I

overheard that the famed roll maker from the Mandarin Oriental was taking the stuff he used to do there, and making it even better … all while keeping his staple starch. And seeing Eric Zeibold’s spot ranked on its fair share of reputable restaurant lists (and me having a hankering for those cloud-like baked goods), had me quickly booking a table at Eric and wife Célia Laurent’s intimate, 36-seat dining room.

Eric grew up in a small city in Iowa called Ames, which happens to be where I was born, and thus, an important part of my identity. This Midwestern corn, steak, and university town of 50,000, for a first-generation American, is a cornerstone to my American-ness. So, when I meet people from there, I immediately think of them as an extension of my family, like they are all long-lost cousins. I wanted to hug Eric, but if you have been to Métier, you would know that the dining room is no place to do it (and I didn’t want to embarrass my husband who uses old-fashioned words, such as “docurum”).

“Métier” is the French word for someone’s specialty or field of expertise. Well, Chef Eric’s métier is certainly in the kitchen. For him, food seems to be a work of art. He’s now rolling out his dough (you better bring yours, too!) inside a circa-1907 restaurant nestled in the heart of our nation’s capital. Upstairs, you’ll find his second eatery, Kinship, a charming and less-pricey sibling of Metier.

Inside Métier, enjoy contemporary American cuisine peppered with pizzazz and a refreshingly authentic earthiness that echoes the chef’s Iowa and French Laundry roots. Don’t expect a show, but do expect surprising details and flavor combinations.

Experience Overview

Positive overall. As much as I want to give this place an “Excellent” rating for the service, refreshingly personable chef, and price point, its subpar seating and funky mocktail can’t be fully redeemed by the rest of the evening.

But Métier still merits a “Good” rating, as it is priced appropriately and return-worthy. Skip a few weeks of fancy lattes to save for the tasting, and request optimal seating (and perhaps pass on the mocktail and opt for a bottled alternative) to maximize your experience. Oh, and don’t hesitate on eating an extra roll for me. Go hungry: The portions are generous.

Money Score: Good

Priced at $200 for six courses (eight when you add canapes and the final sweet), the experience is drawn-out, but not tedious. (My husband and I practically opened and closed the restaurant.) If in for a treat, Métier is worth your time and money. The price was right, fair for what it was. Higher-end, but still reasonable. Bottom line: I’d recommend the majority of dishes, and would go again.

Consciousness Score: OK

In terms of consciousness, indistinct, or rather, nondescript, is how I’d describe it. Métier didn’t disclose the sourcing of ingredients, vaguely claiming to be as “seasonal and organic as possible.” Disclosing this information was clearly not a focus. (I had to dig on the website to find sourcing, and all I found was the Kanagy Farms’ short loin was from a certified organic farm in Pennsylvania — not exactly local.)

From glancing at the Menu Notes online, the beef appeared to be the only item whose actual source was revealed. In other words, they can do a much better job highlighting this information.

‘All the Feels’ Score: Good

All around good vibes here. Step inside, and the room opens up to an inviting antechamber of white, honey, and oak tones. I imagine the antechamber experience as similar to what happens at a royal palace: lots of rituals and numerous portraits in sight. Sit back and get cozy because you’re in for a leisurely six courses. Here, you get to peruse the menu, and enjoy canapes and drinks before you are taken to your table. Don’t ignore the menu fine print: it comes with the chef’s personal notes on each dish, and they are worth reading.  

The service staff took some time to warm up to us, but exceeded expectations by the end of the evening. On the negative, they have valet parking, but it wasn’t obvious; we weren’t noticed for several minutes. Also on the downside, our table was horrible — as in right by the swinging door. It gave me a headache, and our table cloth was noticeably dirty, but then came the rolls (sigh!) … request a seat away from the door, whatever you do!

On the positive, Eric makes a conscious effort to come out and say hello to everyone. So nice! (The fact that he is from Ames may have made me just a little biased …) And we certainly weren’t rushed. Even without ordering wine, we were among the first four to arrive and the last four to leave.

Notable were the overall aesthetics and minute details: The placement of the utensils, the lightness of booths, the hook for my bag … and one must not neglect the toilets. It is possible that Métier has my favorite restaurant bathroom. The sounds of the forest, crickets, birds and other creatures fill the space. The aroma was just amazing: floral, but not overwhelming.

Menu breakdown

The six-course tasting was a mix of overall good and other less-than-impressive dishes.

My favorite? The canapés! Have to start on a high note, right? I feel like I could subside on the soup for months (more please).

The meal officially opened with roasted banana bavarois with California sea urchin and Périgold black truffle. Absolutely divine. The brine of the sea urchin harmonized with the banana-flavored foam — not too sweet, fatty, or salty. Like over 50 shades of grey and sprinkles of salt erupting in your mouth. How do they do it? Not sure if that makes sense, but it was regal.

Course two was sautéed Mediterranean branzino fish with orange-glazed carrots, Niçoise olive crumbs, and socca: a rich, flavorful dish inspired by the south of France. The branzino was light with traceable hints of citrus. The broth was warm, the carrots thinly cut. But the olives stole the show. Meaty and juicy, they were perfect with the cracking skin of the flaky branzino. The chickpea crêpe tasted like a cross between Indian dahl and an Algerian Belila (exactly like my grandma made it), but less messy and more decadent.

As for the duck dish, beware. You will be addicted. Your first bite will cut you, but every bite after will be like balm to your mouth. What is it? Garbure: a classic cabbage and meat stew with foie gras emulsion.

My least favorite was the fourth course: a lobster cassoulet with Japanese adzuki beans, grilled onion, pickled mushroom, shiso, and dashi broth. The lobster was too chewy, and the dish too smoky overall. For a cassoulet, the beans struck me as too al denté (I reverted to Google to confirm if cassoulet beans are traditionally supposed to be soft. It was a surprisingly popular Googled topic! My friends in France confirmed my hunch). On the bright side: they deducted $119 from the check when we brought the lobsters’ overcooked, rubbery texture to their attention.  

On plate five came Japanese Kuroge beef with potato, kale, sunchokes and butternut. This was followed by vin chaud glacé with a spiced molasses cake, mulled raisins and fresh ginger foam. The combo worked really well.

But wait, there was more: an Itakuja 55 percent dark chocolate croustillant with whipped pistachio crémeux, passion fruit caramel, and chocolate ice cream. Excuse me while I float away on a cloud … this dessert was so, so good with layers upon layers of flavor and texture. I loved the mousse-like pistachio cream and the caramel ice cream that accompanied it. The presentation was the best by far.

At the end of the meal, you receive a small cup of shaved frozen milk, and the server brings three flavor mix-ins: mango, chocolate and vanilla. I had the chocolate, making for one sinfully good ending.

And to cap it all off, we received a lovely spiced Mexican hot chocolate mix with cayenne pepper.

 

 

4.0
Score