Citronelle, Washington, DC

In an attempt to get a reality check on just how great Michel Richard is compared to some of the top chefs of France, I made a pilgrimage to this wonderful restaurant in the Latham Hotel in Georgetown right after my return from Bordeaux. This guy is in that so-called "zone." Anyone visiting DC who loves to eat would be remiss in not going there. One of the side shows at the restaurant was that the Secret Service were in the kitchen and elsewhere as Donald Rumsfeld, George Schultz, Vice President Dick Cheny, and a few other Bush administration luminaries were having dinner there that evening. According to Michel Richard, someone had to taste the food before it was served to be sure no one was poisoned. In any event, the food courses were terrific, with my favorites being the casco cod, the salmon, the caramelized pork belly, and the unbelievable black feather chicken.

As for the wines, it was a tour de force performance by all. I had not had the 1996 René Geoffroy Brut Champagne before, but it was extraordinarily elegant and refreshing with good acidity as well as loads of flavor. The full-bodied, opulent 1999 Peter Michael Chardonnay Point Rouge is one of the half dozen or so greatest Chardonnays made in California, and it performed as such. The Bordeaux were decanted several hours in advance, and the perfection of the 1982 Lafleur (approaching full maturity) was to die for. The sexiest of the three Bordeaux, it is an incredibly seductive, mind-boggling wine to drink now and over the next 15 years. The 1982 La Mission-Haut-Brion was far denser in color, much more backward, but very concentrated, with scorched earth and truffle notes as well as head-turning levels of extract and richness. The tannin is still a little on the rude side, but this wine appears to have another 25-30 years of life ahead of it. Low and behold, the 1982 Mouton-Rothschild was the first bottle (after drinking through nearly a case) I have had that is actually beginning to show some secondary nuances. It has tasted like a barrel sample from day one, but this particular bottle (all these wines were from my cellar except for the Champagne) was pure crème de cassis with a level of concentration and intensity that is hard to believe. It clearly is the greatest Mouton produced since the 1945 and 1959. Will the 1996 or 2000 surpass it? I don't think so.

All things considered, this was another incredible ... make that compelling meal at Michel Richard's Citronelle.

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