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Jacques Gastreaux

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

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Two nights ago I had an amazing course at Fiola (I could see Fabio through the window); last night it was brandade at Palena (Frank was working the line). This paragraph just sealed the deal on where I'm having my Christmas Eve dinner (and I have no doubt whatsoever that Eric will be there).

Being alone for the holidays sucks, but it doesn't have to suck that much.

And so I was wrong. I walked into an empty Mandarin Oriental this evening, only to find a locked door. Then, I walked back to 12th Street (remember, I'm a cheap fuck), and got into my car. It was cold, it was dark, and I was all alone, shivering.

I took out my cell phone, and began Googling where I almost went last night (Restaurant Eve), only to find that it, too, was closed for the holidays. I sat all alone in my car, on a desolate street, at 7 PM on Christmas Eve, knowing all too well what it feels like to be the last person on earth.

Then, I mentally began piecing together the dining guide, wondering what might be left. Tony Conte was out, I wasn't dressed for Adour, Corduroy seemed like a trek, and I didn't feel like a big production - I can't say the restaurants passed by like a "slot machine" because there are only a few, but they trickled in. I started heading towards Bibiana.

But then as I was heading up 12th Street, waffling, and wondering which Asian carryout lay in my future, Marcel's crept into my mind. Why hadn't I thought of Marcel's before? I don't know, but I pulled over and called them - they were open, and the last seating was at 8 PM.

I arrived at around 7:30, and a fully staffed Marcel's was working, just as they're always working, except this time around an empty bar. Dr. Hall's coat was there, Mr. Jenkins was playing the piano, and despite this being one of the slowest days of the year for Washington, DC restaurants, everything was running like a Swiss watch.

There are two restaurants in the DC area that stand out, in my mind, beyond all others in terms of service: Restaurant Eve, and Marcel's, and tonight was why. On an evening where every restaurant employee in the city was wanting to be anywhere but working, the wonderful, gracious team at Marcel's made me feel not only like I was welcome, but like they were happy to see me.

Only a boor would not be aware that these kind professionals had other things to do on this evening, but even a seasoned insider like me wouldn't have had a clue, had the calendar on my cellphone not read December 24th. It would have been so easy to forget what day this was, had I not been ever-mindful. Wine was poured, bread was served, plates were set, and a lonely gentleman on what could have been a devastating evening (I miss you, mom) was made to feel like a guest in someone's home.

There was Adnane, of course, and Moez, Nathan, even Ramon, returning late from Brasserie Beck. The langoustines were as strikingly good as Adnane said they would be, and then, the rest of the night just melted into a family, sitting around a warm, glowing, fire.

Thank you, Marcel's, for making an outsider feel like a member of your family on this Christmas Eve. Raised back to bold (honestly, I was surprised to see that it wasn't), not because of what you did tonight, but because of what nobody else could have done. A breathtaking, awe-inspiring display of service and hospitality at the absolute highest level.

Cheers,

Rocks

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I'm so glad to see that, as I return to this site after a long absence to write a new review, Don himself shares the same opinion of Marcel's that I came here to assert! It's nice to know that my Marcel's experience wasn't just a dream.

On December 10 my fiancé and I enjoyed an early dinner at Marcel's before going to see the Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center. This was our first time dining at Marcel's, and it was an exceptional, unforgettable meal experience. As we were doing pre-theatre dining, we were some of the first guests to arrive that Saturday evening. Upon walking into the front doors, we were greeted warmly and had our coats taken. We were then seated at a corner table, and as we settled in and began perusing the menu, I was both enchanted and relaxed by the beautiful, classic decor. It's just right: sophisticated, elegant, very proper, and yet just updated and modern enough that it doesn't feel stodgy or old in any way. This is the epitome of a "special occasion" restaurant.

Our server, whose name I am regrettably forgetting at the moment, embodied the heart of what it means it be a server. Fine service comes from the heart, a pleasure one takes in being of service to others, and our server embodied that ideal 100%. This is the type of service that knows what you want and need before you even know you want or need it"”anticipatory without being presumptuous, doting and thoughtful but never overbearing, sincerity and honesty in all interactions. He was, simply, delightful. I felt like someone had told our server that we were the secret king and queen of DC, and therefore act accordingly, but also act with discretion. He played the part with ease.

We were given the choice to select our dishes from either the pre-theatre menu or the regular menu, as we were early enough to eat either type of meal and still make it to our show on-time. We couldn't help ourselves and went with the regular menu, opting to do four courses.

Among the dishes we ate, I recall the lobster bisque being absolutely sublime, with an unbelievably smooth texture and a rich mouthfeel that is unlike any other bisque I've ever had. We also had foie gras, which was the best rendition I've ever eaten, as well as beef tenderloin, duck breast, and two desserts. I wish I could recall the finer details of each of our four courses but, even though I can't remember the details and the menu has since changed, I do know that everything we ate was magnificent. It was one of those meals that, the entire time you're eating, your tastebuds are so overwhelmed with goodness that you have to constantly refrain from closing your eyes and and moaning inappropriately. It's been a long time since I was so taken with any one meal in the DC area"”I'd have to say Komi, which I dined at about a year ago, was my most recent astonishingly good meal until I went to Marcel's. We dined at Blue Duck Tavern in October 2011, which was also a fantastic experience all around, but to put it in perspective, Marcel's is at least one notch higher in every regard. The atmosphere, the level of service, and the care taken with each dish seems results in perfection from the moment you arrive to the moment you depart. No detail is too small for the attention of the staff of Marcel's.

As far as high-end DC-area eats go, I have eaten at Komi, Citronelle, Blue Duck Tavern, America Eats Tavern, Obelisk, Palena, Corduroy, 1789, and maybe a few others that are debatably not first-tier (and frankly, some of the ones I listed weren't first-tier in my experience). I'm not recounting these to brag in any way, certainly I have many still to cross off my list, but to give perspective. Among all of these dining experiences, Marcel's is probably second only to Komi, and even then it depends on what you're seeking. If you want a traditional wow restaurant, I just don't see how it could be done better than they are doing it at Marcel's. Over the summer I was in New York and ate at Le Bernardin, and although the types of cuisine between LB and Marcel's are quite different, I would say that the level of service I experienced between the two was very similar indeed.

Marcel's is, simply, a gem in DC's crown and not to be missed for any special occasion.

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I'm having a very hard time understanding what happened at our dinner at Marcel's. We were there Sunday night for my birthday. I had only been there once before, several years ago for lunch; my wife had never been.

It was like we each had two different meals. For the first three courses of a six course meal, the service was impeccable and the food was excellent, such that we were ready to call it one of the top restaurants in DC. Pacing was good, water and wine glasses were refilled promptly, various people checked on how things were, and some courses made you go "wow" (like the lobster bisque amuse, my sardine with pesto, my wife's lobster pasta).

For some reason, things just went south the second half of the meal, with both service and food. Pacing seemed off, such that dinner began to drag on (we ended up being there three hours, longer than the meal justified with people who came in after us leaving well before). My sweetbreads were burned on the bottom, my wife's lamb was overcooked and the phyllo burned on the bottom as well. Wine service became virtually non-existent, such that I had to pour for myself at one point after the glass sat empty for quite a while (which I don't really mind in some situations, but we had $250 worth of wine and the decanter was an interesting design but a type I had not used before). The table next to us had wine pairings with each course and I noticed that, at the time I was pouring my own, they were halfway through a course before the wine paired with it was poured. Despite those issues, nobody came by during the second half to ask how things were, or we would have commented.

While I realize everyone has off nights, I'm having a hard time understanding the inconsistency on one night. At those prices, I am not likely to try Marcel's again to see if they can deliver the high level we saw at the beginning throughout the meal.

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My wife and I enjoyed a lovely dinner at Marcel's on Friday evening. Our experience reminded me why I like this restaurant so much. It is understated and subtle but refined in every way.

We were to be attending an event at the Kennedy Center later in the evening so we were seated promptly and able to place cocktail orders straight away. I ordered a sidecar and my wife a French 75. Both cocktails were well crafted and quite enjoyable. The sidecar did have a more orangy flavor than I expected, different from the usual lemon. Nonetheless, it was good.

We opted for the $65 pre-theater menu. We each started with the perfectly dressed, peppery arugula salad and both enjoyed. I ordered the rockfish, which came accompanied with roasted parsnips and black trumpet mushrooms. The fish was perfectly cooked, the accompaniments earthy and complimentary. My wife ordered the roasted chicken and was impressed by the intense flavor of the bird and the accompanying jus. She even liked the gruyere potato cake on the side, despite not being a cheese fan. Glasses of white cotes du Rhone paired well with both meals.

For dessert, I chose a trio of rhubarb preparations - a macaron, panna cotta and a third that I am forgetting. Regardless, fantastic dessert. My wife opted for a chocolate ganache concoction that was heavenly.

Service throughout the meal was the perfect balance attentive without being obtrusive, even more impressive when you consider that they kept up perfectly on schedule to make our show. Whisked off to the KC after our meal and picked up afterwards, we popped in for a nightcap at the bar to round out a nearly flawless evening.

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I hadn't been to Marcel's for several years before this past Saturday evening. I guess Marcel's doesn't have all the trivial buzz of a place like Le Diplomate, but it's one of the best restaurants anywhere. It's expensive, and it's worth it. I had a four-course dinner on Saturday, and while courses two and four were only "very good", courses one and three were as good as anything I've ever eaten in my life: one, a wild mushroom soup; three, Marcel's signature dish, the boudin blanc. I've had the boudin blanc either every time or almost every time I've ever dined there, which is probably eight or so times, and it's always been fabulous, but it was never before quite as breathtakingly celestial as it was this time. This is a dish that everyone who reads these words should taste once ere dying. And there is no restaurant on earth with better service. Oh la la la, c'est magnifique.

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I hadn't been to Marcel's for several years before this past Saturday evening. I guess Marcel's doesn't have all the trivial buzz of a place like Le Diplomate, but it's one of the best restaurants anywhere. It's expensive, and it's worth it. I had a four-course dinner on Saturday, and while courses two and four were only "very good", courses one and three were as good as anything I've ever eaten in my life: one, a wild mushroom soup; three, Marcel's signature dish, the boudin blanc. I've had the boudin blanc either every time or almost every time I've ever dined there, which is probably eight or so times, and it's always been fabulous, but it was never before quite as breathtakingly celestial as it was this time. This is a dish that everyone who reads these words should taste once ere dying. And there is no restaurant on earth with better service. Oh la la la, c'est magnifique.

Even though nobody ever talks about it, there's a reason it's in Bold. I keep waiting for it to be less than wonderful, but it never is.

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If I recall from a visit to Marcel's a long time back, there's a small bar by the entrance. Do people eat dinner there? Is it reasonably comfortable for dinner?

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If I recall from a visit to Marcel's a long time back, there's a small bar by the entrance. Do people eat dinner there? Is it reasonably comfortable for dinner?

Yes, it's beautiful, it's not that small, they serve the full menu, and it's one of the best dining bars in the entire DC area.

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Highly recommend dining at the bar. If we're flying back home via DCA for example, we stop for dinner on the way home. The bartender will recommend and help fashion as many courses as we're up for, including wine pairings, etc. Never been disappointed, and the service is always impeccable. 

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Just went here for our anniversary last Saturday. I can't believe this was the first time we have been to Marcel's after all these years. Just an outstanding restaurant with some exquisite cooking by Chef Wiedmaier. The Boudin Blanc is easily one of the top dishes of the District, but I also equally enjoyed the Border Springs lamb chops. And then there was the Foie Gras Torchon - good heavens was that divine. Not to mention the duck breast with BRANDIED CHERRIES!

The service was just as good as the food and makes the overall experience that much more memorable. One of the best dinners we have had in DC bar none. More on our meal here: http://www.dmvdining.com/2014/03/an-anniversary-dinner-at-marcels/

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Marcel's: underwhelming...maybe my expectations were too high.

I have difficulty imagining this reaction to dining at Marcel's. Would you care to elaborate?

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I have difficulty imagining this reaction to dining at Marcel's. Would you care to elaborate?

dry bland rockfish and a too creamy potato leek soup.

Now, the staff, amuse bouche and dessert were all fantastic as was the wine picked by the sommelier.

You know, I hesitated to add this b/c I suspected there would be challenge.

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dry bland rockfish and a too creamy potato leek soup.

Now, the staff, amuse bouche and dessert were all fantastic as was the wine picked by the sommelier.

You know, I hesitated to add this b/c I suspected there would be challenge.

Don't ever hesitate to write an honest recollection.

I wouldn't say Hersch challenged you, so much as requested elaboration - you elaborated appropriately, and all was well.

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Has anyone been recently that can recommend any "can't miss" items from the menu? I know the boudin blanc is a definite, but the other things I've seen mentioned frequently like the skate and the lobster bisque aren't on the online menu (I realize what's online may be different). Just based on what is posted, I'm going to have a very difficult time deciding on my courses! I am definitely committed to skipping cheese and dessert and going all savory though.

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Has anyone been recently that can recommend any "can't miss" items from the menu? I know the boudin blanc is a definite, but the other things I've seen mentioned frequently like the skate and the lobster bisque aren't on the online menu (I realize what's online may be different). Just based on what is posted, I'm going to have a very difficult time deciding on my courses! I am definitely committed to skipping cheese and dessert and going all savory though.

According to Tom Sietsema don't miss the sea urchin flan with lobster and caviar, or the smoked salmon carpaccio with quail egg.

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Thanks for the detailed report, Choirgirl21. I'm so glad that I and the rest of the gang didn't lead you astray.

Was the sea-urchin flan not on the menu last night, or did you just decide against it? (Sea-urchin flan, with lobster and caviar, rings a lot of bells for me, and I want some. On the other hand, a dish of sweetbreads with langoustines rings a whole other set of bells. I'll have both, please!)

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I don't even know where to begin. I don't feel I have the writing skills to do justice to my experience at Marcel's last night.

First off, the food wowed me.

...

And it's both of those things that leave me looking at my budget, trying to figure out how soon I can return. :)

What a great report. We haven't been to Marcel's in a few years but will be going back soon now. TS's recent review and your post will be the reasons why. More yours actually.

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Choirgirl21 - Thanks for the report!  I especially have an interest in reports about solo dining.  Did you need to make a reservation for the bar? 

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While I realize everyone has off nights, I'm having a hard time understanding the inconsistency on one night. At those prices, I am not likely to try Marcel's again to see if they can deliver the high level we saw at the beginning throughout the meal.

Since I've been thinking about Marcel's lately, what with people here talking about it and my having an upcoming dinner there, I looked back over this thread and came to this post, which I don't remember reading before. Go back upstairs and read the whole thing, I don't want to quote it all. I'm wondering if anyone else has had this kind of experience at Marcel's--where halfway through the meal, it's as if somebody, or everybody, stopped caring. I, too, would be reluctant to give them another chance at the prices they charge if I had experienced anything like this at Marcel's, which I haven't.

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Thanks for the detailed report, Choirgirl21. I'm so glad that I and the rest of the gang didn't lead you astray.

Was the sea-urchin flan not on the menu last night, or did you just decide against it? (Sea-urchin flan, with lobster and caviar, rings a lot of bells for me, and I want some. On the other hand, a dish of sweetbreads with langoustines rings a whole other set of bells. I'll have both, please!)

It was on the menu. Adnane had recommended it, but before making my final decisions I decided to ask him about it. I am honestly not a fan of sea urchin. It's too briney for me, as are most raw oysters (aside from the Rappahannock oysters, which I find sweet and mild) - something I would love to get past but just can't seem to. He told me the flavor was subtle and so I was leaning toward going for it anyway when he suddenly stopped and exclaimed that when he made recommendations he had forgot to mention the langoustine and sweetbread dish was his favorite and he ate it almost every night. That one had already caught my eye so when he said that my decision was made. Having said that, someone else who ate at the bar ordered it and seemed to really enjoy it. Based on the good reviews all around I would go for it. If I go back, there is a good chance I will get it if it's still on the menu.

What a great report. We haven't been to Marcel's in a few years but will be going back soon now. TS's recent review and your post will be the reasons why. More yours actually.

Thank you, I really appreciate that.

Choirgirl21 - Thanks for the report!  I especially have an interest in reports about solo dining.  Did you need to make a reservation for the bar?

I didn't, but it was for a Sunday night so I can't speak to other nights. I was actually the only person when I arrived. One gentleman popped in not too long after to have a drink, but had to head back to Richmond. Then another female diner from SF came in, along with an ambassador who is a regular. And that was it for the evening, but we managed to have a good time with some nice conversation. What I found was not only is the clientele quite worldly and well educated, but so is the staff. "Even" a young busboy from West Africa spoke 4 languages. One of the many reasons I enjoyed my experience. Fascinating people all around to chat with.

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I had both the sea-urchin flan with lobster and caviar and the langoustine with crisp sweetbreads on Sunday evening, and loved them both unreservedly. The one disappointment in my five-course dinner was, surprisingly, the boudin blanc. This is served somewhat differently every time I dine at Marcel's; this time it was served bratwurst-like with red cabbage, and I found it rather crude and unappealing (not that there's anything wrong with bratwurst, in the right context). Fabulous dinner, all the same. We went cheap on wine, with two bottles of Cava that were just perfect with the food. Service was as graceful as always.

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I had both the sea-urchin flan with lobster and caviar and the langoustine with crisp sweetbreads on Sunday evening, and loved them both unreservedly. The one disappointment in my five-course dinner was, surprisingly, the boudin blanc. This is served somewhat differently every time I dine at Marcel's; this time it was served bratwurst-like with red cabbage, and I found it rather crude and unappealing (not that there's anything wrong with bratwurst, in the right context). Fabulous dinner, all the same. We went cheap on wine, with two bottles of Cava that were just perfect with the food. Service was as graceful as always.

I hear you on the Boudin Blanc - I have no doubt it's their biggest seller, but it's also a plague upon them having it as their signature dish.

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Does Adnane staff up the bar only, or.....? A family member recently married, and we'd like to treat the two of them to a dinner to celebrate here and they love places that have superb service.

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