kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits, travel & lifestyle writer / wine educator


A wonderful evening at CityZen

Like many other DC-area residents, I've read and head all the accolades (and sometimes criticisms...) of CityZen restaurant. Being a major foodie, and wanting to see if it (and if star chef Eric Ziebold) lived up to the hype, my husband and I decided to go there for our six year anniversary last Saturday. We were not disappointed.

After perusing both the tasting menu and the prix fixe options, we opted for the chef's tasting menu--five courses, plus several amuses bouches, etc. not listed on the menu--for ninety dollars per person. Every course listed included some of our favorite culinary ingredients, so it was a no brainer for us. And it was amazing. Here is a rundown of what we had:

* Welcome canape from the chef: a mushroom "fritter" of sorts. Tiny, yet bursting with earthy mushroom flavor
* Amuse bouche: flan topped with olive oil. Silky smooth and decadent
* Tuna Nicoise: tuna carpaccio, topped with peppers, yukon gold potato crisps, haricots verts, arugula and olive oil. Fantastic fish, and the potato crisps and arugula added just the right amount of crunch
* Sweet Butter Poached Maine Lobster, with truffle and white corn chowder. This was my favorite course. The lobster literally melted in my mouth, and the chowder was just the consistency I prefer in seafood chowder--not too thick, and not too thin. And delicious to boot.
* Bouillon Poached Ribeye of Prime Midwestern Beef, served with sugar snap peas, chanterelle mushrooms and sauteed duck foie gras. This was my husband's favorite course. The meat was delicious, but the seared foie gras was incredible. Neither of us is a huge foie gras fan (and I was surprised to see it on the menu, since a lot of chefs are removing it because of the forced feeding humanity issue...), but we agreed this was the best we had ever tasted.
* Assorted Artisanal Cheeses. The cheese trolley was a welcome sight, as we are both huge cheese lovers. Each of us was entitled to "4 to 5" selections from the trolley. We opted to each try five, and then share them. They were served with Spanish almonds, raisin bread, and fruit compote (apricot and anjou pear.)
* Palate cleanser: strawberry sorbet with ginger cream. Strawberry is not the first fruit I think of to pair with ginger, but it totally worked.
* Peppermint Patty: Peppermint Souffle Glace with Valrhona Chocolate Sorbet and Italian Pistachio Cream. This was refreshing and decadent at the same time. The mint ice cream tasted as if I had pick spearmint from my herb garden, and the mint cookie it was served on top of tasting like a Girl Scout Thin Mint cookie (but even better...) And the chocolate sorbet was bittersweet and delicious.

We enjoyed Albarino and Garnacha/Carinena with dinner, and my husband had a glass of Ruby Port with the cheese and dessert courses. The sommelier was knowledgeable, friendly and very very tall (we were told he had just started, and he is a great addition to the staff.)

Besides the food, the service was beyond compare. Little touches made a big difference. An anniversary card signed by the staff, including Eric Ziebold, was presented to us as soon as we sat down. And when I asked for a copy of the menu to take home, it was waiting for me at the host's stand, also signed by Eric Ziebold and placed in a large envelope. We counted eleven people who took care of us in some way that evening, and we may have missed one or two. But the service was always subtle and just in time, not in your face or annoying.

Will we return to CityZen? Absolutely. Not next week, or even next month. But when we are looking for that perfect evening for a special occasion, it will be at the top of our list.