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Aquarelle, Virginia Ave & 26th St NW - Sunk.

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A small group from Vinocellar enjoyed a 'DC Cru' dinner last week at Aquarelle restaurant in the Watergate Hotel. Christopher Porteaux, formerly of Tahoga and DanielsNYC is a fantastic chef. The menu is listed below, with the fois gras an outstanding memory. Although we did not order off the menu, the overall cost was very reasonable. The restaurant had excellent service and did not suffer too much from the problem that some hotel restaurants have--trying to serve both the fine dining and family crowd.

DC Cru dinners are special in that each member must bring a bottle of wine from their cellar. Restaurants are chosen based on their ability to accomodate this request. Needless to say, this makes the wine the focus of the dinner!

If anyone wants to join us the next time, feel free to PM me or go over to the website referenced above.

Appetizers: Seared Semi-Cured Foie-Gras, Roasted Cavaillon Melon, Pistachio, Port Syrup Or Artichoke Poivrades & Goat Cheese Gratin, Baux de Provence Olive Oil, Basil Pesto

Second Course: Roasted Atlantic Halibut, Dry Harrissa Rub, Caper Lemon & Olive Oil Emulsion Or Aquarelle Crab Cake, Liquorices Sauce, Zucchini Tagliatelle

Third Course: All Natural Free Range Beef Filet Mignon, Chimichurri Crust, Chili Oil

Or Australian Free-Range Lamb Chops with Marseillaise Aioli

Fourth Course: Cave Aged Pyrenees Sheep’s Milk cheese with roasted tomato jam

Dessert: Red and Golden Watermelon Terrine, Strawberries, Pistachios and Spearmint/Basil salad. The chef kindly also offered a chocolate/ice cream plate at the last minute.

A few pictures:






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Welcome to DR. Here is what one of the participants (AlexRed) wrote about the wines. I have added comments under my name when available.

4 distinctly different CdPs :

2001 E. Guigal Châteauneuf-du-Pape - definitely the lightest at the table...very pleasent.

2001 Brunel Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cailloux - A little heavier/darker yet, Like dinwiddie menitoned, some beefiness that made it more substantial than the Guigal.

2000 Domaine de Cristia CdP Renaissance - young, dark and thick with flavor, one of those that everyone says will be great with some age on it. I don't doubt it, but I like it now...

[Mark] This was the hit of the night. Very powerful, perhaps too much? I think age will really improvove this wine.

1998 Bosquet des Papes CNdP Grenache - 100% grenache, with a little time in the glass (one of the few, if the only bottle that wasn't decanted earlier), complexity emerged. I am used to younger, tighter, spicier grenache wines but this was different, more sublte and very enjoyable. Shows what grenache can do on its own and what some time in bottle can do.

[Mark] This was my favorite of the evening. Rhones really change over time and this was one of the few we drank which really had any feel of ageing to it.

1999 Les Reinages Gigondas - I got the mineral taste as well, with plenty of fruit, nice and smooth.

[Mark]: This was one of mine and is a family favorite. It went well with the fois gras (I know, should have been drinking a white).

Cornas was Domaine Dumien-Serrette Cornas Vieilles Vignes 1999- this was up in the top 3 of the night for me, possibly top 2. Elegant, with sublte complexity... wish i could have spent more time with it.

[Mark] I had three bottles of this, only one lelt. I may have to reup since this wine is wonderful and I want to try it again in 5, 10 and 15 years. Available in DC.

Most of the wines were double decanted earlier in the day which gave us a good head start on the development of the wine at the table... glad we did that.

98 Guigal Cote-Rotie Brune et Blonde

which i confess I enjoyed but by that time my taste buds were not doing quite as good of a job as i would have like them to. [Mark] Me too, my mouth was in a happy revolt by this point.

Barbara, I would say we were remiss with the pairings. It was more of a free-for-all. This allowed us to taste any wine with any food. A bit of chaos but fun.

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Thanks for posting about all of the wines. I'm not much for "should haves" when it comes to pairing wines with food, so it's great to hear how you enjoyed the '99 Gigondas with the foie gras. One of my friends paired an Amarone with a sesame encrusted fish in soy sauce, and it worked! I'll have to track down the Dumien Serrette, as I'm a sucker for good Cornas.

Jake, :P nice words. I've just recently figured out how to post. That and now owning a cell phone means figuring out how to add a signature will be next week's task.

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While I didn't attend this particular DC Crü dinner, I am a 'founding member'. Hee-haw. The DC Crü has expanded over the past couple of years to the point that there are almost always enough people available on a given chosen date/event to make up enough to call it a dinner/event. In fact, there are still some newer folks I have yet to meet.

There are two things you can count on at a DC Crü thing..... Great wine and great company. :P

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While I didn't attend this particular DC Crü dinner, I am a 'founding member'. Hee-haw. The DC Crü has expanded over the past couple of years to the point that there are almost always enough people available on a given chosen date/event to make up enough to call it a dinner/event. In fact, there are still some newer folks I have yet to meet.

There are two things you can count on at a DC Crü thing..... Great wine and great company. :P

As one of the other "founding members" of the DC Cru (TJ, how do you make the umlat?) I might also add that you can also count on there being LOTS of great wine. We seem to have a habit of pulling out one more bottle with "I had this as my backup bottle, but we might as well . . ." :wub:

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There were eight bottles of wine in all. Mark did not mention the 2003 E. Guigal Condrieu that most of us had with the fois gras.

My personal favorites, the Domaine Dumien-Serrette Cornas Vieilles Vignes 1999 and the 1998 Bosquet des Papes CNdP Grenache. However, all the wines were excellent and so was the meal and the service. (that's me with the server sneering over my sholder, he was great)

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I'd love to be a part of future dinners..... etc.  How do I get invited?

I have a few wine gems I'd be willing to share!


We organize over on vinocellar.com. Look under wine events for topics with DC Crü in the topic line. Our next dinner will probably be in September, but we have not chosen a theme, restaurant, or date yet.

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Y'all were so right. I had a very forgettable meal at Aquarelle. Couldn't change the location and arrived full of dread.

I'm trying to find the words to describe the meal and atmosphere properly because today is definitely not a day when I could stand up to a pile-on of insults telling me I didn't provide any substantive criticism. :lol:

The room? Bland. It is, after all, essentially a hotel restaurant. Beige everywhere. In some areas, tables are so close together that it feels like grandma's house, full of fusty old furniture, knicknacks and dust. [actually, I'm just guessing at this - my own Nana was a neat freak.] And just like a hotel breakfast room, there are these frosted glass panels scattered about, trying to give the too-close tables a sense of privacy.

You'd think the view would be more appealing given that it's right on the water, but really what you see are cars whizzing by on Rock Creek Parkway. Honk, honk.

The food was forgettable in a catering hall style, while prices were memorable. My rack of lamb - tender enough but served with gobs of sticky, sweet glaze - was either $35. Its accompanying parmesan polenta tasted positively dusty. The confit of carrots...blah. Maybe that not soft/not crisp texture was how the carrots were supposed to be, but I ate two bites and never considered returning for more.

I could say more about what we ate, but I'm depressed just thinking about it. Nothing was truly inedible (well, the caesar salad was close - absolutely drenched in dressing), but it was one of those meals where I left thinking "never again."

Edited by JLK
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I must be lucky, I had a great meal at Aquarelle a few months ago, but I know the chef Christophe! I actually spoke a week ago with Michelle Garbee, the pastry chef at Aquarelle, and she said that Eve Zibart's review is very misleading because the menu has just been changed and she didn't review any of the desserts. Allegedly it will be re-reviewed soon, possibly by Tom Sietsema himself...weird comment, but does it ever happen that Eve and Tom totally disagree, or does she review mostly restaurants that he doesn't cover?

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I've eaten there three times, and had a wonderful meal each time. In June, eight of us (all family) ate there on the spur of the moment. I took a '02 Reamy Carnaros Chard, '02 Radio-Coteau Savoy, '02 Owen-Sullivan Ulysses, and a '93 Signorello Cab with me since the restaurant permits corkage and everyone in my family likes to have good wine with dinner. Since everyone was family, tastes of each dish were passed around on forks and spoons. My brother cannot eat onions, so the waiter worked with him to identify what he could or could not eat. Since he was getting the pris fixe 4-course meal, they just traded out the appertizer as if one of the others had ordered it. (Two of us got the pris-fixe meal, the rest just ordered a la carte and had three courses)

The seared, semi-cured foie-fras, with roasted cavaillon melon, pistachio, and port syrup was excellent. Beautifuly presented (as was everything) it was one of the hits of the night.

The crawfish tempura and crab croquettes, lemongrass miso dipping sauce, and seaweed and japanese eggplant salad was also well received. (Yes that is one dish.) The tuna tartare and white anchovy timbale with fava beans and raw asparagus salad was also very good.

Also excellent were he mesclun and warm goat cheese cromesqui with roasted shallot-sherry vinaigrette, the chilled cucumber yogurt soup (I'm not usually one for chilled soups, but this was excellent)served with mango and fresh lump crab relish, and the artichoke poivarades and goat cheese gratin.

As good as the appetizers and small plates were, the next was the best. I had the roasted Atlantic halibut with a dry harrissa rub, caperlemon and olive oil emulsion. It was served on eggplant and fava beans componata with a side of star anis infused garbanzo bean puree. Out of this world. The fish was perfectly cooked and full of flavor. The best course of the night in my opinion.

Everyone loved the poached bay scallops in hot and sour broth and thai tapioca pasta. It was also fun to watch everyone try the excellent crab cake with liquorices sauce with the R-C. Everyone thought it was the perfect match.

Also well received was the Australian free-range lamb chops with marseillaise aioli. Unfortunately, the steaks were a little disappointing. (I had the fillet, my son the NY strip) They were nicely cooked but just did not wow us.

Desserts were a major hit. The bing cherry chocolate ravioli sounded better than it was. Not bad, just did not come up to par with the roasted white peach cream broulle, the kiwi sorbet, the apricot and graham cheese cake, or the bittersweet chocolate and gianouja tasting plate.

Coffee after the meal was excellent, as was the espresso. Service was very friendly (everyone had fun talking with the waiter, a very nice gentleman from Haiti) They brought a special drink from the bar for my brother-in-law and my nephew, neither of whom drink (we don't know what was in it, but if was wonderful.) The entire meal for the 8 of us lasted about 3 hours. Tax, heafty tip, and corkage was about $70 per.

BTW, they only charged $10 per bottle for corkage.

The dinner that the DC Cru had this summer was delish, the service excellent, and view, while it did have cars going by, also had some pretty nice boats too. I believe DCMark wrote up the dinner so I won't comment further other than to say that they treated us right and the meal was excellent.

The last time I ate there was last month. This time with some friends from college who were staying at the Watergate for business. Again, the meal was very good and the service excellent. And this time, they waived the corkage fee since we also bought a bottle from the list.

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Glad to hear some defense of this great chef. I think some sympathy is in order as his situation is similar to Tom Powers: he has to deal with some widely divergent types of diners in his capacity as hotel chef. Remember, very few hotel chefs have the luxury that Michel Rochard has, which is to serve the restaurant only, a restaurant with a 1+ month waiting list.

I hope Christophe can continue to shine there or find his own space where he can really excel.

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