Sunday, September 11, 2016

Central Michel Richard Brunch Review

Scallion Omelet, Duck Confit, Pickled Radish

Prior visits to Central Michel Richard (and Citronelle, before the Latham Hotel's untimely demise) usually centered around Chef Michel's incredible Fried Chicken. Thick, juicy white meat, scrumptiously surrounded by a golden brown, gravity-defying batter (equal parts light & crunchy.) It was (and still is) delicious. However, times change, and one finds new favorites. Cue Executive Chef/Owner David Deshaies, a culinary maestro and his simple omelet.

Omelet? Anyone can make an omelet, right? Perhaps, but not like this one. Deshaies' Duck Confit masterpiece combines good looks, rich, tender duck meat and (surprise, surprise) pickled radishes to produce the best omelet I've ever had. That's right folks: French food doesn't have to be pretentious to taste delicious.

Fried Chicken & Waffle

That's one of many reasons, patrons flock to Central. Practicality. Don't get me wrong: The food here is lavish (in a good way) but I've never once felt out of place in its dining room... despite a healthy gap in income between the average customer and yours truly. Chef Michel would never allow it, and neither would Deshaies.

Complimentary Bread & Butter

Today's weather forced me to eat outside (we haven't had a Sunday morning this nice, in forever.) Central's outdoor patio is spacious yet surprisingly private, carefully tucked away along busy Pennsylvania Avenue. Two giant umbrellas protect you from the elements, but not the watchful eyes of Central's attentive & professional staff. The hostess was sweet and cheerful, offering me my "choice of tables." Music to my ears. Ice water is offered straight away, in addition to bottomless mimosas, bellinis or Bloody Marys for an extra $15. I kept it simple with a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice (tasty) and the über-affordable $27 prix fixe, three-course Brunch.

Blueberry Pancakes

Complimentary Bread & Butter soon followed. The butter's soft and sublime (duh, it's a French restaurant) and the crusty baguette somehow managed to remind me of a croissant, thanks to its incredibly flaky interior. If you're keeping score at home... A+ opening.

Cured Salmon, Cucumber, Yogurt, Dill

Blueberry Pancakes were next... Two thick cakes, slathered in (the freshest of) blueberries and cream (no syrup required.) You could have ended it right there, and I would have walked away happy; but food critics rarely stop after one course. Some of us lack the discipline to say no to multiple amazing dishes. Take a wild guess which one I am. Then again, some dishes are more manageable than others.

Yellow Tomato Gazpacho, Burrata

Cured Salmon on toast might sound simple (there's that word again) but one four bites, and you'll likely come to the same conclusion I did... there's nothing simple about it. Credit that to the addition of guacamole and just the slightest hint of wasabi. P.S. Even the toast is smartly prepared... crusty on top, soft on the bottom. My only complaint? There were only two wedges to devour.

Lemon Eggceptional

A bowl of Yellow Tomato Gazpacho arrived next (FYI, all dishes are sent with sufficient time in between) and if the color doesn't wow you, the taste will. It's chilled, of course, with a generous dollop of soft burrata cheese in the middle, and assorted crunchy surprises underneath. It's so refreshing, especially when the temperature is approaching 80° (aforementioned umbrellas notwithstanding) and it makes even more sense, should you decide to order the Fried Chicken & Waffle (perhaps the heaviest choice on the menu.)

Passion Fruit Mousse

Before the arrival of Central's most talked-about dish, Chef David unleashed the plate to end all plates. The Scallion Omelet is divided into two parts (1) the egg base, well-cooked with loads of scallions, and (2) the top... a picturesque blend of pickled radish flowers, assorted greens and flaky chunks of two-hour braised duck leg. The perimeter of the plate was dotted with a spicy sauce (I was enjoying it so much, I couldn't even tell you what kind of sauce) that played perfectly with the sharp-tasting radishes. It goes without saying, I highly recommend it.

If omelettes aren't your thing, you can't go wrong with Central's Fried Chicken & Waffle. Be warned, however: There's a lot going on, beginning with a huge chicken breast atop a bed of sinfully rich (and creamy) mashed potatoes. The chicken's flavorful and moist, although I'd prefer a light sauce on top, instead of an over hard egg. Meanwhile, the waffle (thick, flaky) is served alongside an apple-caramel sauce, that comes dangerously close to being too sweet. I suggest splitting your plate in two, to keep the savory and sweet gods at bay.

Finally, on to dessert. The Lemon Eggceptional is a playful take on lemon meringue pie. The "egg shells" are actually made of chocolate, so feel free to "dig in" with reckless abandon (don't worry, your server will provide instructions.) As for flavor, lemon lovers will rejoice... it tastes exactly like a meringue pie. On the other hand, you simple can't miss the Passion Fruit Mousse; even though I'm not that into chocolate. The mousse itself is sublime, with a passion fruit surprise at the bottom, and a myriad of crunchy chocolate dots on top. But wait, there's more. Perched dead center (also on top) is one single macaron, with a (ganache) filling that tops any other in the DMV. Truth be told, it rivals the ones I had at Pierre Hermé in Paris, France over a decade ago.

Central Michel Richard offers one of the best brunches in the nation's capital. Sans buffet, quite possibly the best. It's a great (and at $27, affordable) way to visit one of DC's finest eateries, without the usual crowds (both in, and out of the restaurant.) What more can you ask for?