Anniversaries and birthdays are always my justification for a food splurge. The only challenge is coming up with which high-end restaurant I’m ready to check off my list. I’m thinking about Marcel’s for our 32nd wedding anniversary, but haven’t yet mentioned it to my husband. When out of the blue he says “how about Marcel’s for our anniversary this year?” I know that it’s b’shert (Hebrew for meant to be).
Marcel’s is a jewel in Robert Wiedmaier’s restaurant group, which also includes Brasserie Beck, Brabo, Wildwood Kitchen, and Mussel Bar. The restaurant features French-Belgian cuisine. I have always imagined Marcel’s to be somewhat staid. After all, this is the kind of place where men are still required to wear jackets. But after a renovation in decor and an enticing review by Tom Sietsema in The Washington Post, we’re ready for a celebratory dinner here.
From the moment we walk in the door and are led to our table, the solicitous staff pave the way for an evening that holds great promise. There is an air of elegance and formality, with decor that impresses with respectable hues of beige and golds.
My expectations are high. After all, Marcel’s is one of DC’s most highly rated restaurants. So when cocktails are slow to arrive – we are told the bar is backed up- I’m wondering how this experience will go. Any trepidation is assuaged once we start digging into the food. Our meal commences with the delivery of warm potato rolls with an assortment of flavored butters.
I am actually stunned into silence by the vibrant flavors of my first course- perfectly prepared European sea bass with coconut froth, bamboo risotto, and pineapple pico.
I eliminate every morsel of a stunning plate of braised short rib tortellini with roasted baby turnips, spiced goat cheese, and madeira sauce. I am now thinking about years of lost opportunities. Marcel’s …why have I ignored you so? I tell myself not to look back. Instead, I will focus on the meal at hand, and the potential for the future.
My third course consists of tender slices of duck breast accented with baby bok choy, duck confit pave, cumquats, and a generous swish of duck gastrique. The dish is as meticulously prepared as its predecessors, with meat that is as tender as it is flavorful.
My husband enjoys a poached farm egg served on earthy white polenta, with gruyere and parmesan cheeses and black trumpet mushrooms, served atop a rich cabernet sauce.
My enthusiasm is sustained throughout my fourth course, a delicious dessert of toasted meringue and cream cheese chiffon, caramel gelato, roasted apples, and brown sugar glaze.
Each dish we have at Marcel’s is refined and distinct, with sophisticated presentations on the plate and by the servers. I find the $90 four course tasting menu to be a relatively good value, when compared to some of the other tasting menus around. I’m eager to return for the $65 three course pre-theater menu.
It’s heartening to find a DC restaurant that’s been around since 1999 and still going strong. My husband and I can chastise ourselves for not dining at Marcel’s until now. Or, it may be that since we’ve now indulged in a variety of fine dining experiences, we can better appreciate how well it’s done here. That is truly a fine example of b’shert!
Marcel’s, 2401 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC
Washington Post review by Tom Sietsema: “As delicious as ever, Marcel’s buffs its shine”
Washingtonian 100 Very Best Restaurants 2015, #20
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