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


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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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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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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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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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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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BTW, not that it matters much, but I enjoyed MoZu for breakfast when I worked a few blocks away. Illy coffee and an egg white omelet overlooking the waterfront was a good way to start the day. I wonder if Sou'Wester (what a name) will serve breakfast, because options in SW are not many....

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BTW, not that it matters much, but I enjoyed MoZu for breakfast when I worked a few blocks away. Illy coffee and an egg white omelet overlooking the waterfront was a good way to start the day. I wonder if Sou'Wester (what a name) will serve breakfast, because options in SW are not many....

They will indeed serve breakfast.

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BTW, not that it matters much, but I enjoyed MoZu for breakfast when I worked a few blocks away. Illy coffee and an egg white omelet overlooking the waterfront was a good way to start the day. I wonder if Sou'Wester (what a name) will serve breakfast, because options in SW are not many....

From Metrocurean: "The new restaurant will serve breakfast (yay!), lunch and dinner daily."

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I can't wait to see Ziebold's take on hushpuppies. Something tells me it will be spectacular.

Not that Chef Ziebold's take wouldn't be awesome, but I think the anticipated credit should go to Chef Rachael Harriman who will be running the kitchen.

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Two pieces of information that never should have come together:

First, from the July/August DC Modern Luxury article on Rachael Harriman entitled "Woman on Top": "We hope some guests will come to South by Southwest in shorts and flip flops," she [Rachael Harriman] says.

Second, quoting Don Rockwell: "They will indeed serve breakfast."

All I can say is that they had better have a very strict Body-Scratching-In-Public policy or they are going to have themselves some serious Michael Landrum issues on their hands.

Be careful what you wish for, indeed.

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And Sou'Wester is born. Congratulations to the whole team!

SOU’WESTER OPENS TODAY AT MANDARIN ORIENTAL, WASHINGTON D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 14, 2009 – Today marks the opening of Sou’Wester, the newest restaurant concept at Mandarin Oriental, Washington D.C. Headlined by Executive Chef Eric Ziebold, winner of the 2008 James Beard Award for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic, and executed by Chef de Cuisine Rachael Harriman, the restaurant features American cuisine with regional influences at a price point that is sure to please locals and visitors alike.

Chefs Ziebold and Harriman are a perfect match, having worked together for the past three years at CityZen, and prior to that at the French Laundry in Yountville, California and Per Se in New York City. Their new menu at Sou’Wester menu features traditional as well as interpretive takes on classics such as Chicken and Dumplings, Braised Rabbit Leg with Creamed Grits and Sautéed Perch with Old Bay Chowder.

Lunch guests will be pleased to see Chef Ziebold’s famed Shoat making an appearance on the Sou’Wester menu, initially in the form of a Shoat Rillette with Pickled Green Tomatoes priced at $11 and a Roast Shoat Leg with Baked Beans priced at $22. Other mid-day offerings include Rappahannock Oysters with Grilled Sausage ($13), Sautéed Pork Belly and Pickled Watermelon Rind ($14), and the house specialty, Fried Chicken Sandwich, served with housemade piccalilli ($9). The lunch menu also offers ‘soup & salad’ and ‘soup & sandwich’ combinations to cater to busy professionals and tourists on the go.

The extensive dinner menu has a varied selection of hot and cold appetizers, seafood, meats and seasonal specials, including appetizers like Chesapeake Bay Rockfish Ceviche ($13) and Poached Egg with Creamed Grits & Sweetbreads ($12), as well as entrées such as Blackened Bluefish with Cajun Rice ($18) and Fried Chicken with Coleslaw ($13). Not to be missed are comforting side dishes like Beer Battered Onion Rings, Hush Puppies with Honey Butter, and Sou’Wester Tater Tots.

Pastry Chef Amanda Cook, who has presided over the desserts at CityZen for over three years, also designs Sou’Wester’s sweet offerings, which includes wide selection of ice creams and sorbets, as well as treats such as warm and crispy Fried Apple Pie and a homey Carrot Cake. Sou’Wester also serves an extensive breakfast menu that includes omelettes, pancakes, waffles and a selection of fresh fruit juices and smoothies.

Carlton McCoy, an Advanced Level Sommelier who most recently served as captain at CityZen, has been tapped to head the beverage program for Sou'Wester. The offerings include affordably priced wines by the glass and by the bottle, an all-American craft beer list and an original cocktail menu with libations based around fruit, herb and spiced nectars, such as A Bronx Tale, made with Aviation Gin, Dolin Blanc, Grand Marnier and a house-made Rhubarb-Orange Syrup ($10).

The space has been visually changed to reflect the new concept. Natural light still streams in from tall windows, and an earthy palette of light-to-medium brown tones create a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere. Wood tables are stained with a cherry wood finish and set with woven place mats. The warmly-colored chinaware, made especially for the restaurant, evokes a farmhouse feel.

Its proximity to the memorials and museums make Sou’Wester the perfect place for guests to enjoy a leisurely lunch by day. The spectacular views of the Potomac, coupled with innovative cuisine, effortlessly transform the restaurant into an approachable yet sophisticated food destination by night.

Sou’Wester is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily from 6:30 AM to 11:00 AM, 11:30 AM to 5:00 PM and 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM, respectively. Sou’Wester is located in the Mandarin Oriental hotel at 1330 Maryland Ave, SW, Washington D.C. For reservations or more information, please call 202-787-6868 or visit the website at www.mandarinoriental.com.

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Has anyone eaten here yet? I am thinking about Saturday night but am hesitant with no reviews.

I went to Sou'Wester for a late dinner this evening, and they were so dead (*) that I felt guilty about it, and instead went to the bar at CityZen. Apparently, they've been absolutely slammed for lunch, and relatively empty for dinner. I'm having a dinner menu emailed to me this evening, and will post it tomorrow - it looks fantastic, and it's not at all expensive. I was told that Rachael took her first night off this evening in several weeks, and I'm sure she's exhausted.

For now, my advice would be to have dinner on the early side unless you want to feel

Alone, alone, all, all alone,

Alone on a wide wide sea!

And never a saint took pity on

My soul in agony.

-- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, from "The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner," Part The Fourth.

There's oodles of street parking down on 12th Street, especially on weekends, so you can save yourself $7 from the valet if you don't mind being a cheap fuck like me.

(*) There was a massive buyout of the Mandarin this evening, and Sou'Wester was busy early, but then everyone left at the same time, and went downstairs to a meeting, leaving an eerily empty restaurant.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I went to Sou'Wester for a late dinner this evening, and they were so dead (*) that I felt guilty about it, and instead went to the bar at CityZen. Apparently, they've been absolutely slammed for lunch, and relatively empty for dinner. I'm having a dinner menu emailed to me this evening, and will post it tomorrow - it looks fantastic, and it's not at all expensive. I was told that Rachael took her first night off this evening in several weeks, and I'm sure she's exhausted.

For now, my advice would be to have dinner on the early side unless you want to feel

Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.
-- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, from "The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner," Part The Fourth.

There's oodles of street parking down on 12th Street, especially on weekends, so you can save yourself $7 from the valet if you don't mind being a cheap fuck like me.

(*) There was a massive buyout of the Mandarin this evening, and Sou'Wester was busy early, but then everyone left at the same time, and went downstairs to a meeting, leaving an eerily empty restaurant.

Cheers,
Rocks.

We dined there last Friday and had a nice meal. We arrived around 7p and the place was rather empty, but diners slowly trickled in during our meal.

For starters we had the crab bisque and the poached egg with creamed grits and sweetbreads. Both tasted very good with the sweetbread dish the clear favorite. The chunks of sweetbreads surrounding a softly poached egg went excellently with the cream sauce. I think there might have been some mushrooms in the dish as well. The bisque, while tasty, did not have the consistency that I expect as it was on the watery side.

Dinner was an order of their fried chicken and chicken and dumplings. Both very well prepared with the fried chicken having just a slight too much salt. There were 3 pieces of fried chicken on the plate (leg, breast, and thigh IIRC) and it was served with a very lightly dressed coleslaw. We ordered sides of the twice baked potato and the hush puppies. The twice baked potato and hush-puppies are excellent! The innards are scooped out and mixed with minced pork, and I am sure butter and/or cream, before being put back in. The hush-puppies are served with butter whipped with honey, although they taste damn good without it.

Desserts were the fried apple pie (think apple turnover) and some other item that I cannot recall.

Sorry for not posting earlier. I don't remember the individual prices, but as Don mentioned the prices are certainly within reason. The total for dinner with 2 sodas (served from mini glass bottles), 2 glasses of wine, 2 apps, 2 entrees, 2 sides, 2 desserts and 2 coffees was about $125 pre-tip.

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So the family came down from New Jersey tonight to celebrate my 21st birthday, and at the behest of Don, we decided to have dinner at Sou'Wester. I'm glad I took his advice; almost every item ordered was great, the service was awesome, and the overall mood of the restaurant was perfect for this sort of dinner. I'll start with a run-down of the dishes ordered (and some that came out as gifts from the chef), and I apologize in advance for the blurry pictures; more than half of them don't do the food justice as I'm still getting used to the iphone's camera. You can see them all at

since the board wont let me post them all here.

Appetizers

Bread Service: Mini-biscuits, corn bread, and what was described as a sweet roll, with softened butter. All were really good. The biscuits were tiny, but very rich; the cornbread was a great rendition; the sweet rolls didn't taste sweet at all, just fluffy and satisfying, simultaneously reminiscent of potato bread and brioche.

Old Fashioned Cream of Mushroom Soup($8): Simple and good; my little sister loved this. It was creamy and had plenty of mushroom flavor, as well as discernible chunks of mushroom.

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Kale and Bean Soup($8): My dad's choice; I didn't get to taste, but it looked good, and was packed with pork along with the kale and beans.

Pan Fried Oysters ($13): These were delicious. The smoked pepper aioli was a good accompaniment, and the plating was unexpected and impressive.

3982170147_a7d5c0c6f7.jpg

Entrees

Porgie Crab Imperial($24): This was my entree, and I really enjoyed it. A pretty generous portion of crab imperial, baked and then topped with a porgie filet, all served with a lemon beurre blanc. The beurre blanc was pretty much unnecessary though since the combination of sweet, rich crab and the fish had plenty of flavor; I think some other form of accompaniment would elevate this dish even further.

Corned Beef Shortribs($24): This was a surprise hit, and probably the most tender piece of meat I've ever consumed in my life. You could cut through it like butter, and it delivered on what was promised: the taste of corned beef, but without the graininess. The pool of horseradish soubise worked really well with it (much better than the beurre blanc with the fish), though I could have used a little more of a horseradish kick in there.

Fried Chicken($13): A leg, a thigh, and a wing, served with coleslaw. The two orders my family had were probably the least impressive items of the night. They were by no means bad, just not amazing. I thought the coating could have been a little heavier and a little crispier. The two who ordered them (Mom and 8 year old sister) were disappointed by the lack of a breast/white meat. The coleslaw was nice and refreshing though, rather than being drenched in mayo.

Chicken and Dumplings($17): Dumplings, assorted vegetables, and a chicken breast in a broth that was not overly creamy. This was a solid dish, and my 13 year old sister enjoyed it.

Sides

Hush Puppies with Honey Butter($4): These hush puppies are reason enough to come to Sou'Wester. They make me consider applying for a job. Each order (we got 2) comes with 5 hush puppies, and they are just perfectly crispy, salty, and delicious. Dipping them in the honey butter leads to a clash of salty and sweet that is utterly satisfying and addictive. I'm pretty sure I ate 5 out of the 10 that came to our table, and I could have easily kept going.

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Broccoli & Rice Casserole($5): Broccoli + rice + mushroom = boring, right? Not when the Campbell's is replaced with Sou'Wester's mushroom soup, and cheese (I think the waiter said it was gouda) is thrown in along with the broccoli and rice. This was creamy and satisfying, and it actually managed to distract me from the hush puppies for a moment. The host (I wish I could remember his name, he was great), stopped when he saw me attacking the casserole and told me that it actually came completely from a recipe Eric Ziebold's grandma would make, just with house made soup rather than the canned stuff.

Grilled Corn with Espelette Pepper Aioli($4): A gift from the kitchen, the corn was good, but the aoili was a little bit heavy; when it comes to corn on the cob, I'm a bit of a purist, so I tend to prefer very little on it.

Baked Beans($4): Another gift from the chef, these were really good. Pretty sure I picked up on a good amount of bacon flavor in there, which really kept me coming back for more.

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Desserts($5 each)

Fried Apple Pie: It was impossible to resist ordering this, even after all of the previous fried dishes. And it was more than worth the $5. It is indeed like a turnover, with the flakiest, most addicting crust ever. Match that up with some really good ice cream, and you've got a winner.

Brownie Sundae: Not nearly as impressive as the apple pie. My sisters split this, and they were disappointed by how little brownie there was in comparison to the whipped cream and ice cream. I got a little taste though, and while the brownie couldn't compete with the apple pie, the nuts in there were really good.

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Cheesecake with Plums: The host brought this out after our other desserts, along with a bottle of Moscato (and non-alcoholic Riesling for the little sisters). The plums matched really well with the cheesecake, and it was all good, but very rich; after the other two desserts I almost couldn't handle it. The Moscato, though, was really refreshing.

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So overall, a great meal. The service was attentive and really generous, and all the staff did a great job of insuring that my birthday was a special one. There was one little slip up (a mix up in the kitchen caused the twice-baked potato we ordered to be delayed), but other than that things were great. A few tiny quibbles about the food from some, as noted above, but nothing at all serious. The only thing I personally had an issue with was the temperature in the restaurant: it was a little cold, and as a result the food got cold very quickly (sometimes before it even got to the table). But I'll definitely be back for more hush puppies, and to try some of their drinks, which seemed really interesting, but I managed to forget to order (I fail at fulfilling 21st birthday requirements).

EDIT: Another note - Sou'Wester = great food without having to listen to boring background music. The medley of Johnny Cash, Don McLean, etc. was great.

Quick summary: Go to Sou'Wester, eat copious amounts of hush puppies (but still explore the rest of the menu), and you will enjoy any occasion without breaking the bank.

Thanks again to Chefs Ziebold and Harriman, and the whole team there.

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Happy B-Day GennaroE!

On a whim I stopped here by myself for dinner, and I'm quite happy I did.

Looks like we had many of same things. For starters, I tried the Cream of Mushroom Soup and Pan-Fried Oysters w/ Smoked Pepper Aioli. And for Mains I did the Porgie Crab Imperial [after heavily weighing between the Corned Beef Shortribs, I'll give that a go sometime soon] with the Grilled Corn with Espelette Pepper Aioli. For Dessert I had the Carrot Cake. Good pricing on the dishes for what I got, and nice to see very reasonable pricing for entrees overall [$13 for Fried Chicken to mid-20's for things like the Porgie Crab Imperial, Corned Beef Shortribs, Marinated Flank Steak or the Rockfish].

Imbibed entirely too much the past 2 days so didn't get to sample a variety of their cocktails [quite a few looked interesting] but did have the Peche Mode [Earl-Grey infused Maker's Mark w/ Vermouth, Peach Syrup & Peach Bitters]. Liked it but not sure I loved it. Perhaps the last 2 nights influenced me [to be fair, one of those nights was at The Gibson], so I'll need to come back and do some dedicated imbibing another time. biggrin.gif

Many of your comments on the shared dishes echo mine. On the whole I really liked the food. Classic dishes [well classic cocktails too] with kitchen with pretty strong execution. At the restaurant's early juncture, that's a great sign.

Atmosphere is what I'd call accessible. This place can easily accomodate a variety of clientele [small private parties, families, business folks, tucked-away areas for dates, hotel guests]. Music over the speakers ranged from Huey Lewis to SRV to Mellencamp to 70s Funk. I'm sure there are mid-range plans to enhance the space to make it more of their own, but it's certainly fine at this juncture.

So far, imo Sou'Wester complements CityZen in giving hotel diners a good alternate experience while still providing quality food with good service. I look forward to coming back and exploring the menu more.

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I was at Sou'Wester this weekend as well, heading out of the Caps home opener early to make it over for a 9:30 dinner. The dining room was crowded, with a healthy buzz, so I guess it is fair to say that the word is out!

For appetizers we had the crab bisque and the fried oysters. We noticed a bit of a delay in our appetizers arriving (nothing major), when our server appeared and switched out my soup spoon for a knife and fork, with the apology that the chef did not like the way the bisque came out, so another portion was being prepared. While my wife had her fried oysters, I had a portion of the bibb lettuce salad. Both the oysters and the salad were great - the oysters being prefectly fried and the pepper aoli was a great counterpart. The bibb lettuce salad was simple and clean - and a very nice addition. Thanks! My bisque arrived shortly, and my wife was treated to a portion of the heirloom tomatoes with basil dressing. Both the bisque and the herilooms were also excellent.

For mains, we had the corned beef and the fried chicken. The corned beef was fantastic - as gennaro mentioned above, just a wonderful piece of meat. The fried chicken was ok - I could also have done with a more assertive breading, although the pieces were fried beautifully.

All in all, a great meal, at a very good price (I think we came out at $135.00 including a bottle of wine). What impressed me most was how the kitchen dealt proactively with an item (my bisque) that was not to their liking, and went above and beyond to put out great food. The deft handling of a potential problem struck me as a great sign of where this restaurant is headed - unsurprising given the level of talent here. We look forward to returning, and having such a good option so close to the hill.

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Had a fantastic lunch here the other day. Prices slightly above Ben's Chili Bowl. Silly cheap. Perfect food, just right for lunch (I tried to many things to remember, but it was all great). Crab fritters are still making my mouth water--my new favorite dish! Can't wait to try it for dinner. Bread basket may have dethroned Vidalia's--if not, then neck and neck. I hate fine dining, but the service there really is a treat and makes you forget you are in Washington.

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Bread basket may have dethroned Vidalia's--if not, then neck and neck.

I have been holding off on posting about my lunch there the other day, but this caught my eye. It sounds as if you had a markedly different experience, as our bread basket was terrible, including biscuits that were so undercooked that they were raw in the middle.

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Reviews? What reviews?

Judging from Sou'Wester's packed dining room on Thanksgiving evening, you'd think Eric Ripert had ridden into town on a white horse, and bamboozled every star-struck restaurant critic in the area.

Dining with my mom and my son, the three of us enjoyed a Thanksgiving supper that was outstanding in every respect. This would be strongly in "greatest ever" territory, if it weren't for the ridiculous annual affairs hosted by Jarad and Anna Slipp.

A lavish, no-holds-barred feast in every respect, we stuffed ourselves silly on:

Grilled Turkey Heart ($6)
Turkey Rillettes ($11)
Stuffed Turkey Neck ($12)
Pan Fried Oysters with Smoked Pepper Aïoli ($12)

Turkey Breast with Porcini Mousse ($21)
Turkey Leg Confit ($18)
Braised Turkey Leg in Red Wine ($23)
Cranberry Sauce ($3)
Chestnut Stuffing ($6)
Green Bean Casserole ($6)
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon ($6)
Mashed Potatoes ($8)

Doubled-over full, we still managed to polish off some Fried Pumpkin Pie and a Chocolate Brownie Sundae, all of this washed down with Apple Cider, Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis, and a half-bottle of 2006 Ballot-Millot Pommard 1er Cru La Refene.

Thank you to everyone at Sou'Wester, and congratulations for putting on such a wildly successful holiday dinner. I wouldn't have gone anywhere else.

Cheers,
Rocks.

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A lavish, no-holds-barred feast in every respect, we stuffed ourselves silly.

we ordered just about the same, different drinks and wine plus squash soup and sweet potatoes decked out in marshmallow, but were too full to even consider crossing the finish line with dessert. i have enjoyed great thanksgiving meals at both corduroy and vidalia, but the heaping plates of food at sou'wester came closest to replicating the experience of a home-cooked thanksgiving. the deboned turkey leg was worth fighting for and there were some impressively sophisticated twists brought to the table, such as the neck meat. i haven't seen this place in the day, but it was a nice looking, expansive dining room by night, although i'm not sure i would want to be around when the white gourds on the wall start hatching. we were comfortably tucked into a table at the far corner overlooking the glowing dome of the jefferson memorial. i don't get over to this area very often, but i like walking around the back of the agriculture department and the cooling and heating plant. the block runs long and you feel like you're in the vicinity of a production studio. the nearby railroad underpass brought back fond memories to our son of his best years tagging.

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