Whenever someone asks me for a restaurant recommendation in DC, I constantly find myself suggesting Michel Richard’s Penn Quarter restaurant, Central. Although Michel Richard is famous for his upscale Georgetown spot, Citronelle, Central consistently impresses me while Citronelle, well, doesn’t.
Located between the Capitol and the White House, Central is definitely a happening place, but relatively casual at the same time. The scene is both hip and low-key. Central’s bar holds a special place in my heart because it is the first place I tried St. Germaine, an Elderflower liqueur that goes well with Champagne and gin. Any bar that has this on hand is a great success in my book.
Perhaps the reason I constantly recommend Central to others is because the menu is very extensive and has something for everyone, without sacrificing quality (something from which I think Founding Farmers in Foggy Bottom suffers). I have tried many, many things on the menu, and have never been disappointed. The appetizers and salads are definitely standouts, and should not be skipped. The charcuterie selection has both traditional and more creative options; for example, their duck rillettes and faux gras (not to be confused with foie gras) along with the cheese puffs are great starters to share. The chopped salad, Asian style tuna and salmon carpaccio, and frog’s legs (perhaps for the more adventurous) are all great.
As for the main course dishes, I have yet to be disappointed. The mussels with white wine and garlic are delicious, especially if you just accidentally gorged on charcuterie and want to go with some lighter fare. Along with the mussels, the grilled salmon with lentils and the sautéed scallops with tagliatelle provencale are outstanding seafood options. For the hardcore carnivores, the ribeye steak is very tasty. I also consider myself a bit of a lamb snob, and Central’s lamb shank with creamy corn polenta and mustard sauce definitely passes the test—it is incredibly tender and delicious.
All in all, I’ve tried a fair amount of the options on Central’s menu, but there are still more dishes that appeal to me. I guess I’ll just have to keep going and ordering. I’ll update everyone if I’m ever disappointed, but I don’t really see it happening any time soon.
1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20004