to be pretty much deserted until Frank Ruta conceived Palena Cafe as an affordable venue? Now look at THAT space. I'll certainly want to visit Gerard's, especially on a free corkage night!

Edited by zoramargolis

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It looks like blood oranges are in season

Edited by mhberk

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Having a bad day at work? Would a lovely meal that doesn't break the bank cheer you up? Go to Gerard's Place for lunch. Gerard's recently revamped prix fixe menu is such a great value. For $29.50 at lunch, you can have three courses, with a choice of 2 items per course. All of the a la carte appetizers are $12, and the main dishes are in the ballpark of $25. There are about 6-8 choices among the a la carte items for each course. Therefore, even if you don't get the prix fixe menu, you can still get an app and a main or a main and a dessert for about $35.00, before tax and tip, which seems very reasonable for the haute quality of the food. Plus, the portions are generous. You won't leave hungry. Of course, however, wine or bottled water will boost your bill, and supplements apply for the foie gras appetizer and the lobster with sauterne, ginger and lime. The cooking has been stellar lately, even on those occasions when Gerard himself isn't in the kitchen.

The progressive tasting of beets described by DonRocks is still on the menu, and it should remain permamently -- who knew beets could ever taste so good. Other tasty dishes were duck breast with duck confit parmentier, and a shepherd's pie of shortribs. The "profiteroles" of escargot were also really good -- small savory, slightly garlicky choux filled with escargots with a compote of sun dried tomatoes and more escargots in the middle of the plate. I don't think I have ever had escargot with tomatoes, but the combination is really good -- maybe someone should try it on pizza?

Anyway, if you haven't been recently, go! Gerard's Place is also on Open Table now.

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I'm always a little suspicious of deals that look too good to be true. Have you used the coupons before?

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I'm always a little suspicious of deals that look too good to be true.  Have you used the coupons before?

I haven't used them at Gerard's Place before, but I have used restaurant.com GCs before, with no problems at all.

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