May 26th, 2007



Location: 1001 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington D.C.

Central is part of the wider trend of established, well-known chefs opening less expensive, more populist venues. It's the younger sibling of Citronelle, one of the gems of Washington D.C.'s food scenes. Michel Richard opened the centrally-located bistro about six months ago. It's a buzzy place - a week in advance we could get a reservation, but not until 8:30 pm. I met marzapane and P. there among the fairly crowded tables in a busy restaurant whose decor was a mishmash of soothing elegance with over-the-top pop art sprawled across the glass walls showing off the wine "cellar". Food is at the heart of Central's mission, however, with glass also showcasing cured joints of meat on another wall.

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Central's highs are very high indeed, but show up unexpectedly. The creamy potato-rich mash was the best thing there, with cheese puffs, M's green salad starter, and the desserts close seconds. The onion soup - when not too salty - was good, but not overly special, and way too big for its intense, exhausting richness. I would have been better off not ordering my main dish at all - it was fainthearted in contrast to the rest of the meal, and I was already fairly full from the soup. Service was a little flaky, but well-intentioned. We struggled to get attention when the restaurant was quiet and had too much of it when it was busy.

After six months, I would have thought Central would be beyond its initial growing pains, but that's what the misses felt like; that doesn't mean they'll be going away, however. Central is good but inconsistant, not as good as it could be, dull in places, but very good indeed when it shines.