Monday, April 26, 2010

No Reservations: Washington, DC

A trip to DC isn't complete without a "no reservation" adventure. The theme for this outing was gourmet burgers. I'm a burger fanatic. I'm that person who would order a burger if it was on the menu at a world-class, fine dining establishment. You better believe I will order it. I don't care if it costs over $20+. The burger is my ultimate comfort food, even above the grilled cheese sandwich. Besides, if it's on the menu at a Michelin-starred restaurant, it must be good.

My first burger stop was Central. I love the fact that this place was accessible by the Metro. Near the Federal Triangle station, I walked an additional three blocks to Michel Richard's bistro-like resto. I had a reservation here but I hate eating late so I arrived about a half and hour early hoping to get an earlier seating. Again, I was told I will be seated near my reservation time, so I cancelled my late seating and ate at the lounge.

When I was walking to Central, it about 50 something degrees outside. That's cold for this Cali girl. Instead of ordering my to-go cocktail, I opted for a pot of tea.

The item I ordered right away was the Cheese Puffs ($7). These were fluffy, round pastry puffs made with gougeres cheese. The puffs are very light and can literally melt in your mouth. Sorry, no photos because I devoured them before I even had the chance to take out my camera. Beware, these are highly addictive.

I was at a crossroads with my entree selection. I came for the burger but there was so many items to choose from that I had second thoughts. The item that sealed the deal was the Lobster Burger. What caught my eye was the $29 price tag. I was thinking, "This burger has to be good to be priced at $29. It's $10 more than the second most expensive burger on the menu." I came to Central before dining at Citronelle so I had no clue what I was in for.

When the Lobster Burger arrived, I was in awe. The burger was made of lobster tail with scallop mousse and sandwiched together in a buttered brioche bun. Oh lord, this burger was outrageously delicious. It was juicy, decadent and oh so good. This is my kind of burger, no vegetables getting in the way. ha! Remember, I'm a non-vegetable eater (will eat if needed).

(left) Lobster Burger - $29
(right) Michel's Chocolate Bar - $9

I ended the evening with Michel's Chocolate Bar. Basically this dessert is Michel's take on an American chocolate bar (aka Kit Kat bar). The chocolate was luscious, creamy with a bit of crunch from crispy wafers. I also loved the vanilla ice cream that had specks of vanilla bean.

Central Michel Richard
1001 Pennsylvania Ave
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 626-0015

Good food means big tummy. I had to take a walk around our nation's capital before I headed back to the hotel. On the left, a shot from Pennslyvania Avenue in front of the White House. On the right, the Washington Monument from President's Park. I was a bit hesitant to walk around the city after 9pm but I felt safe since there was security everywhere near the White House and tourists were still walking around taking pictures.

Next stop, Palena

The next evening I headed to my last burger stop, Palena. Again, easily accessible by the Metro at Cleveland Park. This cafe is literally across the street from the Metro station. Once you get out of the station, look to the right and it's right there across the street next to a gas station.

I arrived a few minutes after opening at 5:30pm. Again, DC was chilly so I ordered another pot of tea.

When it came to my order, I knew I wanted the famous Palena cheeseburger and fry plate. I did contemplate getting the half roasted chicken but I didn't have 45 minutes to spare and I was hungry (skipped lunch altogether to dine here).

About two pieces into the bread basket (not pictured) and one pot of tea, my burger and fry plate arrived.

Palena Cheeseburger - $12

The burger is seven ounces with trimmings of kobe beef in a house-ground mix and topped with a northern Italian cheese with hints of truffle. The bun, also house-made is smeared with garlic-scented mayonnaise. Pickles and mushrooms are served on the side. For once I added some type of vegetable (mushrooms) to my burger. Tasty!

I loved the texture and composition of the burger but it was a wee bit on the salty side. After reading more into the burger, that unexpected splash of saltiness was intended. I won't rule this burger out because I literally ate the entire thing plus the vegetables. For $12 this is a steal when it comes to gourmet burgers. I ate the vegetables, people! That says a lot.

Fry Plate - $11

A fried assortment of french fries, onion rings, dauphine potatoes and marinated lemon rings. Wait? Lemon rings? Yes, lemon rings. At first I thought it was a citrus flavored potato but I took another bite and peeled back the batter which revealed the lemon rind.

? Semifreddo - $10

A lot going on in this semi frozen delight. According to, semifreddo is Italian for "half cold", and culinarily refers to any of various chilled or partially frozen desserts including cake, ice cream, fruit and custard. The chocolate quenelle was very rich in flavor and the cake portion had a spongy texture but not in an angel fruit cake kind of way. It was different, especially with the contrasting orange and raspberry fruit garnishes.

Afterthoughts: This burger outing was interesting because both burgers offered something new to my burger repertoire. Did I find my ultimate burger? Close, but not quite. The Lobster Burger is up there in the exotic category. DC has some mighty fine gourmet burgers but we all know Five Guys has nothing on the west coast In-N-Out Double Double. That's the only burger I will have with all of the fixings, except the onions.

3529 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 537-9250


food je t'aime said...

mmm burgers are my weakness. I LOVE them. That lobster burger looks so intersting!

Joce said...

It definitely is! I wish I could have taken one home before I left DC.

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