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Marvin, Chef Angel Franco's American Bistro on 14th & U Streets NW - Dedicated to Marvin Gaye


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We tried the newly opened Marvin, on 14th just off U Street. The restaurant serves Belgian cuisine and a few soup-inspired dishes (shrimp and grits), and is named in homage to Marvin Gaye - a huge mural of Marvin is painted on a main dining room wall. I have spent quite a bit of time in Holland and Belgium and the restaurant decor gives some of the feel of a traditional local place in either country(the hard driving rain on Friday night added to the Amsterdam and Belgium-like atmosphere). Full disclosure - we are friends with the owners.

The menu included 5 different mussel dishes, several hearty entrees, salads, apps, and more. I had a butter lettuce salad and mussels in white wine with fennel and garlic. This is my favorite salad and it was well done - simple lettuce and a dressing with a nice vinegar bite. The mussels were quite good - very tender and not too large. The fries were served in a paper cone and were nicely crisp and served with curry mayo, wasabi mayo, and ketchup. I thought the wasabi mayo could have had a bit more kick, but it was good to have the 3 choices. My husband had a pork shank over green lentils - he said it tasted like a deconstructed erte soup, which is the traditional Dutch split pea soup, and was perfect for the dreary weather. The bread was a crusty baguette. I had a Delerium (bottle) because the Duvel was not yet available on tap. The beer list had the most commonly seen Belgian brews, and was rather a short list, especially compared to other places in town carrying Belgian beers. But, I would hope that the list will be expanded with time. I did not look at the wine list.

A lounge is on the second level and a rooftop deck.

We did not stay for dessert (but we should have since we ventured to Busboys and Poets for a less than mediocre dessert in an atmosphere that smelled like the day after a frat party. )

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Four of us dropped by for dinner on Saturday night. Color me impressed. I normally don't factor the surroundings in my impression of a place, but I really liked the vibe here, right down to the (loud) soundtrack. This is not a place to go for a quiet evening alone!

Food was good to great. The mussels weren't the best in the city, but they were pretty damn good. A lukewarm cone of fries was a bit of a disappointment, but the texture was spot on and we liked the different mayos. I see the potential had they been fresh from the fryer. Throughout the night we could see finished cones stacked up in the pass for sometimes minutes at a time, so I think they weren't producing them in synch with the entrees they were supposed to accompany. I honestly should have sent them back, but at that point I was a few too many Leffes into the night and was having too much of a good time. A dandelion green salad was fairly bland; the dressing could have used a little more acid to brighten it up. But my chicken and waffles: oh my! Again, maybe this was beer speaking, but man did that go down well. As if fried chicken + waffles + syrup could possibly be anything by excellent. My only minor complaint was that some pieces of the chicken were ever so slightly dried out. The coating was airy and delicious. A scallop app and the burger (with chanterelles ... superb) also got high marks.

I'm shocked and delighted that the upstairs lounge/deck hasn't been "discovered" by the trendy hivemind yet, but I suspect that this will last all of another week or so. Granted we got there on the early side (7:30ish), but it was practically empty even with a 45 minute wait downstairs. There is a lot of room with a large outdoor bar and plenty of seats at a railing running the perimeter. There is another smaller bar with a lounge area inside. Come summer it's going to be a madhouse. The downstairs was a madhouse by the time we left around 10:30. Beers weren't terribly overpriced given the locale; I'd stick with the drafts even though they were run-of-the-mill at this stage in the game (Stella, Leffe Blonde and Brun, Maudite, Hoegaarden, and something else forgettable). Hopefully they will expand with some more interesting offerings in the future. They had a larger selection of bottles (again, nothing to write home about), but at those prices draft does just fine. We didn't explore the wine list either.

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They did not have a TV the last time I was in, but that was a few months back. I will say that I do not view Marvin as the type of place where I would go to watch the Big East tournament even if they did have a TV, though.

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They did not have a TV the last time I was in, but that was a few months back. I will say that I do not view Marvin as the type of place where I would go to watch the Big East tournament even if they did have a TV, though.
I agree with that ... but am looking for good food and atmosphere and the ability to keep an eye on scores (kinda like what I did at Central at lunch today), not a place to watch the games. And who said I wanted to watch Big East hoops??
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I agree with that ... but am looking for good food and atmosphere and the ability to keep an eye on scores (kinda like what I did at Central at lunch today), not a place to watch the games. And who said I wanted to watch Big East hoops??

Big East was the first name that came to mind, but I'm with you, watching them and the Big Ten is painful.

Personally, I think the food at Marvin is just OK and a bit overpriced, so I don't even think you get that end of the deal if they do happen to have a TV here (which I would guess they don't). But that's just my opinion.....

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According to this Chris has definitely left and is now at Marvin.

I went to Marvin's this past weekend and the beer list is still lacking, as they were out of the first 2 beers I ordered and when I finally got my Affligem, it was only about 10 degrees below room temperature and a little stale.

Hopefully Chris can fix at least some of the issues with this place, because I honestly want to love it. It just seems that when I go I am reminded more why I shouldn't be coming back (bad service, always out of beer, inconsistency) more so than why I should be (good fries and onion soup, cool atmosphere).

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Hopefully Chris can fix at least some of the issues with this place, because I honestly want to love it. It just seems that when I go I am reminded more why I shouldn't be coming back (bad service, always out of beer, inconsistency) more so than why I should be (good fries and onion soup, cool atmosphere).
Unfortunately, I have to agree with the above comment... While the food was good (great burger, fries were okay, my friends enjoyed their meals as well), the service was not so stellar. Our waiter came by at least 5 times in the first ten minutes, attempting to harangue us into ordering immediately. While if a place is busy, I will definitely attempt to order and eat more quickly, the restaurant was not even half full at this point... Also, he was then absent for basically the rest of the meal until trying to steal my plate while I was still eating... hands off the fries, buddy! ;) I just felt completely rushed... and what was supposed to be a nice catch-up meal and drinks with friends turned into a sprint through a meal, with only one drink....Sigh... and the place could be great... We packed up and headed to Bar Pilar to unwind a bit after the ordeal...

(also out of the draft I wanted... sigh...)

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Went to Marvin for dinner on Saturday. There were some highs and some lows.

Highs -- had great service. Our waiter was really friendly without being intrusive and steered us away from some dishes he thought we may not like.

Really liked the frites, although the sauces served with them looked as though they had been sitting out for awhile. Also enjoyed the appetizer ribs. Could have been a little more rare but overall they were really good - the bbq sauce was a nice sweet sauce. The grits that went w/ the shrimp and grits were really yummy too. Not oily as some grits can be but very creamy and with a nice cheesy flavor.

Lows -- our lows were all decor based. The banquette seating along the far wall is a little odd at the points where they have inserted partitions to break of sections. I sat on the banquette and there is a pillar/pole that sticks out about halfway into the seat, so you have an uneven back -- part of it is recessed and then part of it is pushed forward. It's very uncomfortable. It appears that all two-seaters along the wall have this problem, although I may be wrong.

Also, those partions have lighting on them that hits at about chest height. My boyfriend, who was sitting in the outside seat, was "sort of blinded" by the the light coming out of the partition. He could only fix it by leaning up against the partition and blocking it.

Overall, we enjoyed our trip. I think we'd just ask to be seated somewhere different when we return.

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I had dinner at Marvin Sunday evening and really enjoyed the Marvin Burger. I give it an A+. I ordered it Medium Rare and appreciated the preparation as such. The generous portion of thick cut apple wood bacon was delicious. The Cheese melted perfectly over the mushrooms and yummy bacon. The brioche bun was equally as tasty. The fries were delicious as well. ;) !

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The burger is indeed delicious. The frites were a little limp, but I liked the flavor and the the curry mayonnaise. We shared some apps around the table, tomato salad and ribs were very successful; the croquettes need a little more structure but tasted good, especially when smeared on the frisee. Not sure what the above poster means by this:

Also enjoyed the appetizer ribs. Could have been a little more rare but overall they were really good
I've never had rare ribs. :lol: They tasted long-cooked and were very tender and easily fell off the bone - all as it should be. I liked the sweet, sticky sauce and would definitely order these again.

Our server was lovely and prompt, and I coveted her very cool eyeglasses. We got there very late, and the dining room had mostly cleared out, but it was still loud enough to make it hard to hold a conversation. The deck, in contrast, was jamming. It's a fabulous space, but the scene and music are, alas, way to loud and young for me.

A solid effort, and they would definitely get considered for brunch, or our next pre-9:30 Club dinner.

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Had dinner at Marvin's last night (Sunday). We started with seared scallops and liver 'n onions (actually foie gras). We had the seared halibut and chicken and waffles as entrees and ended up sharing a pumpkin cheesecake. Everything was perfectly cooked (the chicken breast wonderfully crispy on the outside yet juicy on the inside), including the sides that came with the entrees. The halibut was served with spinach sauteed with smoked ham and garlic. The chicken was served with collard greens. Our server was friendly without being annoying. And they had Affligem on tap. Really good comfort food for southern francophiles.

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We went to Marvin before the Carrie Fisher show last week (which was seriously awesome, by the way). We really liked the room and the food. And in the end, I even liked the service--they were cordial and got us out in plenty of time for the show. But it was strange that I had to convince my server that my red-throughout burger was not, in fact, "medium." She looked at it and said that it was, but would I like it cooked more? Yes please. When it returned a few minutes later--bless them, brand new, not just the same bitten and cut-in-half patty cooked more--she said, yeah, that wasn't medium; yours got mixed up with someone else's.

Okay then.

But the burger, with strong cheese, bacon, and mushrooms, was a quite yummy taste sensation, and while I usually like mustard and onion, it was even very good without them. And I love all the sauces for the frites.

I'd go back (but check your meat :lol: ).

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My +1 and I got out of the house on our first real post-baby date (8 months later, what a couple of losers) last Friday night. We went to a show at the Black Cat and decided to have dinner at Marvin beforehand. We got to 14th St. a little early so we ducked into Bar Pilar and had a cheese and charcuterie plate and a beer which was a nice start to the evening.

After our pre-appetizer appetizer at Pilar, we headed to Marvin. I loved the space - it was very lively and bustling (and loud), but just what I wanted for that night. We started out with the moules frites with applewood bacon, leeks and ale. The mussels were great and I loved the hunks of bacon in the broth. I think we only had one that remained closed which is pretty good considering how large a portion we had. The frites were kind of limp - I prefer them more crisp - but well-seasoned, and I liked the dipping sauces (especially the curry one).

I had the pork belly special as my entree and holy crap was it good. A giant piece of melt-in-your-mouth pork belly atop (I think - there was a lot of wine involved) root vegetable puree. My +1 had the crispy filet of sole with creamy grits and collard greens and it was also fantastic. The breading on the fish was light and airy and super crispy and perfectly seasoned.

We had originally decided not to get dessert, but then thought we probably shouldn't miss out on dessert as everything else had been so good, so we split the pumpkin cheesecake. It was just okay, certainly not the star of the night - but we may have just been too full to really enjoy it properly.

After that great dinner we rolled down the street and the Fleet Foxes rocked our socks off. A great date night - hopefully they are not so few and far between from here on out.

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I was part of a party of four at Marvin on Saturday evening and it was an excellent experieence for all. As it was a birthday celebration, the birthday girl tried to break the budget with foie gras and the lobster which she acknowledged enjoying very much. The other three, including one nine-year-old, ate the ribs, chicken and waffles, and mussels and fries. For dessert, the BD girl got a candle in her cheesecake. The service was impeccable and the portions of good size. Even the noise level was tolerable. The only wrinkle is that, although we found one, parking in the area is difficult. As it is a block from Metro, that seems to be the best bet.

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The duck and fig terrine was soldout by 8:30pm Saturday night

it reappeared early the following evening, served with a black fig spread, toast, and a small well-dressed salad of frisse and baby mache, better than the pallid salads we ordered here previously. the pate was meaty, not that fatty but smooth, with sweet spots of fig -- nice picnic basket food and enough to share. jumbo scallops in an oniony butter sauce were expertly seared and cooked, the sauce on the light side, but salted with a heavy hand. a bacon burger, packed a bit tight, with white cheese that couldn't stand up to a good, assertive onion roll was decent, if not quite ready for the top finalists in town and cooked beyond the medium that was ordered. (from my limited experience here, i would lean toward ordering meats a stage earlier than you want them, or at least discuss your preference with your waiter.) the fried chicken was a nice white cut hanging off the barest of bone, well battered, not too dry but not exactly juicy, nesting on a waffle that was smothering a wad of collard greens. though i really didn't need anything more to fill me up, the waffle gets along fine with the rest of the items on the plate, even had a spot or two where it was soaking through and had something going on with the chicken, though i wouldn't say there was that much chemistry in this barnyard romance. we've been looking for a replacement for the sorely missed colorado kitchen, and i'm not sure we've found one, but in the meantime, this place will do ok.

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This was the second time I've had the Nicoise Salad ($10) at Marvin, and both times it impressed me as being one of the best around, with a small piece of Ahi tuna grilled rare on the inside, tiny fingerlings, and several anchovies throughout.

I had a craving for fried chicken, and finally tried the Country Fried Chicken and Waffles ($16), a large, off-bone breast (with a tiny wing-bone attached), perfectly breaded and fried and sitting atop a Belgian waffle, the whole thing resting upon some fresh collard greens amid a barely visible drizzle of clear, stock-based gravy. A tin of maple syrup reminds me of the way I used to eat Scrapple as a child (except my mom used Vermont Maid).

The Duck Confit ($9) appetizer is a crispy leg of duck, served with three small pickled beets, a crescent of chevre, and some mache. Even though I understand they're using the tanginess of the goat cheese and pickled beets to cut through the confit, the combination seems a bit forced to me.

And I believe that same crescent of goat cheese goes into the Belgian Cheese Croquettes ($7), except that three of them are breaded and fried.

All four courses were good to very good, and reminded me that I've yet to try anything at Marvin I haven't liked. James Claudio works very hard in that kitchen, and it shows in the dishes that arrive at the table.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I had a craving for fried chicken, and finally tried the Country Fried Chicken and Waffles ($16), a large, off-bone breast (with a tiny wing-bone attached), perfectly breaded and fried and sitting atop a Belgian waffle, the whole thing resting upon some fresh collard greens amid a barely visible drizzle of clear, stock-based gravy. A tin of maple syrup reminds me of the way I used to eat Scrapple as a child (except my mom used Vermont Maid)

Can you opt for dark meat on the fried chicken?

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I was not offered an option Monday night. As I implied further upthread, I thought the chicken lacked flavor.

I noticed when I first read his comments that Don's only comment concerning the chicken was that it was perfectly fried, it left me wondering about the flavor of either the crust or the meat.

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maybe too many people were in town on friday night, but marvin seemed more like a scene and less than a great place to eat and drink. after three visits here, i am still a bit up in the air about how i feel about this restaurant. two ribs from a rack of lamb ($32) provided a puny amount of meat that needed some elevation in flavor and texture, served atop what i believe was a half-hearted stab at dauphinoise potatoes -- a soft white cake that would have benefitted greatly from some crust. a small salad of baby arugula felt acerbic by comparison to its companions on the plate, and out of place. a 10 oz. strip steak ($28) was even less successful, though any kitchen would have been challenged to rescue this tough, gristly, fatty piece of beef. asparagus continues to appear frequently throughout the menu, don't ask me why, because even on a good day it points up the shortcomings of this vegetable when it is found out of season. thanks to the stingy lamb portion, this was the first time we had room for dessert, and the toasted banana bread pudding, served with chocolate and salted caramel ice cream, was the highlight of the meal, although even here too much restraint in the seasoning and firing kept this recipe from being all that it could be. i have ordered three sidecars from marvin's bar, and they always seem to lack a center, an anchor to keep them from tasting diluted. this time, the drink came out rimmed with salt instead of sugar -- a mishap that was pleasantly corrected, but a substitution i have encountered at other places before (bebo) and that just makes me wonder. the bottom line, counting martinis, is that the drinks tend to be weak and they pale against the beer list. in a previous meal, marvin's delicious cheeseburger seemed to be headed for a fairly decent showing against stiff competition, but the long blonde hair packed into the meat unfortunately resulted in its disqualification. i had some nice things to say about the chicken and waffle, although it was definitely not as good as what todd kliman and others have described. my version, apparently, was missing some seasoning.

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I've always wanted to try chicken and waffles, so I went with a friend to share an order. The collard greens on the bottom are good. The chicken is fried quite nicely. The breading has a flavor reminiscent of non-Top Ramen ramen noodles, but was practically flavorless as many mentioned. I found it better seasoned closer to the chicken though. I wonder if the thought was that it shouldn't be too salty since it was going into the maple syrup, but neglecting the magic of sweet and salty.

I'm surprised no one has said anything has mentioned anything specific about the waffle. I thought it should have been slightly larger to match the piece of chicken, and a little more browned and crisp. Even though a softer waffle would create more textural contrast to the chicken, the breading on the chicken tends to fade, so it would have been smart to add a little extra crisp. I've had Eggos that taste better.

Next time I'll build my own with a piece of chicken from Popeye's.

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Next time I'll build my own with a piece of chicken from Popeye's.

That sounds like the much better option. My least favorite thing that I have gotten from Marvin's is the chicken and waffles, I found it to be incredibly boring. For $16, I'll make my own waffle, get a piece of chicken from Popeye's, and a sixer of good beer rather than head back for this, most likely.

The burger, on the other hand, is fantastic.

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This past Sunday we went to Marvin just as the Snowpocalypse was bearing down on DC. The bacon and ale moule frites was quite tasty, but I wish Marvin offered half portions. Especially after a salad, that's a huge portion.

But I doubt that we'll go back unless we can make it when the place is not slammed. The noise was almost unbearably loud and I felt like we were sitting in the laps of the two-top next to us. So as they shouted and we shouted it became more and more distracting. I can deal with loud if there's a little bit of real estate between me and the next table. Unless you are in one of those booths next to a divider, there's just no hope of any conversational privacy.

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We had a dinner during 'prime-time' last night at Marvin (Saturday night). Yes, it was loud, yes, it was hard to hear our serve--but we had a great time. We had some friends in town who wanted to experience DC, and this fit the bill to a T. A decent Belgian beer selection got us started right, followed up by moules et frites (coconut curry) and starters (goat cheese croquettes were simple and almost overshadowed by the very tasty accompanying greens; the scallops were huge and just right). Our entrees were very satisfying--chicken and waffles were really great; the burger a perfect choice for somebody not so adventurous, and the pork shank was deeply flavorful and the lentils underneath it were fantastic. Service was great and our meal, while not leisurely paced, was just right.

We'll gladly go back.

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I've been hearing rumors, from several people, about how Marvin is a shadow of its former self. James Claudio is still the Chef de Cuisine, and Brendan Etoile remains the Executive Sous Chef, so no major changes have occurred in the kitchen.

I started off with a Hennepin Saison ($8) from their excellent Belgian(-styled) beer list, but my talented bartender made a drink that looked so good I had to order one, his own variant on Death in the Afternoon ($8), sipped greedily before the arrival of my House Smoked Baby Back Pork Ribs with BBQ Sauce ($11), a plate of five ribs, stacked, that had a nice, smokey flavor, but were also individually coated and drowning in a too-sweet sauce. These were good ribs, not great, and I'm not sure if they were merely started or finished in the smoker, or cooked there the whole way - I took one bite off the end of a rib, and the rest of it came flying off the bone as well. I've seen this in par-boiled ribs, but have also noticed that boiled ribs tend to have bones that are blanched to an ivory-white, whereas these bones were nicely gray and mottled. Aside from these rambling thoughts, the ribs would have benefitted from a less-vigorous application of the sticky-sweet sauce, but weren't at all bad (albeit somewhat expensive at $2.20 per rib).

As for the downfall of Marvin? Insufficient data from this visit.

Cheers,

Rocks

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We visited Marvin about a month ago and really enjoyed all the dishes. We tried about half of their appetizers and ordered one of the moules. Everything was tasty, well cooked, plump, and nicely portioned for the price.

Just two problems keep me from making it a regular spot: (1) the food was consistently very salty and (2) it was really really really loud inside.

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Had reservations for an early dinner. We get there with 2 yr old in tow, and we're informed that they don't have high chairs and they're not "kid-friendly" (not in a mean way, sort of apologetic). Husband asks, "Do you want us to leave?" Thankfully, we are given a booth where child could be parked between us. Server neglected to tell us about specials and seemed in a hurry to turn our table. Noise level steadily grew as evening progressed. Food was very good. The frisee lardon salad was one of the best I've had - generous portion, just the right amount of dressing, perfectly poached egg, lots of bacon. The Normandy Moules Frites (bleu cheese, bacon, ale, garlic, cream) were plentiful and tasty, a solid rendition with too many frites to be able to finish them all. The frites were served with ketchup, a curried mayo and mild horseradish mayo. (The frites and sauces at Granville Moore's are still my favorite.) Shrimp and grits appetizer was fine and a perfect kid-sized meal. Pea and ricotta ravioli was bland and unexciting. The burger was great, perfectly cooked, huge, also served with frites. The most popular items still appear to be the chicken and waffles and the mussels, as many of the neighboring tables ordered these. Desserts are not that great. Tried a special chocolate caramel tart and strawberry vanilla panna cotta. The tart was basically a tart shell, a layer of hardened caramel and a chocolate layer, very basic. Panna cotta was mostly vanilla panna cotta with a thin layer of gelled strawberry sauce on it with a strawberry on top. Competent but not thrilling. I dig the whole American South/Belgium idea as a tribute to Marvin Gaye, and our kid learned who Marvin Gaye was as a result of this dinner out. I'd love to go back and try some other beers and more of the food. Perhaps they may have a few kids' booster seats or high chairs by then. :)

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