Every Christmas, instead of exchanging gifts, Amy and I treat ourselves to a gourmet meal at one of the DC metro area’s finer restaurants. In December 2008, we chose City Zen. We’ve wanted to try City Zen for quite some time, mainly because we’ve read so many things about the Chef, Eric Ziebold. In 2008, he received the prestigious James Beard's "Mid Atlantic Best Chefs in America" title. Prior to CityZen, Ziebold was the Chef de Cuisine for Thomas Keller at the French Laundry in Yountville, California, just north of San Francisco in the Napa Valley.
City Zen is located in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in SW Washington, DC. It can be difficult to get a reservation—we called three weeks in advance—so if you decide to try CityZen, plan well in advance. When we walked in, the hostess greeted us, took our coats and seated us immediately. The dining area’s sleek design, high cathedral ceilings, and exhibition kitchen create a fairly open space, but the hostess managed to put us in a dark secluded corner. Had I been on a date, I might have enjoyed this intimate table for two. But these two single girls were here to see the chef work! We told our waiter, and he gladly moved us to a table with a great view of the kitchen. City Zen’s fixed-priced menu consists of a six-course chef's tasting menu, six course vegetarian tasting menu, or a less expensive three-course menu. For an additional cost, you can also order a wine pairing to accompany each course: three glasses of white wine, one glass of red wine, a beer flight, and a dessert wine.
We ordered the six course chef tasting menu and the wine pairing. Don’t gasp! I opted out of at least some of the alcohol, and just ordered the pairing with the first four courses. The Sommelier was informed, polite, and friendly. The food is a mix of French, Asian, and American cuisine. We started with a couple compliments of the chef, a pomegranate prosecco cocktail and an amuse bouche of fried mushroom with black truffle butter—a one-bite earthy burst of flavor.
Our menu highlights included:
Confit Of Yellowfin Tuna And Toro Sashimi
Spiced Medjool Date, Candied Almonds, Wrinkle Crinkle
Cress and Sour Orange-Cardamon Vinaigrette
Path Valley Farms Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Italian Chestnuts, Staymen Apple, Shaved Truffles, and
Brown Butter Gastrique
Sweet Butter Poached Maine Lobster
Wilted Arrowleaf Spinach, Celery Root Brunoise, and
Red Wine Bouillon Poached Rib-Eye Of Prime Midwestern
with Red Flannel Hash, Crispy Bone Marrow, and
Frankie’s Original Horseradish Soubise
A Selection Of Artisinal Cheeses From Our Trolley
Warm Valrhona Chocolate Tea Cake
During the meal, we enjoyed French bread, foccacia and bite-size Parker House rolls presented in a small wooden box. For the last two courses, we selected eight or nine out-of-this world artisinal cheeses from their cheese trolley, followed by a warm Valrhona chocolate tea cake with Meyer lemon preserves and Italian pistachio ice cream.
Our waiters were very nice and courteous. We neither felt rushed nor waited long for the next course. In fact, after we mentioned that we had enjoyed the cheese courses at Nectar, where Maitre D’ Jared Slipp had previously worked, our waiter had him stop by to say hello.
The food was perfectly cooked, delicious, and presented beautifully but did not have the innovativeness that Komi or the Minibar at Cafe Atlantico offered. Favorites of the evening were the pomegranate prosecco, the mushroom fritter, the Parker House rolls, foccacia, sweet potato gnocchi and the Maine lobster. What more can I say? The decor, atmosphere, food, and service were impeccable.
In my opinion, the experience was well worth the money we spent.
City Zen - 1330 Maryland Avenue, SW