If the old menu was why you used to go, you might have to wrap your head around the new one, but the food won’t disappoint.
D.C. institution, Marcel’s finally got its due when Michelin awarded it a star last year. And Robert Weidmeier’s French-Belgian eatery is undoubtedly a star-worthy fusion of French and Flemish fare.
Marcel is also a favorite of ours (my husband and I). We go once every three months or so, and I consider it one of the most underrated gems in Washington, D.C. The Washingtonian never ranked them high, which in my opinion was political. My take? 1. The chef knows what he is doing; 2. The menu changes often; and 3. Although people say French food is on the heavy side, I consider his refreshingly light, without being meager or skimping on flavor. But you have to book a table to taste it yourself!
We chose the seven-course tasting menu–a great value for your dollar! Not only do we love the tasting alternatives, but we also appreciate that it’s not one of those fancy restaurants with tiny portions. In fact, I struggled to finish my last two dishes! (Tip: Go easy on the bread basket. A mistake I always make is filling up on bread, but with three types of butter. I must try them all, right?)
Most restaurants with tasting menus ask in advance if you have dietary restrictions, and Marcel was no exception. We informed them we did not eat pork, which resulted in a slight modification of the regular tasting menu (more on this below). Props for checking ahead!
In terms of sourcing, I found a list of partnering local producers: oysters from Virginia, and pasture-raised meats from Chapel Hill Farm, Virginia, but I had to dig for this info online. No mention of sustainability or sourcing in-house. They should be proud and highlight this on the menu!
‘All The Feels’ Score
Exquisite food, but the service could stand to improve — it was just OK. The staff was nice but needed more training. Not everyone who served us knew what the food was.
However, they squeezed us in last minute, and seated us straight away (Tip: always make friends at the front desk).
At the end, the chef met us on our way out, and we were forthcoming as always.
As for aesthetics: I enjoyed how playful the plates were! The amuse bouche was attached to another plate with a magnet. We were also fascinated by the base of the gelato glass: a cylindrical shape mirroring an iced pedestal, allowing the gelato to last longer.
There are a couple of really nice tables in the house. If you book in advance, request prime seating.
What We Ordered
You have to applaud the chef for frequent menu changes, and staples shift seasonally.
The amuse-bouche is made with glistening, black-pearl-like caviar and cod brandade: a lovely start!
The fresh bread: warm and satisfying, accompanied by those un-neglectable three choices of butter.
The citrus-marinated Maine lobster dish was tender, perfectly cooked. The accompanying melons: crisp. The dressing: tart, but sweet.
The seared scallops came with potato hash, and Dijon essence. The scallop: perfect, except for the salt. There was too much, but the potatoes were sweet enough to balance. A highlight, even with the pork 86-ed as requested, it was still delicious!
As for the ravioli of braised rabbit, pea and carrot: The rabbit was also scrumptious, but the stuffing was slightly dry. I kept thinking that partially cooked egg yolk would have been a great texture addition!
The seared side of the duck foie gras done two ways was my favorite. It came with beet and blackberry sauce, golden raisin purée, and brioche.
And what’s up with every tasting menu including squab these days? I just had it a few weeks ago at Alinea and Grace in Chicago. Trendy or not, the squab with fermented garlic and pinot noir reduction was delightful.
The seared A-5 Wagyu beef with truffled celeriac purée and chocolate cassis reduction, however, was just OK. Had it, as recommended, but there was far too much grizzle for such a great meat. I don’t know if my opinion was influenced by being super full by the time this came out, but the expected quality was not there. Try it yourself and be the judge!
And for the grande finale: The cherry bomb mousse! Beautiful, but so big. It was the size of an apple! Albeit a huge portion, I really loved the artistic presentation (it looked like a bright, shiny, sculpted cherry right on my plate). The combination of dark chocolate and mousse in the form of blackout chocolate cake, brandied cherry, cherry coulis, and Anglaise was heavenly. And it comes with a sparkler, causing wandering eyes at neighboring tables to ooh and awe! #Instagramworthy