Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Lunch at Michel

This is the first time that I've ever let weeks slide by in my posting.  I've normally tried to keep the space between my posts be no more than six days, but this summer has been rather up and down and while I have not had a lack of things to post about, I just have not had the energy nor the will to post.  But yesterday I went out to lunch at Michel, a relatively new restaurant in the DC area, and I feel like I need to share this review with you.  Michel is located in the Ritz Carlton.  It is another one of Michel Richard's restaurants (the Michel Richard of Citronelle and Central).

Michel offers a changing three course menu for $21 which is called the "Lunch with Benefits," as part of the profits goes to a cause.  This week's cause was cystic fibrosis.  Two choices were offered for the appetizer, two for the main course, and three for dessert.  We also ordered a la carte off the main lunch menu.

One of the appetizers offered with the prix fixe menu is a vichyssoise, or a thick soup made of leeks, potatoes, and onions.  Michel's vichyssoise was served with potato crisps (also known as potato chips).  It was interesting, as it had an acid note to it that I have never tasted before in a vichyssoise, but it was not unpleasant.  The crisps provided a nice textual element to the creamy, smooth soup.  Overall it was a 8.5 out of 10.

The other appetizer offered as part of the prix fixe menu was the tuna tartare nicoise.  This was a salad with green beans, red onion, and hard boiled eggs, among other elements.  I thought the tuna was a little thickly cut and could have been more elegantly presented.  It was a 6.5 out of 10, which is pretty average.

An appetizer ordered a la carte was the cheese puffs (also called gougères, $8).  These were a little too heavy.  We’ve had Michel Richard’s gougères before (at Central), and they were lighter and fluffier.  These ones tasted fine, but weren’t the airy puffs we’d had before.  We gave them a 7 out of 10.

Diver scallops with couscous paella was one of the main courses offered with the prix fixe menu.  This dish featured two scallops on top a bed of Israeli couscous.  The scallops were sweet, and nicely cooked.  The paella was not as spicy as a tradition paella, but did include squid, mussels, and sausage.  It was an 8.5 out of 10, good but not amazing.

The other main course offered with the prix fixe menu was a croque monsieur.  This was fairly banal.  Not only was the plating boring—just a half sandwich with some green leaves, and I even had to re-plate it a bit because it was done with absolutely no attention to detail—but the sandwich itself was nothing special.  We had hoped that Michel Richard might put some fun spin on it (like Inn at Little Washington does with mac and cheese), but instead it was just a grilled ham and cheese sandwich on some decent bread.  Worse yet, the salad was not fresh.  Not only were the greens wilted, but they were bruised and aged so much that some were almost black in color.  My mom called over one of the waiters and showed him the salad.  He very quickly brought it back to the kitchen and she was given a new salad on a new plate.  Unfortunately, this salad was not properly dressed and was very plain in taste.  I have to say, I expected much better of a Michel Richard restaurant.  We gave this a 6.5 out of 10.

One entree we ordered a la carte off the lunch menu was red snapper with pipérade and garlic parsley sauce.  This was served with some great roasted red pepper.  It was a full bodied dish, well executed, with some beautifully cooked fish.  Not a wow, but very good.  An 8.5 out of 10.

The second entree we ordered a la carte was flat iron steak with shallot sauce and french fries.  This was executed well, with some very great crispy french fries.  A solid dish, we gave it a 8.5 out of 10.

One of the desserts offered as part of the prix fixe menu was a chocolate bar.  This was a little too sweet, and the sweetness was not balanced properly by salt.  The milk chocolate bar did have some texture due to a hazelnut crunch layer, but it was unimpressive.  I do not think we finished it.  The pistachio wafer was beautiful and impressively thin, but it did not offer much in terms of taste.  We gave this a 6.5 out of 10.

The other dessert offered as part of the prix fixe menu was a vanilla pot de creme (the item as listed on the menu has no accent marks).  This was very sweet, and almost overwhelmed by the layer of caramel on top.  The caramel had no sophistication to it; it was like something you would buy in a squeeze bottle at a grocery store.  The thin pale wafers served with it were likewise unimpressive and lacking in flavor.  This dessert was a 6 out of 10.

In the end, when the bill was brought out, our waiter told us that we were compensated for my mother’s meal, meaning that a total of $21 was subtracted from our bill as a result of the wilted and bruised greens.  This was a very generous move on the part of the restaurant, as only one part of her three course meal had been a disappointment, but it did not move us in terms of our opinion of Michel.  Overall, the experience was very average.  There are too many good places in DC for us to return to this one, which is sad, given that my dad had previously eaten at this restaurant with my sister and they had both enjoyed the meal very much.  I suppose it is hit or miss?  But that is not acceptable when you’re serving the foodie crowds of the DC metropolitan area.

1700 Tysons Blvd
McLean, VA 22102
Tel. 703-506-4300
Overall rating for the price: 7 out of 10

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