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A delayed review. I’ve been a bit busy with the new baby and new house, but I wanted to write before I forgot about my big Birthday dinner. CityZen was rated #2 by Washingtonian and Executive Chef, Eric Ziebold was voted in Food & Wine magazine as one of ‘America’s best New Chef’s’ and the restaurant one of the ‘Hottest Restaurants in the World’.

Washingtonians knew that CityZen was going to be big even before it opened in September 2004. Chef Eric Ziebold’s previous gig as chef de cuisine at the Napa Valley’s The French Laundry, one of the most celebrated restaurants in the country made him a sure thing in DC. CityZen has pretty much been booked ever since Ziebold arrived. Located in the deluxe Mandarin Oriental Hotel. That part of town looked like new construction.

One thing I learned about this restaurant is what an “amuse bouche” is.
The restaurant is truly beautiful. The bar and lounge area is as large, if not larger than the dining area. Minimalists would feel at home in the dining room with the stone pillars, chocolate-leather banquettes, and gourd-shape red-orange lanterns–and the mesmerizing wall of fire behind the bar.
Within minutes of sitting down, the maître d’ explains that the menu comes in three parts: a regular six-course tasting menu, a six-course vegetarian tasting menu, and the prix-fixe three-course dinner menu. You choose between a $75 prix fixe menu of 3 courses or a $90 5-course tasting menu; tasting menus of 6 courses for $110 and of 7 courses for $125 are sometimes available. The Sommelier was very informed and very polite. I didn’t choose the tasting menu but it looked scrumptious. Our meal began with the first of many compliments of the chef; an amuse bouche of fried mushroom with truffle butter. This mushroom fritter, even if it was only one bite tasted out of the ordinary. This fritter was an earthy, but otherworldly, tribute to late fall. The flavors were deep and the multiple textures clever. It did what an amuse should do, awaken one’s senses to future surprises by the depth of taste. Wait staff keep bringing intermission refreshments, such as olive oil custard topped with infused butter on one occasion olive oil custard slicked with hot chili oil. I ordered from the menu the Pekin Duck, described on the menu as Poached with Medjool Dates, Spelt, Asian Pear and Duck Leg Confit. My entree was the Pan Roasted Rouelle of Spotted Skatewing, described on the menu as made with Spanish Capers and Meyer Lemon. I never had skatewing before and thought that by trying this, I was broadening my horizons. Have I mentioned the cute little boxed rolls? Oh they are what I remember best about the entire meal. Those little rolls were delicious!


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