Before moving to Washington D.C. a good friend gifted me a certificate to the Mandarin Hotel to dine at the restaurant Cityzen, which came highly recommended. After patiently waiting for five months I finally used the the gift when my brother, a very intelligent food critic, came to visit me. We both ordered the 6-course chef tasting menu because the a la carte menu was too overwhelming and we thought it best to place ourselves in the chef’s hands.
Course #1-Maine Lobster Consumme, this opening dish set the tone of the meal as bold, creative food featuring exceptional flavor combinations. The consumme was clear and light, true to form, but had such a depth of lobster flavor that I have absolutely no idea how it was achieved. The lobster spaetzle that accompanied the dish was creative and provided the contrasting texture to the dish. Baby leeks and a shisho foam enhanced the salty sea flavor consuming the dish and added new textures and slight crisp, caramelized flavor.
Course #2-Broiled BlueFin Tora Sashimi, my brother and I both agreed that this was the weakest dish we received and this was for two main reasons. First, when you are looking forward to fresh, light, immaculate sashimi and you get a semi-seared broiled fish atop that amazing piece of sashimi it is kind of a let down. Broiling rarely results in anything that is palatable and can either make the item in question overdone or so overpowering it takes over the whole dish. The latter of these two issues led to the second problem which was that the delicate artichoke globes and lemon chimichurri might as well have not been on the plate. These two accouterments their own, were still pretty flavorless and with the fish, not detectable.
Course #3-Sautéed Pave of Maine Merlu, We dubbed this dish “grown up fish sticks” because that is exactly what it was. The fun play on the classic was breaded perfectly and the ham added a great saltiness to the dish. The pepper marmalade served well in balancing the whole dish and celery root cream with shaved chestnuts rounded out the whole dish making it smooth and rich.
Course #4-Cityzen Quail Satay, this was a knockout dish that was so simple yet so perfect. The delicate quail paired so perfectly with the peanut sauce that was purely ground virginia peanuts with a touch of yuzu jam. The chef did a great job of taking the traditional heavy, salty, creamy Chinese dish and elevating it to something clean and pure.
Course #5-Salt Baked Virginia Beef, here again we saw the kitchen having some more fun with traditional dishes. This course took the classic Beef Wellington and wholly reinvented it. The new version featured perfectly rare cubes of beef with a very delicate homemade egg noodle. Cityzen replaced the traditional heavy cream sauce with a light creme fraiche which allowed the meat and mushrooms to truly shine.
Course #6-My brother and I parted ways with our dessert choices because our host was kind enough to replace one standard dessert with the dessert of our choice. We settled on getting the Cityzen S’more, exactly as it sounded but with fun twists such as marshmallow ice cream, sweet meringue and a chocolate soufflé. The other dessert was on the lighter side of things, geared more towards fruit based flavors while also featuring a plump meringue to sink your teeth into.
I call this the never-ending night of food brilliance because between almost all of these courses we were provided additional snacks and amuses to sample. We left the meal completely full but not weighed down by heavy, rich food using standard “cheats” such as butter, wine, truffles etc. The food at Cityzen was creative, fresh, filling, and flavorful and I would highly recommend snagging a reservation soon.