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Garden Cafe, at the National Gallery of Art

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Garden Café

West Building, Ground Floor

The Garden Café provides a serene spot for lunch in the West Building next to the Ground Floor galleries. Throughout the concert season, the Garden Café offers a dessert and beverage menu on Sundays from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Garden Café España

May 4–September 17, 2009

Featuring signature Spanish dishes created by Chef José Andrés and presented by Chef David Rogers and Restaurant Associates in honor of Luis Meléndez: Master of the Spanish Still Life and The Art of Power: Royal Armor and Portraits from Imperial Spain.

In-kind promotional support for these exhibitions has been provided by Chef José Andrés of Jaleo and THINKfoodGROUP.

View Menu (PDF 164k)

(Download Acrobat Reader)

Download Recipes (PDF 96k)

Algeciras-style gazpacho

Spanish flan in my mother’s style

Empanada de pollos ensapados


Monday–Saturday, 11:30 a.m.–3:00 p.m.

Sunday, noon–4:00 p.m.

Sunday, 4:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m. (concert dessert menu only on performance days)

To reserve for groups of eight or more, please contact the café manager at (202) 712-7458 or by e-mail at RestaurantAssociates@nga.gov.

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January 26 through February 10 the NGA garden cafe is offering a Michel Richard buffet for $19.75. Has anyone been?

According to the National Gallery of Art press release, the buffet will offer:

...an array of customary French dishes, beginning with country bread, brioche, savory gruyère cream puffs, endive and lentil salads, and ratatouille. A selection of French charcuterie includes saucisson sec, jambon de Bayonne, and "faux gras"—Richard's chicken liver mousse—alongside a cheese assortment featuring Camembert and Liverot, both from the Normandy region; Comté from the Franche-Comté region of eastern France; and Roquefort, a sheep's milk blue cheese from southern France. For main courses, the buffet offers a Lyonnaise-style potato dish, a mushroom and cheese quiche, and coq au vin. The final touch is Richard's signature Mousse au chocolat.
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I ate there on Friday and it was good, but not as good as I was expecting given Michel Richard's name on the menu. Expectations are everything, as they say. . .

Also, as I write this, I think my biggest problem with the buffet was not the food itself, but that it’s really a summer menu and it's clearly not summer out there.

The Gougeres were very good, but served at room temperature, somewhat dampening the cheese flavor.

Also served at room temperature was the mushroom and cheese quiche. It was heavy on the mushrooms and quiche, light on the cheese. As a result, it had a nice eggy-ness, but could have used a bit more, I don’t know, “zip.” Or maybe salt.

The French onion soup was also affected by serving temperature. While the soup itself was very rich and well-seasoned, it didn’t come across too well on the buffet - the soup bowls were at room temperature and, to mimic the melted cheese/crouton crust, they provide you with a giant, round crouton that they have previously covered with cheese and broiled. And then brought out to the buffet and served at room temperature. So the cheese, while having been melted at one time in its life, no longer is. As a result, once you add the soup to the cold bowl and the cold crouton to the soup, the soup, while very good and quite unctuous (I'm not sure what they use to thicken it, as it didn't taste starchy in any way), is barely warm when you eat it.

Next came the charcuterie and cheese. The salami was good, but, frankly, it was simply good salami. The Jambon on the other hand, was a revelation – melt-in-your-mouth porcine goodness. Probably one of the best hams I’ve ever had, and I did my best to eat my way through Parma. The “Faux gras” was not only cute (using chicken liver) but well-seasoned and, while not tasting much like fois gras, was a very good mousse.

The cheese were good renditions of what they were, but except for the Livarot, were fairly standard (It’s hard to wow me with Camembert or Roquefort). The Livarot, however, was a good, stinky, semi-soft cheese that I will definitely seek out again. In case anyone is missing the theme, though, the charcuterie and cheese were obviously served at room temperature.

The Belgian endive salad was probably my least favorite dish. It had a light cream-based dressing that I think got watered down as the endives sat, probably exuding their moisture as the salt did its work on them. The dressing simply wasn't strong enough to stand up to the unexpected addition of the endive liquid.

The Ratatouille and the lentil salad were both very good - well-seasoned and vibrant. The ratatouille had that wonderful summer garden flavor and I really enjoyed the heavy celery and red onion flavors which carried the lentils. But, again, both were served at room temperature.

The chocolate mousse was amazing – silky smooth and richly chocolate. Given its milk chocolate appearance, I was quite impressed at the deep chocolate flavor, which kept going and going after the last bite.

So, all, in all, it was good, but not great. If you haven’t been to the Garden Café, I strongly recommend you do, regardless of the menu. With a glass of wine and the fountain gurgling in the background, surrounded by greenery, it’s a wonderful place to escape the crowds on the mall. I’ve been many times for the other rotating menus and will definitely be back for this one. But perhaps in summer and with slightly lower expectations.

And yes, it's all-you can eat. :angry:

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The special menu on offer now was created by Chef Fabio Trabocchi and is tied to an exhibit about Venice. I went for lunch today with a couple of friends, and, in three words: we loved it. One of my friends had been during the Michel Richard menu offering and was excited to go back since she'd enjoyed that so much. She said that this food was even better.

We all did the buffet and, despite my initial hesitation, it was well worth the $19.75. The insanely amazing standout was the fish soup (recipe here or you can ask for a recipe card at the cafe). I managed not to get any shrimp in the first bowl, and had substantially more broth than fish. The broth was outstanding. It had a lingering but not unpleasant pepper flavor, but the soup never tasted spicy to begin with. The balancing act there was impressive. I went for a second bowl to get shrimp. Somehow I ended up with a full bowl of soup :). I was almost too full to finish it, but that broth...OMG. I finished every last spoonful.

I think I sampled pretty much everything. My one friend absolutely loved the paccheri with oxtail ragu. I thought the sauce was delicious, but the pasta didn't hold up as well to sitting out on a buffet. It was good but had started to get slightly gummy, though not enough to be a big problem. There was prosciutto and sopressata and arugula salad. I enjoyed the beef carpaccio, which was served with/over a salad. The baked eggplant was also pretty good. Somewhere in there were olives. I was too full for dessert, which was a honey vanilla custard that my friends devoured. I think I tried everything else except a couple of kinds of bread, and I didn't have any prosciutto. I tried three types of bread: Grissini, flatbread, and a big hunk of Italian bread :) (don't know which one it was). I was ripping pieces of bread to use as croutons in my soup. Ahhhh, the soup :).

Link to menu They're serving it until March 20, 2012.

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