June 5, 2007

How DC Eats Reveals So Much About Who We Are

The Story:

Three eagerly anticpated restaurants open downtown:
-- Marcel's chef Robert Wiedmaier opens Brasserie Beck at 1101 K St.

-- Cintronelle's Michel Richard opens Central at 1001 Penn. Ave.

-- Three-Star chef Antoine Westermman consulted on Cafe du Parc at 1401 Penn. Ave. in the Willard Hotel

What It Means:

-- Downtown has changed with these more casual restaurants. Casual? I looked forward to quaffing beef with my enormous mussels at Beck, but felt compelled to order wine. The space was just too cold to do otherwise. As for Central, Richard is as warm as Hilary Clinton at a $10k fundraiser. (Unless, of course, you are Hillary Clinton and we're sure Richard warms right up.) Cafe du Parc is the only truly casul one of the three and people are confused by its plate du jour simplicity and sophisticated touches. (Which one is it?!?, they ask.)

-- So maybe DC hasn't changed. It's stuffy, even if the marketing crew at the latest restaurants say otherwise. Is it the town's southern roots that provides the formal edge? A lack of sophistication that requires a certain propriety or else eveyone's inner-frat boy emerges? Perhaps the answer is all of the above, plus a few other factors I have not thought of.

-- But things are different. The fact that three high-profile chefs chose to locate new businesses downtown, not in Georgetown or on K St., shows how far the center of gravity has shifted in DC. Every day it seems to move further and further east. It's not just downtown, but also H St. NE, where in ten years the newest crop of culinary imports likely will land.

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