Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Nothing Short of Zen: CityZen

For the actual anniversary dinner, we went with CityZen. We were not disappointed in our choice. With a beautiful and lively setting, and a celeb sighting (Oscar-winners Jamie Foxx and Paul Haggis, director of "Crash", discussing perhaps a DC-based project), the mood was set for enjoyable evening. When I say I had a bad day on this particular day, I mean I had a bad day. CityZen turned things around. While the atmosphere was nice, I must stress that it really was the cuisine that truly brought me back to life.
A duo of amuse bouches whetted our palates, a hazelnut soup and sweetbread terrine. Hazelnut soup does not sound like something I would like, but I was pleasantly surprised by the texture and flavor. It really was a perfect first bite, or slurp, as it were. While I'm not one for the texture of brains, my husband tells me the sweetbreads were also delectable.
We then treated ourselves to the tasting menu of seven courses, starting with a fantastic sashimi of yellowfin and toro. Served with dates and an orange-cardamom vinaigrette, the fishes were balanced, as was the complimentary citrus and spice flavoring the sauce. A pasta course was next, sweet potato gnocchi in brown butter that left me wanting more and my husband wondering why he normally passes up the potato pasta. For the seafood course, a simple butter-poached lobster in broth embraced the oil/butter-poaching trend with perfect execution.
I shouldn't get carried away before moving on what I would consider the main course, a rib eye of beef. I'll be honest, I almost passed up the tasting menu because I really do not like to order steak at fine restaurants. Generally, I find that the beef is not given the proper care and is lost in the shuffle of other courses, or is too filling to work properly on a tasting menu. Such was not the case for Eric Ziebold's creation. Instead, a conservative portion of tender and lean (if there is such a thing?!) ribeye was accompanied by fried marrow and fennel hash that wowed me more than any other course on the menu. In fact, I'd even consider ordering this off the dinner menu, but only if accompanied by the homey minibuns (bite-sized popovers served in a cedar chest).
As the meal decrescendoed, the cheese cart rolled around. Not being one to ever shun dairy goodness, I tried a sheep and goat's milk variety, a gouda, and some sort of dry Italian fromage I cannot remember, so probably not noteworthy. The offerings were arranged by region, flavor, and texture, and the staff was full of information regarding each selection. My lactose-intolerant husband enjoyed a simple poached pear that made him quite happy. Winding down, we anticipated that, as is often true with tasting menus, the dessert would be pleasant but lackluster. The chocolate tea cake, however, was instead yet another surprising and scrumptious course. Moist, rich with chocolate flavor, and served slightly warm, it filled my belly with a comforting sensation that made waned me to sleep on the way home.

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