Well Dined

12Feb/111

Michel at the Ritz, Tysons Corner (32/100, 2011)

This brand new restaurant from Michel Richard is meant to be a middle ground between the formality of Citronelle (6/100, 2011) and the casualness of Central (10/100, 2011). I would say that Richard has managed to pull of the balancing act quite well. The menu mixes upscale items - like rabbit and steak - with casual fare - like a burger. The menu is also full of Richard's famous quirk and playfulness with items like Japanese eel carpaccio and onion carbonara. The (small) dining room was much more hip and fun than I was expecting it to be. As you enter, your eye is caught by the huge, modern lighting sculpture and the neon purple lighting scheme. The music is a modern blend of electronica and techno-pop (but not the irritating kind).

It was packed to capacity on a Friday night (though not too noisy), and our table was not quite ready yet, so we waited at the small bar area. I ordered a French 1700 martini which was an excellent blend of fruit juices and creme de casis. Jasper had the Champagne St. Germain, his favorite combination, this variety included fresh strawberries. The wine list is also very good, especially the by the glass section. It is rare to see such nice wines (and such variety) by the glass. Soon we were lead to our table, which happened to be the coolest table in the place - a long piece of translucent stone, lit from within, and hung from the ceiling. It has one long bench on one side, and is separated in the middle by a funky centerpiece so that multiple parties can sit at the same table. This was the case on our visit - we shared the table with another couple, but it didn't feel like we were at the same table at all! It also has a great view of the open kitchen and Executive Chef Levi Mezick hard at work.

The bread that was brought out was warm and soft with a nice crust, but the butter looked like they just chopped a chunk off of a store bought stick. We ordered gougeres because, well, they had them. They came out in an adorable mini fry basket and were warm and puffy and cheesy. We both ordered the salmon tartare (can't share something that good) and it came out with a gift from the chef - the eel carpaccio. I was super excited because it had sounded really intriguing on the menu. The server described the eel to us as "sushi deconstructed". They take the whole eel, roll it up and thinly slice it (so thin it is translucent); then they top it with microgreens, rice pearls, and a delicious ginger sauce. I would come back just for that one dish alone. The salmon tartare was also excellent - it has nice big chunks of fish, it wasn't chopped to death, and had a nice lemony taste. It was served w/ tiny diced accompaniments - hard boiled egg yolks and whites, red onion, capers - and topped with crispy croutons that added a nice change of texture. It was a good decision to get two. We also shared the diver scallops, which were perfectly seared and served with a crispy onion strings and a gorgeous shallot jus that was perfectly sweet and pungent. The server brought us another gift from the chef which, unlike the eel, was sent only to us and not the other tables. He told us that the chef liked us, I told him that we liked the chef, too. I saw him go over to Chef Mezick and tell him that we said we like him, too, and Mezick smiled and waved at us. It was really cute and special. The gift was the smoked salmon terrine (another dish we had really wanted to try). The smoked Atlantic salmon was thinly sliced and layered with super thin strips of cream cheese mixed with tobiko (flying fish roe), served with a salmon puree and dice cucumber. It was fresh and delicately balanced, another excellent dish. We both ordered the short rib entree as it is something that Michel Richard is famous for - braised for 72 hours at 56 degress C (132.8 degrees F) so that it is perfectly tender and still red, though it is thoroughly cooked. It was melt-in-your mouth good and served with an excellent wine reduction, perfectly cooked haricot verts, and a garlic potato puree. After all this, you would think that we wouldn't have room for dessert (and we didn't), but we ordered it anyway. We decided to try the banana split, which came with a ton of whipped cream; raspberry, chocolate, and caramel sauces; chocolate pearls and pineapple chunks; vanilla and chocolate ice cream; and strawberry sorbet. We ate the whole thing.

I may never be able to move again, but I am really happy. I can't wait to go back, and I would love to try their lunch. Definitely check this place out, you won't be disappointed. Oh, and ladies - the waiters are really cute. đŸ˜‰

http://www.michelrichardva.com

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  1. I came for lunch on my birthday and tried the goat cheese ceasar salad with avocado. It is a pillar of romaine leaves, layered with goat cheese in between, topped with avocado, tomato, bread crumbs, and a hearty drizzle of dressing. It was good, but I didn't realize that the majority of the goat cheese was in the center of the pillar and ended up with too much goat cheese towards the end.

    I also had the bacon and onion tart. It was very smokey, served with some kind of cheese and chives on a tortilla-thin crispy crust.


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