Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

May 1, 2015 11:56 AM

Restaurant: Marcel's


2401 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20037
The two restaurants written about in this issue of WW very much operate at opposite ends of the dining spectrum, from formal to informal, fancy to plain, and expensive to inexpensive. Yet, each in its own way offers an enjoyable dining experience.

Marcel's opened in DC in 1999. I have driven past it hundreds, if not thousands of times. Yet, until March 26th of this year, I had never gone there for a meal. That was a mistake.

Karen, Larry, Debbie, and I had dinner at Marcel’s, the only meal for which the restaurant is open.

As you enter, the reception stand is straight ahead. To the right is a bar, which is where Karen and Larry were waiting for us. The bar seats up to 14 people on high stools with backs. There are a number of 4-person tables as well. Folks with whom I talked after being there talk of eating at the bar when they are at the restaurant alone.

There are 120 seats. Half that number are located in the back of the main dining room. A curtain can be pulled across the restaurant to provide some privacy. Groups of 15 to 60 can be accommodated in this area.

We were given a plate of small potato bread rolls to munch on while we examined the menu.

A number of edible items were provided for the table on round plates with a good sized hole in the middle of the plate. The hole in the plates is placed around a candle that is burning in the center of the table.

There is a pleasant formality about the restaurant. The servers, all men, wear dark suits, white shirts, and dark ties. The service is as good as any we have ever experienced and better than most. The tables are covered in white linen. The chairs are sturdy and padded.

The extensive menu is designed to be a series of tasting menus, from four to seven courses, ranging in price from $90 - $150, before the cost of wine or other alcoholic beverages.

In looking at the menu, it appears that you are stuck with the tasting menu structure of your meal. However, it turns out that there is considerable flexibility and accommodation. One of our party does not eat dairy. The server noted the milk content of various dishes, especially those served to the table without being ordered. And, while there is not a green salad on the menu, an excellent green salad was provided to the person who does not eat dairy, as a substitute for one of the courses. The bottom line is, all tasting menu items may be ordered a la carte. The restaurant will figure out the bill.

Karen – Arugula salad; La Belle Farm Duck Breast, Baby Bok Choy, Duck Confit Pave ,Cumquats, Duck Gastrique.

Debbie - English Pea Soup, Randal Lineback Veal Meatball, Crème Fraiche, Scallions; La Belle Farm Duck Breast, Baby Bok Choy, Duck Confit Pave, Kumquats, Duck Gastrique

Larry – American Red Snapper, Ratatouille, Artichoke, Sundried Tomato, Nicoise Olive, Balsamic Reduction; Braised Short Rib Tortellini, Roasted Baby Turnips, Spiced Goat Cheese, Madeira Sauce

Mike – Cold Smoked Alaskan Halibut, Orange Supremes, Watercress, Citrus Emulsion, Braised Short Rib Tortellini, Roasted Baby Turnips, Spiced Goat Cheese, Madeira Sauce; Dark Chocolate Tower, Milk Chocolate, Crème Legere, Vanilla Risotto, Hazelnut Crunch. Larry and Debbie each had a taste.

There was one incident that annoyed Debbie. Debbie made the reservation in her name, Cowan, on Open Table. When we arrived, our friends were sitting at the bar. We waved and said hello, and shortly thereafter, the maiître d’ called me by name, saying our table was ready. The fact that he called my name was unusual because he and I had never met. When Debbie questioned his calling my name, I suggested that her friends had told him they were waiting for the Bermans.

A few days later, Debbie received a note from Open Table commenting on the fact that she had not kept her reservation at Marcel’s. She responded appropriately.

The restroom is as well appointed and maintained as the rest of the restaurant. As you enter, to the right there is a large painting. Directly ahead is a large black marble deck at waist height, which includes two white ceramic, sunken wash basins. Above is a large mirror. To the left of the wash basins is a floor-to- ceiling wall that separates the wash basins from two wall-hanging white urinals.

There is a separate, full-doored commode room with a single white ceramic commode. The floor is covered with large, very dark tiles with natural white strains running through them.

Jackets are “required” for men, but it is clearly not enforced. On the other hand, jeans are really not allowed.

There is valet parking. On departure ask that your car be brought around a few minutes before you are ready to leave. (This was suggested by our server.)

Debbie agreed that we would be returning.

And several weeks later we did return, this time with Kate and Tony.

While there were a few items on the menu that were the same as those on the menu the first time we ate there, most of the items were different.

One thing in particular was the same, the reception and service were absolutely top of the line. We ended up at the same table with the same server as our first visit. Tony and I each had four courses, while Kate and Debbie selected three. We also enjoyed a tasting of the desserts that Kate and Debbie ordered.

Kate – Commercial Crusted Softshell Crab; Short Rib Tortellini; Labelle Farm Duck Breast

Debbie – Gratin of Penn Cove Mussels; Commercial Crusted Softshell Crab; Martin’s Angus Filet Mignon

Tony – Pan Seared Fluke; Marcel’s Classic Boudin Blanc; Trio of Rabbit; Martin’s Angus Filet Mignon

Mike – Blue Cheese Stuffed Poached Pear; Pan Seared Fluke; Commercial Crusted Softshell Crab; Trio of Rabbit

The two desserts we shared were Toasted Meringue and Cream Cheese Chiffon, Caramel Gelato, Roasted Apples, Brown Sugar Glaze; and Glazed Milk Chocolate Flan, Mango Compote, Caramel Sesame Tuile, Mango Sorbet.

Yes, we will be going back. By the way, when we entered the second time, Debbie could not resist telling the maître d’ about the call she received from Open Table.

Return to Home Page