Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental

I’ve been meaning to go to CityZen, the restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental DC, for awhile. I finally gave it a try Friday evening.

The food was excellent, though there were some missteps.

Valet parking is complimentary. The restaurant validates. They asked for my ticket when I entered, and they returned it to me as I left. The valet walked us the ten feet from the car to the hotel with an umbrella since it was misting. Service was friendly, knowledgeable, and discrete throughout… with one blaring exception.

Little things, like replacing my wife’s napking when she got up to use the restroom, make a big impression.

The dining room was beautifully-designed but loud, making conversations difficult. The restaurant has an open kitchen, but it isn’t silent or perfectly orchestrated like you’d see at Maestro. Of course, it doesn’t really need to be silent, since it’s difficult to hear your dinner companion, let alone the sous chef.

We didn’t want to talk, anyway, we wanted to eat! The first amuse was a mushroom fritter, absolutely delicious. The second was an olive oil custard, a bit too “eggy” for my taste but still good.

My first course was a white truffle risotto. There was one person on staff whose job for the evening seemed to be slicing the white truffles into the risotto at each table that ordered it. He was very nervous. The chef must have given him a lecture about how expensive truffles are. He broke one in half into my plate and removed the two pieces with his hands! (I imagine he’d ultimately fish them out, but would have thought he’d at least take the dish back to the kitchen to do so…) Still, the risotto was absolutely sublime.

The breads were interesting. In addition to standard offerings we were brought a wooden box with mini “tollhouse” rolls — bite sized offerings that absolutely melted in my mouth.

For an entree, the trout was more delicious than any I’ve ever tasted. Though the presentation was more interesting and elaborate at Tetsuya’s, the piece of fish itself was more flavorful at CityZen.

The intermezzo, a quinelle of leechy sorbet in a glass of melted sorbet, was a bit too sweet for its purpose I thought. I had the broken down charlotte for dessert, which was good.

All in all, I’d say CityZen is the best meal inside the District right now.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’ll have to give it a shot. I ate at Citronelle about a month ago and was unimpressed, but I wondered if I was perhaps just spoiled by having had the opportunity to eat at Per Se back in February. How does the CityZen compare to the Inn At Little Washington? If you had to pick one, where would you go?

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