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[Posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

Approaching the hotel from the northern perspective, one appreciates the scallop atop the majestic batiment, the crescendo of grandeur as one strolls slowly across the trestle, winding across the expansive exterior foyer, disappearing into the frosted glass porticos.

Translation: if you're a cheap fuck like me, park across the railroad tracks and check your car insurance beforehand.

I went through the majority of the lounge menu at CityZen this evening. Here's the scoop:

The drink menu is impressive, with page-after-page of interesting and thoughtful choices, ranging from the affordable (fine selection of quality beers for $6, Bouchard Montagny for $9, a fabulous, traditional Sidecar for $10) to the hilarious ("Jack Daniels is Using his Blackberry in Tennessee" - a whiskey drink made with blackberry puree) to the insane (a $650 glass of Cognac: take your pick from among three of them). Three dozen vodkas, a dozen rums. [note: it's hard to believe so many millions of dollars would go into this restaurant, and they wouldn't pay someone $100 to spend thirty minutes spellchecking their drink menu]

The toro of marinated salmon and beef tartare (in the $13-14 range each) are flat-out great, and perfect ordered side-by-side. I cannot rave enough about these great little plates - if you're on a budget, scarf a few handfuls of nuts to fill up on, and then order one of them. The potato crisps that come with the beef tartare are the best thing approaching a potato chip that I've ever tasted and must be tried to be believed - just try and eating a waffle fry at Chick-Fil-A when you've had one of these babies.

But contrast these with the porcini soup with Madras curry puree (a dollop of vegetable creme spooned atop the soup, $10), which was a no-holds-barred failure. The proportion of (cool) puree -to- (hot) soup was excessively high, and the puree was overtly curried to the point of being dry-spice gross. This soup will either change or come off the menu in the near future (trust me).

Braised ox heart with Bermuda onions ($10 or so) was perfectly executed, and a stunning combination of salt(ox)-and-sweet(onions), fat(ox)-and-acid(onions), earthen(ox)-and-colorful(onions), warm(ox)-and-cool(onions). I was worried about this dish because I've seen similar things in the past that are clunky-gamey and crunchy-thick-oniony, but this was just a perfect combination of a well-conceived recipe supported by great work in the kitchen.

Speaking of the (semi-open) kitchen, I smiled when I walked past, looked over, and noticed the consummate professional Ron Tanaka (former saucier at Citronelle), front and center, working the line furiously, hopping and sweating, looking like he was trying to stop a dam from bursting. Everyone that knows Ron likes him, and it's nice to see this hard-working and talented chef here at CityZen, sure to get the credit he richly deserves.

At the bottom of the lounge menu, there are four intimidating dishes: three rillettes (low $20s) and a foie-gras ($42), all served in a preserving jar. In no way should you run from the prices of these dishes, as they are enough for two or three people to share, and worth it. The duck rillettes was everything you could possibly hope for, served with cornichons and brioche presented in an interesting nod to (rip-off from? message about?) Citronelle's fries: rectangular prisms, stacked perpendicularly in twos, well... if you've had Citronelle's fries before, you'll instantly recognize what I mean here.

After dinner comes the cheese course (if you're quirky and want to go backwards on the menu to order it), and this California Saint-Marcellin-looking disk (I cannot remember the name of the cheese) is baked up in a little ramekin and comes out looking like a small order of hummus, served with terrific housemade pita bread and a pear chutney with pine nuts in it. This middle-eastern riff was clever and cheeky, but it simply didn't work - the hot cheese tasting blue (it wasn't blue) and acrid, and dominating every other component on the dish.

Four brilliant plates, two misses, excellent service and atmosphere, great and imaginative drinks (the wines by the glass are merely decent, not great). Not at all bad considering how short a time they've been open, and at the highest heights, this meal was a clear indication that CityZen Lounge is going to be in its own right, apart from CitiZen the Restaurant, a worthy destination for fine dining.

Cheers!
Rocks.

P.S. CityZen Restaurant currently offers 3 courses (app, main, dessert) for $70 or a 5-course tasting menu (app, fish, meat, cheese, dessert) for $90 (nothing on the tasting menu was on the 3-course menu, but the styles of the offerings were similar. My (excellent) bartender told me that he'd see if they could serve me the 3-course at the bar, although I was perfectly content to explore the Lounge Menu instead. They are not booked for next week at this point - as of this evening, they had openings at any time next Wednesday or Thursday nights, for those curious earlybirds among us.

P.P.S. The meal this evening got rather extensive, and when I asked for a copy of the lounge menu to take with me, they politely declined, saying it was against hotel policy to give out the menu for now, so I'm recalling all of these plates from memory, with the appropriate disclaimers if I miss something, but I think I'm pretty close to accurate as I was paying serious attention to what came out tonight.

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Eleven months have passed without reply, so I thought I'd report in on the best deal in town right now: the $45 three-course tasting menu at CityZen bar.

Eric Ziebold is pulling an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert from CityZen's main menu, all of which are identical to what you'll get in the dining room, and available only at the bar as a $45 three-course.

I asked the bartender Matthew this evening how many of these they're serving, and he said "a few a week," and in the winter months, "multiple weeks would pass without serving any."

Is anyone with me here? These are EXACTLY what you'd get if you ordered the same three courses in the dining room. That works out to $10 for an app, $25 for an entree, and $10 for a dessert. Get the $8 Sauvignon Blanc and the $9 Giacosa Barbera d'Alba by the glass if you're looking for good value. Do you guys realize just how inexpensive this menu is? There's even an amuse-gueule.

Here:

Wild Mushroom Fritter

with White Truffle Emulsion

Sunchoke Panna Cotta

with Smoked Steelhead Trout Roe

--

Puree of Red Beet Soup

Roasted gold beets, braised beet greens, and Perigord truffle mousse

Warm Parmigiano Reggiano Chiboust

with Herb Roasted Hen-of-the-Woods Mushrooms, Arugula, and Parmigiano Oil

--

Herb Roasted Path Valley Farms Shoat

with Sweet Potato Mille Feuille and Poached Prunes

Pave of Diamondback Sturgeon

Sweet carrot, caramelized parsnip, black trumpet mushrooms, and lobster Bordelaise sauce

--

Juniper Aperitif

with Lemon Sorbet

--

Trio of Sexual Stimulii

High-speed "Fusee de poche," rotating G-spot Sin-Devil, and organic raspberry-dyed anal beads

Torchon of Valrhona Chocolate

Burnt orange marmalade and Cinnamon sugar brioche

To paraphrase Nima Tashi - you go get.

Rocks.

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The first dessert alone goes for more than $45 on M St. after about 11pm on a Saturday...

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Trio of Sexual Stimulii

High-speed "Fusee de poche," rotating G-spot Sin-Devil, and organic raspberry-dyed anal beads

Torchon of Valrhona Chocolate

Burnt orange marmalade and Cinnamon sugar brioche

Gee...I'll bet that was a tough choice.

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Trio of Sexual Stimulii

High-speed "Fusee de poche," rotating G-spot Sin-Devil, and organic raspberry-dyed anal beads

Is it me or does this sound like a restaurant that is grasping for straws. <_<

I just can't help but think Thomas would have a heart attack. ;)

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I met the pastry chef a few months back and she gave me the Trio after a long night of boozing. It really didn't agree with me the next morning.

Everything else seems quite delicious.

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I met the pastry chef a few months back and she gave me the Trio after a long night of boozing. It really didn't agree with me the next morning.
Next time, try it with the fudge dipping sauce.

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My sister and I had the three course tasting at the bar a couple weeks ago. Despite the bartender warning us that ordering an appetizer in addition to our three courses was a little much, I couldn't resist the opportunity to order the shoat rillete. It came in a sizeable portion, enough for up to 4 people to share. We should have just stopped there, the rillete having just enough salt, sweetness and creaminess from the fat. Every now and then we'd find a small morsel of meat, and when more toasted brioche showed up, unsolicited, we really couldn't justify having it go unused.

This is how we got ourselves into trouble. Already we were sated, and we hadn't even begun the actual tasting. Several dishes have already been described, but I just wanted to highlight the shoat pot au feu that I had for my main course. Yes, I had shoat twice in the same sitting. Yes, it was intentional, and there was not a moment of regret. Where the shoat rillete was hard, the pot au feu was soft. Where the rillete was salty, the pot au feu was sweet. As long as my liver can handle all the fat, it was not overkill.

So the pot au feu. It was shoat tail, tongue and ear, by far the least sexiest parts of the pig, but let me tell you. This dish is excellent. It arrives with a puff pastry on top, which is taken off and placed in the bottom of your dish. The contents are spooned on top, and then butter is mixed into the broth to make the sauce and poured on top. I think this process is done to create food envy in your companions. The heady smell alone tells you that you have chosen better than them. Shoat tail: Firm, forgiving, and unassuming, but full of flavor. Shoat tongue: soft, creamy and sweet. Shoat ear: sweet, sticky, coats your mouth and then dissolves. I think most people here are pretty open to eating things like pork belly, kidneys, livers, and other offal. This dish has made such 'undesirable' parts into something so elegant while staying equally rustic. The butter enrichment to the broth at the end of serving the dish is kind of involved, but I think it's just playing up one of the great things about pot au feu is that all the gelatin in the meat has dissolved into the broth, making it savory, just a little thick and sticky, and so deeply flavored. I had one quick absent-minded bite of my sister's duck dish (sorry, I don't recall anything about it) and just felt annoyed that I had been disturbed from my dish. It was like someone's cell phone going off during a symphony. I stopped talking to her completely. No converstation topic could engage me more than what I was eating. And after having written all this, I realize that words just fail. I just feel strongly enough about it to say that I want other people to try it before it disappears.

Everything after that was nonessential. This dish is now essential to my taste repertoire. Pork will never. ever. be tasted in the same light. I'm doomed.

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We took advantage of this deal last night and are glad we did.

I got the shoulder from Wu-Tang's shoalt, while my girlfriend had seared Hamachi. Both were excellent. The amuse were the mushroom fritter with truffle sauce and olive oil custard with a spicy tomato/pepper previously discussed in the CityZen thread and were divinely rich, and might have been my highlights. We both started with a Parmigiano Reggiano Chiboust with hen of the woods, which was a treat.

For dessert, we tried both the cheese plate (a soft goat, semi-soft sheep, aged gouda, and french bleu) and the warm chocolate mouse over a marshmallow layer. It was probably my favorite cheese plate of the year and the chocolate was something akin to a world class s'more.

We didn't get any of the parkerhouse rolls or a sorbet palate cleanser that the seated tables did, but I'm not sure if that was an oversight on behalf of our swamped bartender or an intentional difference in service. The breads were good, though not special. The rest of the service was outstanding and we didn't feel as though we were treated with any less respect than those who had reserved tables and were paying another $25 a head.

I second Rocks' recommendations of the $8 Greek Sauvignon Blanc and the $9 Giacosa Barbera d'Alba. I also had a glass of the french Chardonay which was very nice.

It's not often that I'm tempted to spend that kind of money to eat at a bar, but it was the perfect thing for last night and neither the food nor the service dissapointed.

Thanks to Rocks for the great heads up on this excellent deal.

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A mixed meal at the bar in CityZen last night.

The mushroom fritter amuse was delicious. The mushroom itself had just the right bite.

To start, I had the Spring Garlic Soup with Crispy Shiitake. At first sip the broth was missing a certain depth, but when the I got some of the mushroom with the broth it became complete. Nicely round with the savory mushroom complimenting the sweetish soup. I internally questioned the bartender offered pairing of Pinot Noir with this dish, but it ended up working decently. Part of me still thinks that a heavier minerally white would work better.

My main was the braised shoat shoulder. It was good, but I expected much better. The meat itself seemed a little too lean and ended up a touch too dry. The sauce was much too salty for my taste and ended up overwhelming the sweetness of the peas. Enjoyed this with a Priorat that worked pretty well, if not a little too tannic for me with this dish.

I found the selections for the cheese course to be somewhat puzzling. I was given a really intense chevre, an aged gouda (a bit uncertain here), pecorino, and bleu d'auvergne. The two hard cheeses together were a little much and none of the cheeses provided much of a break from the salt and intense flavor caravan. A milder soft cheese would have been a welcome substitution and palate break. The accompanying chutneys were quite delicious.

Service was sufficient, but could be a little more attentive to a patron with an empty plate and a little less attentive to buffing glasses. I found the polished steel bar top to be an odd design choice given the rest of the space, but different strokes and all. I do wish they had different bar stools.

Overall, it was a good meal, but I walked away a little disappointed because I thought it could have been so much more. I do think that every Rockwellian should go down at least once to check out what Chef Ziebold has brought to DC. A return visit isn't at the top of my list, but neither is it at the bottom.

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A small group (5) of us decided to see what all the fuss was about in the CZ Lounge. I have been a couple of times before and have enjoyed my meal so my expectations were pretty high. All I can say is that I am fat and happy right now. We started off with one order of wildly good, wild goose rillettes before the 3 course meal. Note that one order is the perfect size for 5 if you are going to eat a full meal afterwards.

Started off with the soft boiled egg (cooked sous vide) and enjoyed Chef Ziebold's take on ham and eggs. The ham was house cured shoat leg and a couple of us were mopping our bowls with the bread. Seems that the kitchen does not usually make many of these a night so there was a slight delay in getting these to us. Not to worry, an amuse of olive oil custard topped with a pepper butter and a small plate of the pickled shad was sent out while we waited. Thank you chef!

The rich and flavorful shoat shoulder was nothing less than perfect to me. A meltingly soft layer of fat atop the meat that fell apart when poked with the fork. I chose the chocolate dessert, yeah I know big surprise to those that know me, and it was a CityZen s'more.

While wine, a before dinner drink, and coffee pushed the meal well north of the stated $45 price it was well worth it. If you are better at self control than I am and keep yourself to 2 glasses of wine this meal is well worth the trip.

If I am remembering what I was told tonight correctly, Chef Ziebold changes the menu about once a month. Anyway they were kind enough to provide us a copy of the menu that I have attached.

post-37-1144553612_thumb.jpgpost-37-1144553624_thumb.jpg

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Glad you enjoyed it more than I did Mike.

<cue weepy theme music>

I first read this directly on the heels of reading hillvalley's post in the birthday thread. Having gotten to know Mike and his tastes over the past couple of years on eG and here and having shared meals with him, his glowing review has caused me to bump CityZen higher up on the "need to go back" list.

To all the wallflowers and lurkers out there, that's why you need to get involved and get to know people. <_<

<fade into black>

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And here are some photos of the various dishes:

post-43-1144683740_thumb.jpgMushroom amuse with truffle sauce post-43-1144683905_thumb.jpgCustard with pepper butter

Shad with Potato Crisps and ramp-top sauce post-43-1144683807_thumb.jpg

Sous Vide Hens Egg with Cured Shoat Legpost-43-1144683835_thumb.jpg post-43-1144683931_thumb.jpgClam Chowder Salad

Between Course Palate Cleanser post-43-1144684000_thumb.jpg

Shoat post-43-1144683978_thumb.jpg post-43-1144683955_thumb.jpg Cobia

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To all the wallflowers and lurkers out there, that's why you need to get involved and get to know people. <_<

--I agree. I'm relatively new and am glad that I've stepped out from behind the board. Aside from meeting people I really like and appreciate, I've learned stuff about chefs, food and drink, and restaurants around town that I wouldn't have from just reading the board. Looking forward to going out more often.

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Shad with Potato Crisps and ramp-top sauce post-43-1144683807_thumb.jpg
This was not on the original menu for the evening, but as Chef Ziebold explained when he came out, those who ordered the sous vide egg dish had a bit of a wait - the sous vide process takes some time, and this was to tide us over. Take a look at the photo: the thin slices of Hudson River shad had been marinated in a citrus of some sort and were full of flavor. They sat on top of a piece of braised celery. But the two items on the side were nothing short of amazing. The Yukon gold potatoes had been shaved to a transparant thinness before being fried to a crisp and stacked like flower petals. And the fresh, bright green ramp puree tasted of a field of new spring onions and garlic - perfect for the crisps and the fish.

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That shoat looks much better than mine did. Sauce appears to be different as well.

Looks like I just got a bum plate.

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Wow. Thanks for the beatiful pictures-everything looks exquisite. I know where I'm going!

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I will add that the service provided by our bartender/waiter, Scott, was superb. He had plenty of time to wait on us because the bar/lounge was virtually empty Saturday evening. We sort of played musical chairs on him by switching seats after every course and he didn't miss a beat; he had the rest of the able staff deliver the right courses to the right people at each juncture.

ETA: And I agree with JPW about the barstools. I didn't like them either. The cushioning is not substantial enough and the result is uncomfortable pressue on the backs of your thighs after you have been sitting for a couple of hours.

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I'm confused ... is the much-discussed "bar at CityZen" what shows up on the webpage as the empress Lounge, or Cafe MoZu, or none of the above? I want to make sure I end up in the right place if I go! 8-))

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I'm confused ... is the much-discussed "bar at CityZen" what shows up on the webpage as the empress Lounge, or Cafe MoZu, or none of the above? I want to make sure I end up in the right place if I go! 8-))

None of the above. The bar at CityZen is just that. The bar in the restaurant CityZen. You're in the right place if you find yourself sitting at a sleek metal bar with some sort of fire sculpture behind the bar.

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I cannot believe that nobody else taking advantage of the wonderful deal at the bar? Is it just that out of the way? Anyway, last Friday night we decided to head to the bar at CityZen for dinner as my SO wanted to check it out.

A few new things on the menu, but he hen egg discussed above is still available and worth getting.

Dinner started with 2 amuses, the mushroom fritter and one that I liked even better. A rather large slice of raw amber jack served with a grapefruit gelee and topped with thinly sliced radish. The fish in combination with the gelee, that had a bit of ginger in it, was refreshing and a great surprise.

She had the egg and I had a Sea Trout Club Sandwich for an appetizer. Beautiful pink cured NZ sea trout was served on griddled brioche and topped with smoked trout roe. This open face 'sandwich' was served with some marinated red onions and atop some roasted romaine lettuce. The dish was very good, but overshadowed by the main course.

Dinner for me was Crepinette of Path Valley Farms Rabbit that was served with a fricassee of English peas, abalone mushrooms, and sauted frisee. IIRC, a crepinette is typically a sausage wrapped in caul fat before being cooked. This dish was more like the loin (or saddle) of the rabbit that was roasted and the dish was topped with a frenched rack of rabbit. Rich and delicious, the sauce is spooned around the plate after being served.

The other entree being offered is pan seared Maine diver scallops, served on a ragout of Sicilian couscous. The three scallops are topped with English cucumber, caramelized sunchoke, and green almonds. The one bite of scallop that I had was very good, but I was very happy with my rabbit.

Dessert was the wagon wheel for both as we cannot turn down chocolate.

The bartender (Scott) said that they do a pretty good business at the bar, but there were only 2 others eating the entire time that we were there.

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How are the bar crowds on Saturday nights? I currently have an 8:30pm reservation on a Saturday for the main dining room, but am considering cancelling to take advantage of the $45 fixed menu in the bar. I just don't want to give up my reservation and find the bar overcrowded (their 24-hour cancellation policy prevents me from deciding once I arrive). Seeing as this would be my first trip to CityZen, I'm on the fence about going for the deal in the bar or keeping my reservation and getting the "full dining experience" in the main dining room. I'll be in Washington for a long weekend and have decided that this is my "splash-out" meal. What would be your recommendation?

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How are the bar crowds on Saturday nights? I currently have an 8:30pm reservation on a Saturday for the main dining room, but am considering cancelling to take advantage of the $45 fixed menu in the bar. I just don't want to give up my reservation and find the bar overcrowded (their 24-hour cancellation policy prevents me from deciding once I arrive). Seeing as this would be my first trip to CityZen, I'm on the fence about going for the deal in the bar or keeping my reservation and getting the "full dining experience" in the main dining room. I'll be in Washington for a long weekend and have decided that this is my "splash-out" meal. What would be your recommendation?
Welcome Erin. If this is a vacation, spoil yourself and go for the big deal in the dining room. Ask for a table close to the open kitchen. The bar is on the far end of the long narrow room from the kitchen.

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How are the bar crowds on Saturday nights? I currently have an 8:30pm reservation on a Saturday for the main dining room, but am considering cancelling to take advantage of the $45 fixed menu in the bar. I just don't want to give up my reservation and find the bar overcrowded (their 24-hour cancellation policy prevents me from deciding once I arrive). Seeing as this would be my first trip to CityZen, I'm on the fence about going for the deal in the bar or keeping my reservation and getting the "full dining experience" in the main dining room. I'll be in Washington for a long weekend and have decided that this is my "splash-out" meal. What would be your recommendation?

On my visits the bar has been just about empty on Friday and Saturday nights. Trying to decide between the two is rather difficult. From your comments it appears that you are here on a trip and I am inclined to say have the regular meal and enjoy the "full dining experience". Although if you want a smaller and less expensive meal, the bar deal is the way to go. Did I really say anything to help?

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