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Central, 11th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue Downtown - Executive Chef Nick Johnson and Chef de Cuisine Sean Mulcahy


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And why doesn't my husband return my calls when I get crazy ideas like this?

1) He knows that you are pregnant and doesn't quite get the hormonal problems; and 2) he also realizes that this place is going to be around long after you guys will need a babysitter. :lol:

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Anyone know if eating at the bar is possible here?
Eating at the bar is both possible and wonderful - a great layout for dining alone. There is a huge mirror above the very long bar so you can watch everyone in the restaurant from your stool. Only two layout complaints: No backs on the stools or hooks under the bar.

I tried the tuna carpaccio, and it was great. Delicate and perfectly balanced. I also really enjoyed the Maple Manhattan - neither too strong nor too sweet. The bar snacks too - covered peanuts - were also really good. There were two types, one with sesame seeds and one with wasabi. Don, who I ran into there, discovered that they were actually best when eaten together.

I will be returning very soon.

(this opening does not help my vow to eat at home all week in respect for RW)

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Eating at the bar is both possible and wonderful - a great layout for dining alone. There is a huge mirror above the very long bar so you can watch everyone in the restaurant from your stool. Only two layout complaints: No backs on the stools or hooks under the bar.

I tried the tuna carpaccio, and it was great. Delicate and perfectly balanced. I also really enjoyed the Maple Manhattan - neither too strong nor too sweet. The bar snacks too - covered peanuts - were also really good. There were two types, one with sesame seeds and one with wasabi. Don, who I ran into there, discovered that they were actually best when eaten together.

I will be returning very soon.

(this opening does not help my vow to eat at home all week in respect for RW)

This sounds great. I've been a single parent for a few days now, but Friday evening my ordeal is over and I know where I'm heading after work to celebrate! (Think it'll be crowded?)

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This sounds great. I've been a single parent for a few days now, but Friday evening my ordeal is over and I know where I'm heading after work to celebrate! (Think it'll be crowded?)
I just cancelled RW reservations at Farrah for Friday and took reservations at Central at 9 p.m. instead. The earliest reservations on Open Table for Central were at 9! So I bet it will be crowded :-)
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I just cancelled RW reservations at Farrah for Friday and took reservations at Central at 9 p.m. instead. The earliest reservations on Open Table for Central were at 9! So I bet it will be crowded :-)

Central is not doing RW, correct?

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Central is not doing RW, correct?
No, they aren't but as my friends said when I asked if we could forgo Farrah... it is too easy to not follow the RW at places so that you end up spending $50+ a person anyway. Why not go to Central where we will have good food and a good experience. Plus, I hear they have killer fried chicken :lol:
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Any word on what the menu is like? The website is not up yet. Also, is there a separate bar menu?

Had dinner last night at the bar, and I love the space. The prices are very reasonable and the food was pretty good. Here is some of what we enjoyed last night:

Gougeres

Lobster Burger- A little different from what I remember from Citronelle, but still very good

Onion and Bacon Tart (free from the kitchen due food taken longer than usual to come out)-Excellent

Fried Chicken- Good, but I wish I had orderd the salmon with lentils-

French Fries- very good

Macaroni & Cheese-

Apple Pan Betty-

Fischer d' Alsace- Very good beer, went well with the bacon tart

Other Items I saw on the Menu:

Short Ribs

Salmon with lentils

Cote de Boeuf for Two $78

Roast Chicken

Lemon Tart

The menu is only on page long. I am not sure if there is a different bar menu, as we ordered off the main dinner menu. The waiter told us that they would be opening for lunch next week.

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I have only sat at the bar, but the menu that I have seen looks like a regular menu (and seems to be the same as that described by friends who ate at a table).

Many of the appetizers, however, are a little bit more like bar food than actual appetizers - better for sharing than as a personal appetizer. For example, the cheese puffs are served in a cone containing about 10 puffs (excellent - picture a much smaller version of the BLT popover that includes only the rich doughy part). There is a smoked salmon plate that seems to be the same as that served at the lounge at Citronelle - quite a lot of salmon if someone intended to eat it alone. The prosciutto plate is similar. The charcuterie includes a variety of items, including the faux gras, which is a made with chicken livers with a parsley topping (too thick to really call a sauce). The onion tart appears to be more of a flatbread than I expected. Central's fried oysters are really a new take: raw oysters with a porcupine crust (the oysters are frozen to prevent cooking during the frying process. Although I appreciate the preparation, I don't know if I will order again. The fried oysters, risotto, and tuna carpaccio are the only appetizers that I have seen that are traditional appetizers instead of snacks (and even those are easily shared).

Interesting drink list as well: In addition to the Maple Manhattan that I mentioned yesterday, there is also a mai tai that is really good, a clear cosmo, a mojito that I haven't tried, and a few other drinks that sounded good (including a celery cocktail of which I have heard intriguing rumors, but have yet to try).

In sum, although I don't think that there is a separate bar menu, the menu provides ample options for happy hour snacking.

In general, I really think that they pegged what this location needs.

And, the best part, the prices are not bad at all. There are several appetizers under ten dollars, and the entrees are mostly between 18 and 22.

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Are the "shrimp porcupines" that Don referenced in his Lettres on the menu? They sounded intriguing.
Not on the bar menu. Didn't see whether the bar menu was different from the dining room menu, but like lackadaisi, my sense is that it's the same.
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Had an enjoyable meal at Central last night. The place was pretty busy when we arrived, but we were informed by other Rockwellians that it was even busier earlier. Getting service at the little tables in the bar was not successful so we got a table and reviewed the menu.

Started with the Onion Tart ($8) which was a thin, cracker-like disk covered with sweet caramelized onions. One entree was the Hanger Steak ($24) served with a small salad, fries, and an incredible peppercorn sauce. The steak was cooked to a perfect MR and had the rich meaty flavor that I enjoy in the hanger steak. The other entree was the the Grilled Salmon ($18) served atop lentils and the few bites that I tried were very good. The finish was perfect as we shared the Apple Pan Betty ($8) that came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Total bill for dinner with 2 glasses of wine, 2 coffees, and one veggie side was $96 before tip. There is no doubt that we will be back.

And to correct an earlier post, the Cote de Boeuf for Two is $60, not $78. One thing that I found surprising was that 1 doz. freshly shucked oysters and 6 giant shrimp go for $56! :lol: You can add a whole lobster for an additional $30.

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It was $78 on Tuesday!
And Wednesday, at the bar, but not Thursday, in the dining room.

The early crowds yesterday were law firm happy hours excited about the new option in the area. I agree with lackadaisi, by the way, that this is going to fill a real need for the neighborhood. My coworkers are already planning their return...

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Oh boy, this was good. The space is lavish and luxurious but also with the clean Gallic austerity you often find in higher-end restaurants in France. Some parts of the restaurant offer great views of the open kitchen. We ate at the bar. Pacific oysters on the half were briny and meaty, presented with a care to appearance and temperature that highlighted the incompetence of so many other Washington restaurants in this regard. The hangar steak was a juicy, beefy piece of meat kissed with char and served with a little boat of concentrated and carefully made brown sauce. The frites that accompanied it tasted like they were double fried in duck fat and were perfectly seasoned. A little side salad was crisp and beautifully cloaked in a true vinaigrette. My friend had the lobster burger, and the one taste I had was very nice, but by that time I was completely enraptured by my hangar steak.

My two Manhattans were carefully made, with unusually good vermouth and bitters; the bartenders here take pride in their work. I would like to see a broader selection of wines by the glass in a place that has the word "bistro" in its name.

We showed up shortly before opening, and happened to meet fellow Rocker MDT soon after. The place filled up very fast.

Central is a marvelous new asset to the Washington dining scene.

ETA: We and everyone else at the by now full bar were also served free cheese puffs. They were the apotheosis of cheese and choux pastry--a simple thing, but like so many simple things, difficult to pull off with such perfection as here.

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Didn't eat anything, aside from some bar nuts, some light and airy gratis cheese puffs and a slice of some free onion tart/slice that was absolutely packed with flavor. Let's hope that Domino's doesn't get their hands on the secret recipe for that onion pizza-like thing. Outta this world.

But after sipping a bit of mdt's too sweet (although later corrected) maple manhattan, I chose to have some glasses of Blusser Pilsner . I'd never heard of this beer before, although it comes from the same brewery as some other popular brews you can find around here. Bartender said that Central is the only place you can find this in the country. $4.50 for an 8 oz glass and it was really good. Light and refreshing, just like a pilsner should be, but with a wonderful slight honey finish.

I really dig the big mirror above/behind the bar for discrete people-watching. I will be dining here sometime soon. Michel Richard was in da house 2nite, too.

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Yes, Michel R. was in the house tonight. So was the rest of the world it seemed! The space is in fact marvelous. There were times during dinner that I had to remind myself that I was in Washington and not New York or L.A. The architecture is very different than other D.C. area restaurants in that it is contemporary and far far from conservative. The mirrors above the bar were great as we were seated on the other side of the restaurants and used the mirrors to catch an entirely different view.

The menu appears to be the same for the entire space. In some ways there is no difference between the area in the bar and the dining room, other than the types of seating. In fact the aim of the restaurant is to be egalitarian, you will be able to make reservations but some tables will be held open for walk ins. Likewise, you can eat the same food in the bar as you can in the dining room.

The special drinks all looked really good. I had a taste of the mojito which was amazing. It was more savory than sweet which was impressive. The wine list was large but I didn't think there were enough wines offered by the glass. As no wine was available to suit my palate, I opted for beer. Well, my server opted to bring me a beer even though I had not yet decided. I was grateful though as he brought me the Bells Amber Ale which my friend and I both really liked. I also liked the Blusser pilsner. Not only did I find the pilsner refreshing with my main course, I appreciated 8 ounces as that is plenty for me.

We shared three appetizers. The fried oysters were my favorite. The breading was not at all traditional, sort of reminded me of fritters. We also had the cheese puffs and the ahi tuna carpaccio.

Oh, I forgot the bread. Yummy. Served warm with cold yet spreadable butter.

I had the fried chicken. The breading for the chicken appears to include Japanese bread crumbs. It is very thick. Very non-traditional, or rather it is not traditional Southern fried chicken. Next time, I am getting the salmon on lentils if it is on the menu. My friend who had the mussels declared them the best she has had in D.C. The 72 hour short rib was not what I expected as there was no rib, only sliced meat. Sides are available. We had the green beans and creamed spinach. Fries came with my chicken. They were really good.

Initially we ordered the Apple pan Betty and the banana split. The banana split was clever and delicious. It is served in a divided tray, the banana with whipped creme, some yummy chocolate bits and strawberry reduction on one side and scoops of chocolate and vanilla ice cream and a scoop of strawberry sorbet on the other. I did not care for the Apple pan Betty as I am not a fan of pistachios. So, I ordered the chocolate bar :-) My friends didn't mind as they liked them all. The desserts are big enough to share, one is plenty for two people.

Though there were loads of service hicups and the kitchen was not prepared for the rush of diners, everybody handled the situation really well. I look forward to returning for another meal soon.

I think the prices are reasonable considering the location. Appetizers range from $6 (the cheese puffs--loads of them) to $18 for the charcuterie plate (saw on someone else's table, looked great and very ample). Salads are $10 and soups $8. Main courses range from $16 for the hamburger to $28 for the NY Strip. Oh there is a corned beef sandwich for $14! Sides are $6 each and enough for 2-3 people. Desserts are $8 each.

edited to correct spelling that was originally done in a food coma. of which I am in another one tongiht.

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I did not have the experience tonight that Michel would have hoped that I or anyone else would have had. At best, this is a work in progress as far as I am concerned. It is also why a formal review from the Washington Post or Washington is left for several months for a restaurant to work out its kinks and concerns. This evening I sat at the bar for dinner with four people behind the bar tending to customers. From 6:15 until 8:15 when I left the dining room was not more than half filled. Not a single person working the bar had any familiarity with the menu. And I have no idea if there were specials. I am only talking about the regular menu which is quite limited as is the wine list as well as the offerings of wine by the glass. The $56 12 oyster 6 shrimp special left all four of them speechless: no one knew anything about the oysters or even if the shrimp were fresh. Fifty six dollars is a LOT of money to spend for twelve oysters and six shrimp. A LOT! With urging from myself and a stranger seated next to me the manager came out and explained the three different kinds of oysters being offered. Michel needs to name these on the menu as well as educate his servers that the shrimp are fresh or frozen, especially if he is charging a premium price. Tuna carpaccio at $16 was paper thin sliced ahi tuna with a bit of olive oil and lemon drizzled on it. Something green also for a bit of seasoning. Four bites, five bites- just nothing exceptional. For me not worth $16. (Kinkead's sets the standard for tuna carpaccio in the D. C. area for a reference point.) Bread Line bread was exceptional as was the Vermont/Irish butter served with it although I was first told by the bar staff that the bread was baked in house. And then several other glitches: $28 NY strip steak au poivre that was overcooked and excessively fatty although I really liked the topping and thought if this had been fresh and correctly charred it would have been wonderful. A side of cherry tomatoes was good if "warmed" too long in the oven. The accompanying shoestring onions were outstanding although no one behind the bar had any idea of whehter these were onions or fennel or ?. Actually there were two versions of shoestring onions, each outstanding. Dessert was two scoops of ice cream: caramel and coconut. I was not impressed with the caramel ice cream; and the coconut was really a coconut ice, not an ice cream although those behind the bar insisted it was ice cream.

Michel came in half though my meal. At some point he walked over to the kitchen and seemed to take over; of course this was after my entree was served and I had already begun to form an opinion as had several others at the bar.

The brightly lit, contemporarily designed Central needs work and time. It needs Michel in the front of the kitchen overseeing what comes out. It needs to have servers fully educated for what is being presented on the plate as well as the history/reputation/standards of Michel Richard. This is NOT just another version of Les Halles although tonight it seemed exactly like this. Steak needs to be correctly cooked, vegetables freshly served, desserts served with at least a bit of the flair of what Michel is known for. And the wine list: short! Only three reds by the glass although the malbec was well worth the $11 for the (what seemed like) three ounce pour. And the glasses? Central has the Schott bordeaux but they are only available when specifically asked for. Otherwise you are going to be served a very small glass that does not allow swirling, certainly doesn't allowing sniffing of what is in it. And the servers/bar staff need to know what they are serving; they must be educated!!!!!! About both food AND wine! They must learn to have pride in what this man has spent decades building. (I belive that Citronelle is one of the absolute best restaurants in the United States; his reputation is involved in Central just as it is involved in Citronelle.)

Tonight, with a full bar and a half to two thirds full dining room (when I left), I left feeling that I my $110 could have been spent more wisely. For just myself (three glasses of wine). But there is potential here. A great deal of potential. I believe it just needs Michel in here educating and steering his staff to his standards and his expectations. With this Central will be the credit to Pennsylvania Avenue that we have all hoped for and expected. But it needs him, perhaps full time in the beginning to accomplish this. Until then I fear that it is only a worthy competitor to Les Halles. Again, for me, a work in progress and reason why professional reviewers wait several months and have several visits before writing in the public press. By then this has the potential to easily have three stars. But not for this evening.

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My wife and I joined two friends at Central last night. There are definitely some service kinks to be ironed out, but our food was top notch. We didn't have a reservation and were initially told that it would be around a 45 minute wait, and that we could not eat in the bar. Not a problem, we grabbed some wine, and sat in the bar, and stared at several four-tops open in front of us for the next hour. The space is beautiful, by the way. After about an hour or so we were seated at one of the open tables we'd been staring at.

I oredered the hanger steak, which was fantastic, my wife ordered the lobster burger, which was ok, and our friends had the short ribs and the fried chicken. Both of their dishes were very good. In addition we oredered a number of sides, the polenta, the mac and cheese, the cherry tomato gratin and the creamed spinach. The sides were all delicious, if very rich. My steak was extremely well prepared, and all of us enjoyed our food very much.

Really our only complaint was on service. There was serious lag time before our order was taken, then before our food was delivered, and again at the end before our check was delivered. I see tremendous potential, and am anxious to return, but there's some definite work still to be done.

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Went to Central on Saturday night, and had an excellent experience. First of all, on Saturday night the restaurant had been open for ONE WEEK. That's it. My wife and I, and another couple had dinner, and then drinks at the bar. I'm not going to make comparisons, or load up the hyperbole cannon and fire it everywhere, and I'm nowhere near presumptuous enough to suggest what Chef Richard needs to do, or what kind of experience he is looking to provide. We all had a fabulous time, and excellent food.

When we arrived at 6:30, the bar was relatively crowded, the dining room was not, which is to be expected - 6:30 is pretty early on a Saturday for dinner. The space is fantastic - very bright and contemporary. The bartender was very gregarious, and quickly brought us our drinks. We enjoyed them at the bar, and then moved to our table when our friends arrived. The place was packed when we got up a bit after 9pm - I'm guessing that since they have only been open a week, they are trying to pace the nights a bit gently to start.

Starters for our group included the Tuna Carpaccio (x2) Mussels Chowder, and the gougeres. The mussels chowder was fantastic - very rich, with a ton of mussels. Were the weather warmer, it would be a perfect winter dish. Everyone at the table enjoyed it. The Tuna Carpaccio was recommended by our server, and was very nice, although I was only able to have a bite, as my wife finished her portion before allowing me to try it. The gougeres were very good, although in retrospect I would have liked to have ordered the onion soup, and snacked on the gougeres at the bar.

Mains were the Lamb Shank, Short Ribs, and Fried Chicken (x2). The Lamb Shank was prepared perfectly - extremely tender and tasty, and the polenta was done perfectly. The Short Ribs looked excellent, although I did not get a chance to taste them. Having been a huge fan of the fried chicken at the Lounge at Citronelle, I was interested to see how the dish would hold up to a full breast of chicken, rather than the pieces offered in the lounge. In short, the best fried chicken in the area is at Central. Perfectly done, very crispy, with a huge helping of mashed potatoes, this dish was the star of the night. Extremely well done.

Side orders were Mac and Cheese, Cherry Tomatoes, and Fries. The mac and cheese was excellent, penne pasta in a very rich cheese sauce. I did not have the cherry tomatoes, although they all disappeared. The fries were very crispy, but could have used some more salt, in all honesty. The fries were the only portion of the meal in which the seasoning needed any adjustment whatsoever.

The wine was a very tasty and reasonably priced Gevrey Chambertin. Our server told us that a reserve winelist will be forthcoming (Mark?), which we can't wait to see.

Desserts were the Creme Brulee, Lemon Tart, and the Chocolate Mousse with chocolate "bb's". The rich, decadent chocolate mousse was the winner here, although I really, really enjoyed the Lemon Tart.

All in all, we thought the meal was fantastic, and a great value for the price paid. Service was on point, and well organized throughout the meal. The server had an excellent grasp of the menu, and made some good suggestions. We had a fantastic time, and the restaurant had a nice buzz about it when we got up from the table around 9. It was full, and we were lucky to grab seats at the bar for a nightcap. Central seems like it is going to be continually packed, and we can't wait to return.

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"I should note that the restaurant isn't accepting reservations on Open Table yet,"

that is odd since I made my reservations on Open Table for Friday night.

While the fried chicken breast was good, I didn't care for the dark meat version. Also, it is not traditional fried chicken so it is impossible to compare to people who cook traditional Southern fried chicken in my opinion.

One question, I don't recall chocolate mousse on the menu from Friday. Is Central changing menu items regularly? I like those bb things, they were on the banana split.

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"I should note that the restaurant isn't accepting reservations on Open Table yet,"

that is odd since I made my reservations on Open Table for Friday night.

While the fried chicken breast was good, I didn't care for the dark meat version. Also, it is not traditional fried chicken so it is impossible to compare to people who cook traditional Southern fried chicken in my opinion.

One question, I don't recall chocolate mousse on the menu from Friday. Is Central changing menu items regularly? I like those bb things, they were on the banana split.

They weren't earlier in the week. If they are now, sorry! I guess that the choc. mousse was new - it came with the aforementioned bb's, as well as a rasberry sauce.
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While the fried chicken breast was good, I didn't care for the dark meat version. Also, it is not traditional fried chicken so it is impossible to compare to people who cook traditional Southern fried chicken in my opinion.
How is the fried chicken different? Please describe. Thanks.
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Kliman's chog of December 19th might answer your chicken question. Scroll down a little past halfway.

I had the boneless fried chicken at the Citronelle bar a few months ago--was told that it was being tried out there for later inclusion in the Central menu. I vaguely recall being told that afterward that it was coated with potato--not clear whether that was dehydrated potato or pulverized potato chips. In any case, someone had screwed up and the chicken was way overcooked and dry, and I got something else in its place. They were pretty upset--not at me, of course. That sort of thing is not a common occurence there. My guess is that the guy who cooked it got royally chewed out.

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Last night (at around 9:30 - maybe different at other times), the shortribs were served with mashed potatoes and salad for $25.

Heh. I thought it might change daily but apparently now it's hourly. It was polenta at 6:30.

Understand that I'm not casting aspersions on the place, I just think it's funny. Probably will be a while before things settle down.

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All the great, the good, and the recently-eased-into-temporary-exile of the DC restaurant community was there tonight. Seems like the new late-night industry hangout, though the kitchen closing at 10:30 does cramp its style a bit.

By the way the "Cuvee Michel Richard" Bourgogne Blanc that's served by the glass (vintage 2004, from Domaine Borgeot, likely declassified Chassagne-Montrachet at least in part), is dyn-O-mite. Probably the best $8 glass of wine in the city.

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Definitely agree with Jake on the white Burgandy. The Michel Richard Cuvee Cotes de Rhone on the other hand needs a fair amount of air before it loosens up, but has just the right balance of spice and fruit after some time.

The gougeres are a spectacular bar snack.

The lamb shank was very good, but could use perhaps a touch more seasoning. The accompanying sauce was rich without being cloying. The polenta it came with was absolutely decadent. I could eat a plate of just this. It's as excited about a starch as I think I've ever been. Driving home (OK driving to Corduroy and then Ray's) I couldn't stop thinking about how it would make the absolute greatest shrimp and grits ever.

PS - It's all Monique's fault that I stayed out too late last night. You hear me? It's all Monique's fault! :lol:

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