Central, Penn Quarter
Washington , D.C.
Tel: 202 626 0015
Concierge.com's insider take:
Michel Richard made his name serving serious French at serious prices at the iconic Citronelle. But $190 prix fixe menus don't quite square with the Obama era. So while Citronelle still draws power brokers and old-money Georgetown, Richard now offers a counterpoint with Central, a bustling bistro where the food comes with a sense of humor, not to mention a more affordable price tag. A teetering tower of plates and a bubbly hostess welcome you at the entrance; in the dining room, glass walls dotted with wine bottles resemble Lichtensteins, and purple-and-white Warholian portraits of Richard peer out at the tables. The best seat in the house is in front of the open kitchen, where you can watch Richard protégé Cedric Maupillier create haute takes on American standards, such as a lobster burger slathered in scallop mousse and topped with potato tuiles for an unexpected crunch. Desserts offer a similar riot of textures: Richard's take on a Kit Kat bar—rich chocolate ganache layered on top of crispy hazelnut praline wafers—will put you off the vending machine version forever. The restaurant's downtown location makes it equally as popular for weekday lunches as for dinner. Though it occasionally has room for walk-ins, it's best to reserve a few days in advance.
Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:45 am to 2:30 pm and 5 to 10:30 pm, Fridays 11:45 am to 2:30 pm and 5 to 11 pm, Saturdays 5 to 11 pm, and Sundays 5 to 9:30 pm.