"fine dining" is often so serious. so self-conscious. and at its worst, pretentious at the expense of taste. enter chef michel richard. is there another chef who has such fun with his food? who is so delightfully unserious and joyful? it's hard to think of one. i recently visited central, his hip and busy downtown bistro. though i've not yet visited his flagship citronelle in georgetown, the friend who joined me at central had been there before. from him i learned central's fun doesn't owe to its more casual setting, it owes to its chef: for dessert following his citronelle dinner, he'd ordered a "rubber ducky". shaped like the famous bath toy and filled with mousse, it was served in a tub-esque dish atop blue gel. he had, of course, taken a picture. who wouldn't? he showed it to me, and i concluded that it's probably the best food porn ever. though central sported no rubber duckies on its menu, it does offer such tongue-in-cheek items a take-out bucket of fried chicken, a "faux gras" terrine, and a banana split. you can also get -- not kidding here -- a grilled cheese that is served with three different cheese dipping sauces. as a confirmed believer that hedonism is underrated, i was a big fan of central, am a big fan of chef richard, and can't wait to try citronelle.
i grabbed a cocktail at the bar before dinner, which was an excellent idea. pictured left is the miner's club cocktail: death's door gin, lemon, benedictine, and cava. the drink menu actually had many interesting offerings, which included the awesomely named "everybody wang chuong": santa teresa rhum orange liqueur, passionfruit puree, jalapeno, and ginger.
to start, my friend ordered the above deviled eggs with boquerones, which were tasty and deliciously salty, if quite a departure from the standard southern version.
above, my order of frog legs, which -- as the cliché goes -- really do sort of taste like chicken. tiny, delicious chicken. i'd be hard pressed not to order them again; dont let the strange ingredient scare you off.
and, pictured to the right, something i would ABSOLUTELY order again: the cheese puffs (gougères). truth be told, i considered ordering them again within the span of the same meal. yes, they're that good.
above, our entrees. pictured left is the seared sea scallops with asparagus risotto. to the right is the fried chicken, which is served atop some of the most decadently delicious and buttery mashed potatoes i'd ever eaten. the dish also comes with a tureen of some sort of rich, tasty, honey-mustard concoction that i dipped my chicken into. and for health, i suppose, a small salad. i was less interested in the salad than i was the fried chicken and mashed potatoes.
and finally, the desserts. oh, the desserts. they're amazing. when you visit, resist the temptation to fill up on savory goodies like cheese puffs and mashed potatoes, though i know it's tough -- if you do, you'll regret missing the sweet side of central. pictured above left is my friend's chocolate lava cake a la mode, and above right, my michel's chocolate bar. had i not been in polite company, i would've licked my plate. and then ordered another. the multi-textured, layered, chocolate-ey goodness is his version of a kit-kat bar and is ferociously addictive. the next time i'm in, i'll be ordering it in addition to whatever other dessert happens to catch my attention that day. don't judge me before you try it yourself.