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Jacques Gastreaux

Marcel's, Robert Wiedmaier's Fine-Dining Flagship in West End with Chef Paul Stearman, Pastry Chef Ashleigh Pearson, and the Great Maitre d' Adnane Kebaier

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I had a wonderful dinner yesterday evening with a couple of other Rockweilers at Marcel's. I don't know whether to begin with the food or the service or the ambiance. All were impeccable.

We dined in the bar area so I can't comment on what the regular dining room is like. The bar area is light and airy with high ceilings and a glass front that looks out onto Penn. Ave. The decor is traditional yet modern. The package puts you at ease as you either sit at the bar or one of the tables in the bar area.

The service was unobtrusive, professional and efficient, not a single mistake that I noticed. When it became apparent that the 3 of us sitting at the bar intended to dine, they asked us if we would like a table. When we gave an affirmative response, we were escorted to a nearby table and our drinks transported without the bat or roll of an eye. One of our party brought a couple bottles of wine and they were promptly taken away for chilling. The efficient food and wine service were so unobtrusive and efficient as to be almost invisible. I give the service an "A."

I only perused the wines by the glass list and we had wine that one of our party brought so I can't comment on the wine list. I had a white burgundy and it was exactly as it should be.

The food also was excellent. I started off with the boudin blanc, which apparently is their "signature" dish. The sausage came out with a perfectly browned skin, the crispiness of which contrasted nicely with the almost flan-like texture of the inside which had a light, delicate flavor. It sat atop a pool of what this morning I recall to be polenta. The whole thing was drizzled with some really good sauce. "A"

For the entrée, I had the fillet of black sea bass with ratatouille. Damn, was this good. I ordered it primarily because of the ratatouille and because the others had already ordered what I thought was all the good stuff. The fish came out perfectly cooked and atop some pommes mouselline with the ratatouille around the sides of the plate. The mildness of the fish was offset by the tanginess of the ratatouille. "A"

For dessert, I had the cheese course. The only thing I can recall was this one cheese that had so much flavor that I think my taste buds were out of commission for about 10 minutes. One bite of it was all I could handle. It was a real stinker. I give the cheese course a "B." The others had "regular"dessert which I now believe are the way to go. They have a soufflé dessert that takes about 20 minutes; if you are interested, put in your order when your entrée arrives (their failure to tell us about this might constitute a "mistake" by the service).

Between the entrées and the desserts the "habitué" came over and sat down and chatted with us for a while. Altogether, an "A+" evening.

This restaurant belongs on what has been described as the "short list," along with places such as Eve, Palena, Corduroy, Ray's and Firefly. I don't think it would be possible to have a mediocre dining experience at this establishment.

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I had a wonderful dinner yesterday evening with a couple of other Rockweilers at Marcel's...

I ate there some time ago as well and had a similar flawless experience. Their pre-theater menu with limousine service to the KC is a great way to begin a theater or concert evening. The boudin blanc is most definitely one of those "not to miss" dishes in DC.

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Great report. We have reservations 7/12 for the main room, but we may try to get to the bar before then.

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I don't know whether to begin with the food or the service or the ambiance. All were impeccable.

I agree with Jacques that both the food and the service were impeccable. It contained all the ingredients needed for a perfect evening: exquisite food, excellent service and the perfect dining companions who knew how to make a woman blush.

On to the meal......

One thing Jacques forgot to mention about his cheese course was the waiter's failure to tell Jacques what the different cheese on the plate were. I am going to assume that it was an oversight, but I would have liked to know what he was offered. As Jacques mentioned I wish they had told us about the soufflé during the meal. It sounded divine and I would have ended my meal with it.

I think my appetizer was the most disappointing dish of the meal. I had Wild Alaskan King salmon two ways. The presentation was beautiful. Ribbons of cured salmon on one side, a timbale of the salmon tartare on the other. The cured salmon was fine, but I have had much better. The curing process did little to bring out the flavor. I found the tartar incredibly salty. It was hard to taste anything else other than the salt and a slight hint of salmon.

The other appetizer was a scallop tart. Thin slices of scallop topped a small tart like crust. On top of that was a nice sized diver scallop. The diver scallop was perfectly cooked although we preferred the slices underneath.

For my entrée I had duck. This dish is a duck lovers dream showing off the three best ways to prepare this bird. It started with a layer of duck confit. The confit consisted of only duck meat, no crispy bits of skin which is my favorite. But as far as my palate could tell that was the only flaw. Topping the confit was breast, roasted to a perfect medium rare. The skin was crispy, the meat moist and tender. Perfect. Topping the dish was a piece of foie gras. Not much to say about foie gras other than I wish there was more.

The other main was a roulade of snails and sweetbreads. I am told that it was not as good as on previous visits but it met Jacques and my expectations. The portion was generous and the plate licked clean.

For dessert I had the ginger and pineapple soup. As much as I would have like the raspberry soufflé, this was an excellent end to my meal. The ginger stayed in the background, highlighting the pineapple's sweet base. In the soup were small chunks of pineapple and ginger ice cream. The dish was light and refreshing with just enough sweet to satisfy my taste buds.

Finally, we had the raspberry cheesecake. My two dining companions declared that it was the best cheesecake they had ever tasted. It was everything cheesecake should be: creamy, sweet, light.

What started out as just another Thursday night out for dinner turned into a brilliant, almost-as-perfect-as-could-be evening.

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My normal Saturday afternoon is to attend a wine tasting, at one of the better wine stores in the city. Sometimes while at the store, I get sidetracked into the warehouse where special bottles are opened for a few regulars. Today, after several years of fawning over a bottle of '83 Margaux, my friend Steve decided that it was time for me to stop talking about this wine and bought one for a few of us to enjoy. The owner of the store followed it up with a '01 Dead Arm. I thought that this was going to be the highlight of my weekend. While drinking these fine wines Robert Weidmaier called Steve and asked him to grab a bottle of wine and come by the restaurant to smoke cigars and have some appetizers.

Several of us arrived at Marcel's and expected that we would enjoy a very nice bottle of Pomerol, and have some light appetizers. While Robert was sitting with us and drinking a glass of the fine wine, he asked if anyone was allergic to anything. No one was. He said he would send out a few things for us to enjoy.

The first thing to arrive was a tomato appetizer. It was a stack of different heirloom tomatoes, topped with a mild goat cheese, shallots, and drizzled with a balsamic sauce. The dish also had lardoons of bacon, chopped shallots, pine nuts, mache, and toasted brioche bread crumbs. I like tomatoes, and I have had them many ways that have stopped me in my tracks, but nothing like this. This was a simple preparation that showed the highlighted the tomatoes like nothing else. It is my understanding that we were the guinea pigs for this dish, and because of our reaction it is going to be served this coming week.

That would have been more than enough for those at the table, but not for Chef Weidmaier. He sent out bowls filled with thimbles of sweet corn, bacon, and potatoes. A sweet corn soup was poured around this thimble. Everything that Charlie Palmer's corn soup was not, this soup was. It was rich, sweet, and filled with corn flavor. Only proper decorum and easy access to bread kept me from licking the bowl, I figured that this was going to be the end of our appetizers, and it was, but it was not the end of our food. The chef followed this with a buffalo strip steak au poive. This dish was served with a ragout of wild mushrooms, and heavenly mashed potatoes. The meat was perfectly cooked, and the sauce that accompanied it and the mushrooms brought the whole dish together.

The offer for desert was turned down by the entire table since almost everyone had other dinner plans (I was the only lucky one who did not). After this surprise meal we sat around and finished the wine and smoke contraband cigars. It was an afternoon to remember.

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We had a fine meal at Marcel's last night. The food, the atmosphere, and the service were all top-notch. I can't believe this is the first time I've gotten there. I wish I had paid closer attention to the menu descriptions, so that I could recount the meal more accurately. It's definitely a place we'll return to in the future.

I had the PEI mussels gratin with garlic cream, tomato and spinach as an appetizer. It was luscious, a somewhat different texture than I expected, but a wonderful experience. It had great mouth feel (though I don't tend to like that term, it's the best one for what I'm trying to describe), and the flavors melded beautifully. It had fine straws of cheese on top that melted right into each mouthful of the dish. That's one of the best dishes I've had in a while. For a main course, I had the farmhouse chicken, which was excellent and moist. It came with a couple of baby carrots and some green beans, and I think a little asparagus. There was also a cake of, I think, potatoes that came with it. I can't identify what the ingredients were, but it was a nice accompaniment to the chicken.

My husband also enjoyed the chicken quite a bit. He started on the chicken after he finished his salmon. I'm not quite sure what came with the salmon. It appeared to be on a potato bed of some sort. The presentation of the salmon dish was stunning. Again, I really wish I had paid closer attention to the menu descriptions. It was late, and it had been a long, rather tiring day. We didn't get a dessert or cheese or coffee. We had filled up a bit on bread and butter at the start, which was also quite good.

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I am thinking of taking my husband to Marcel's next week to celebrate his promotion. Would appreciate comments from anyone who has dined there.

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I am thinking of taking my husband to Marcel's next week to celebrate his promotion. Would appreciate comments from anyone who has dined there.

Go there. Ask politely for steak tartare. Have boudin blanc.

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Go there. Ask politely for steak tartare. Have boudin blanc.

I second that, especially the boudin blanc.

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I have yet to find anything on the menu that is not superb. I would put it in my top 5 restaurants in the city.

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I had a marvelous meal at Marcel's last night. Service was spot on and the room quite comfortable. My Maine Diver Scallop appetizer was fantastic. As was the veal cheeks special entree. If you had the distinction of having the veal cheek dish on the menu at Nectar before it closed you should quickly get yourself to Marcel's to try this. Very similar presentation and perfectly prepared. Awesome.

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I recently had the veal cheeks as part of the tasting menu. I agree that they are reminiscent of the Nectar cheeks, but I found that Marcel’s version was even better than the ones at Nectar, and that is a hard dish to surpass.

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I recently had the veal cheeks as part of the tasting menu.  I agree that they are reminiscent of the Nectar cheeks, but I found that Marcel's version was even better than the ones at Nectar, and that is a hard dish to surpass.

I'm going tomorrow night with my husband. Do you recommend the tasting menu or should we dine ala carte (is the tasting menu chef's choice?) I'm looking forward to it.

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I'm going tomorrow night with my husband. Do you recommend the tasting menu or should we dine ala carte (is the tasting menu chef's choice?) I'm looking forward to it.

You can't go wrong either way, but I always tend to recommend the tasting menu at a restaurant in the class of Marcel's. I think that you will get a great understanding of the chef's culinary philosophy.

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Go with the tasting menu. I didn't last night only because I had an 8:30 reservation and wasn't up for a long culinary experiance. Next time I'll definetly go with the tasting menu.

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Had a wonderful dinner at Marcel's, thanks to everyone for the suggestions.

What we had - we decided to start with a whiskey sour and a glass of champagne while we looked over the menu. I went with the boudin blanc for the first course. I couldn't believe how light as a feather it was! My husband had the lobster bisque that was served in puff pastry with a little lobster salad on the side and quail egg. For our main course, I decided on the farmhouse chicken and my husband had the Veal Osso Bucco. Both were excellent. We had our server, Jonathan; select a glass of wine to accompany the meal - a white burgundy for me and a merlot for my husband. Both wines complemented the entrees perfectly. We finished the meal with coffee and the chocolate soufflé with raspberry sauce and orange ice cream and a pear strudel with spun sugar. Jonathan had given us a copy of the DC Chef's magazine featuring some of the best chefs in the area, including Chef Wiedmaier, and I asked him if Chef was in the kitchen did he think I could get the copy signed. Chef graciously obliged. The highlight of the evening was when we were leaving, Jonathan decided to take us up to the kitchen to meet Chef Wiedmaier. He probably talked to us for at least 20 minutes and during the conversation he mentioned he is opening another restaurant to be named after his second son, Beck, which will feature authentic Flemish cuisine. Chef said he will spend lunchtime at the new restaurant and evenings at Marcel's, so he will be a very busy person. He is very personable and we really enjoyed talking to him. I always think it's cool to meet the chef. I was not disappointed, it was a lovely meal, one of the best we've had in DC. We highly recommend Jonathan, he did everything right including pacing the meal so that we were able to enjoy every bite at a leisurely pace. We will definitely go back. (I guess I should mention on Restaurant.com you can get a $25 gift certificate for Marcel's for only $10, if you are a subscriber, several times during the year the website offers discount codes for anywhere from 40-60 % off. Quite a bargain - we used one last night).

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Last night I had another fabulous meal at Marcel's. Amazingly this place just keeps getting better. We started off by having some passed hors d'oeureve of a Napoleon of Potato Blini, Smoked Salmon, Cr�me Fraiche, and Osetra Caviar. This was matched with Pol Roger Extra Cuvee de Reserve NV. The little napoleons were perfectly assembled with a perfect proportion of each ingredient.

The first seated course was a Flemish Pea Soup, with Veal Cheeks Meat Balls, this was matched with a 2004 Domaine du Tunnel Saint-Peray Marsanne. The warmed bowls arrived with two meat balls, a quenelle of pureed potato, and fried parsley. The soup was then dished over this at the table. The color of the soup was not that appealing, but the flavor sure was. There was not much talking at our table while we all slurped down our soup. The soup tasted of creamy fresh peas and herbs. The meat balls were meaty, with a nice tang to them. I did not understand the inclusion of the fried parsley since the soup caused it to loose its crunch. But this did not distract from the soup. The wine was a very nice match to the soup and meatballs.

The second course was a Crispy Skate Wing, Caramelized Salsify, Potatoes with a Dill Beurre Blanc Sauce matched with a 2003 Lewis Cellars Chardonnay. I wish more people served skate wing, it is a delightfully tasting fish. The fish was dredged in what I am assuming was Wondra, and sautéed until crisp. This was served on top of a hash of nicely caramelized salsify and potatoes. The sauce nicely tied all of these ingredients together. The wine was not as oaky as I would have expected from a Napa Chardonnay, but the oak that it did have stood up nicely to the sauce.

This was followed by a Squab en Croute with Artichoke Puree, Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Pearl Onions, and Bacon, matched with 1999 Corton-Renardes Grand Cru Domaine Maillard Pere et Fils. The puff pastry around the squab looked like a lovely piece of porcelain, with a curvaceous "S" on top. One problem I usually have with meat cooked enrobed in puff pastry is that the meat always seems to taste steamed. Not this. The meat was well seared before being wrapped, and it retained its curst even as it cooked in the puff pastry. The meat was wonderfully rare to medium rare. Next to it was a small squab leg confit that was delightfully moist and succulent. The mushrooms and pearl onions were a great combination with the squab. The Burgundy was a lovely match, but still a bit closed.

The final savory course is Roasted Loin of New Zealand Venison, Sweet Breads Roulade and Snails with Meaux Mustard Cabernet Sauce. This was matched with a 1999 Chateau Clerc Milon Grand Cru that had been decanted for three hours prior to serving. This is the second time I have had the New Zealand Venison at Marcel's. The meat is extremely lean but incredibly flavorful. The roulade was a lot of fun, several people at the table did not know what sweet breads were, and are now fans of this delightful offal. The snails and sweet breads were an adventurous match that worked quite well. Like all sauces at Marcel's this one tied together the various elements of this dish beautifully. Clerc Milon can generally be counted on as a solid performer, it did not let us down last night. The three hours of decanting really helped settle it down.

The final course was Poached Sugar Pear Baked in Puff Pastry stuffed with Cranberries and Almonds, with Mixed Berries and Sauce Anglaise. This was matched with 2001 Chateau Sigalas Rabaud 1er Cru Sauternes. This was the dish of the night. The Pear was in no way mealy, the puff pastry was sweet, crisp and delightfully caramelized. The berries were a mixture of raspberries and black currants. The black currants provided an exotic flavor to this dish. The sauce was beautifully prepared. It was a honeyed with citrus, vanilla, and lavender, with a delightful amount of acid to counter the sweetness.
After this meal we retired to the bar to enjoy a very rare 100 year old Cognac and contraband cigars.

** At the bar Brian McBride was enjoying a drink with Robert, he said that the plans for his new restaurant are on track and he is trying to get the word out about it. **

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Any idea of when the new restaurant will open?  I can't wait! biggrin.gif

The Blue Duck Tavern is set to open in May. I am not sure when Wiedmaier's Beck's is going to open.

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Sthitch,

That sounds like one hell of a meal. Thanks for the write up I have to get back to Marcel's soon.

I wonder if they would permit the Crí¼ to do a dinner there?

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I wonder if they would permit the Crí¼ to do a dinner there?

If you want to do a special event at Marcel's contact Adnane Kebaier at the restuarant. He is a great guy and will be very helpful.

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Mel Krupin weighed in on Deli City in the November, 2005 Best Bites section in Washingtonian (scroll about halfway down to the blind pastrami tasting).

And don't stop at the Krupin Pastrami verdict, the piece right below it describes what is one of the best dishes in Washington, Marcel's boudin blanc.

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