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Café Riggs, Chef Pat Curran in the Riggs Hotel (c. 1891), 9th and F Street in Penn Quarter


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Exposed to a flurry of press releases announcing the opening of Café Riggs, claiming that it is a destination restaurant and not "just" a hotel restaurant, we decided to give it a try for lunch. After all, there was CityZen 'in the good old days'.

The room was very pleasant indeed, with high ceilings, comfortable seating, low noise level, pleasing table linen and tableware. Reception was friendly and efficient, serving staff professional. 

For one starter we had a cold crab, pickled celery and mustard salad on top of a crab-flavored custard, reminiscent of chawanmushi except that the custard was very rich indeed. It was spectacular. For the other starter, a broccoli salad with a sesame-garlic vinaigrette and toasted quinoa to add some crunch. It too was very good, and we would definitely order both dishes again.

For a main course we had Arctic char which, blessedly, was not overcooked, with super-crisp skin, couscous, a slightly-saffron-flavored broth, and slivers of snow peas. Good, and we would get it again. And a vegetable main, crispy sunchokes on top of freekah with mustard greens. The sunchokes were excellent, however the freekah with mustard greens was a good concept that needed perhaps some acid insofar as it became tedious after a few bites.

For dessert, their version of palet d'or, a chocolate-hazelnut confection. The traditional concept was good, of course; the components were good; but it was poorly presented with crumbling edges. French patisserie is really marred by sloppy presentation.

A destination restaurant? Well, not now; perhaps in the future. We will return: we kept saying "my, that looks good" as servers brought dishes to other tables. There is nothing wrong with a great burger and crispy french fries.

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I walk past this a lot but have not eaten here. I have to be careful not to trip over the outdoor cords, but the little tented areas look like they'd be nice to eat in.

I'm pretty sure I recall Sietsema reviewing the hotel during the pandemic, the early years😑, but I'm not sure if he talked specifically about the cafe.

 

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