Tuesday, February 21, 2012

CityZen, DC

Valentine's Day snuck up on us this year. There we were two weeks out and we still weren't sure where we'd spend it. By the time we finally decided to spend it in DC, we knew we'd have a hard time getting reservations. The good thing was that V-day fell on a Tuesday this year, but we decided to celebrate it the weekend before so we were thinking it wouldn't be too hard to get reservations. But, where should we go? There was one restaurant that has been in the back of my mind for a few years now and once I brought it up to Zach, he agreed that it was finally time to dine at CityZen.

CityZen has been rated in the top 10 restaurants in DC for a very long time. Located in the famous extravagant Mandarin Oriental hotel, this restaurant is known for its sophistication and ambiance. The chef, Eric Ziebold, was a recipient of the James Beard Award denoting ‘Best Chefs in America’, one of only ten chefs to receive this prestigious honor in 2008. Currently, this French American restaurant is ranked as the number six restaurant in DC by the Washingtonian. I called two weeks ahead of time and there was only one reservation left for the weekend -- 9:30 p.m. on a Friday night. It was a bit late for me, but I had to take what I could get.

We arrived around 8:30 p.m., an hour earlier than our reservation, and took a seat in the lounge in the bar area. As I took a look around, I was intrigued by the interesting contrast of contemporary architecture and accents with a traditional feel. A ring of fire lit up the bar as it illuminated the spirits just behind the bartender -- a nice touch.

After perusing the drink menu for a bit, we placed our orders. I went with the Sex and the CityZen -- a mixed drink with Ketel One Citroen vodka, raspberry puree, Triple Sec, and house-made sours. It was a perfect balance of sweet raspberries with light vodka.

At 9:30 p.m., they informed us that our table was ready. We were escorted to a table right in front of the open kitchen -- a perfect spot!

They handed us the impressive wine list and we were immediately overwhelmed. This was one of the most extensive wine lists we had ever seen. I gave it to Zach and after about 10 minutes, we requested to speak to the sommelier. Andy Myers, the sommelier, immediately came to our rescue touching on the notes of particular wines. Based on his recommendation, we went with the Francois Parent Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens (1999).

Once we placed our order for wine, our waitress approached us to discuss the menu. She already knew that I was ordering the vegan tasting menu without me having to say anything.  I did tell them when I made the reservation, but I usually have to tell my waitress as well. I was so impressed that she not only had this information, but was ready to explain to me how the vegetarian tasting menu would be altered to meet my needs. Zach went with the vegetarian tasting menu as is.

To start, I was served a canape of grilled artichoke and pepper coulis. The tiny piece of artichoke was grilled to perfection and paired with the sweet coulis -- a nice balance.

The bread was incredibly soft and fresh. There were three choices and they informed me that two were vegan so I tried both the ciabatta and whole wheat. The whole wheat was a bit denser than I wanted at the time so I ate mostly the ciabatta throughout the meal. The wine was a very light red from Burgundy with a rich nose. It was absolutely perfect for pairing with all of the courses. And I appreciated that it was served in Reidel glasses.

The first course was a Jerusalem artichoke salad with tangerines served with a tangerine-tamari vinaigrette and topped with micro arugula. They replaced the toasted oat mousse with kumquats, which was a delightful surprise.

The second course was a baby fennel bouillabaisse consisting of steamed fennel, sweet peppers, and celery branch in a saffron broth. The tempura fennel was a crunchy complement to the soft vegetables and light sauce.

The third course was a red beet chiboust with pickled yellow and red chioggia beets over sauteed spinach. Sultana raisins complement this hearty dish and shaved truffles topped off a spectacular taste sensation! Zach was beginning to get jealous of my vegan entrees!

The fourth course was a roasted rouelle of green savoy cabbage. This dish was impressive. The cabbage was rolled into this little log shape and served over toasted Farro and pumpkin. Little pickled mustard seeds decorated the green rouelle. Another delicious course.

The fifth course was the CityZen Boudin Noir. This course was my favorite. There were little cakes made of white corn flour (masa) and forbidden rice served over sweet potato puree with roasted pearl onions. It was delicious.

Instead of the cheese plate, we were served an intermezzo of blood oranges topped with sorbet.

Finally, for dessert, I was served passion fruit sorbet with carmelized bananas served over coconut tapioca. This was divine!

Just when I thought it was over, we were served sour apple pectins. (The ones that look different aren't vegan.)

All in all, this was a fantastic dinner! The food was to die for, the service was exquisite, and the wine was amazing. The chef, Eric Ziebold, even came out to talk to us. He inquired as to why I was vegan and we talked for a bit. He seemed like a great guy.  Oh, and I can not say enough about the service. They didn't even leave the wine bottle because there was no chance they'd let us run out of wine. They were attending to our every need all night long. I think it was the best service we'd ever had. The dinner was about $95 per person plus wine, tax, and gratuity so it was a pricey dinner, but well worth it. This is a great restaurant for a very special occasion. Highly recommended! 5 stars.

1330 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 787-6006

CityZen on Urbanspoon


  1. I had no idea that City Zen had a vegetarian tasting menu! I can't wait to try it out (that is when I feel like I have $300 to blow). Thanks! Great blog!

  2. You are welcome! It really was an incredible meal - best saved for a special occasion!