Previously home to Adour, Decanter is the St. Regis Washington, D.C.’s newest signature restaurant. Inspired by his childhood in Saint-Jean-de-Luz in France’s Basque country, Executive Chef Sebastien Rondier, (who worked with Alain Ducasse for more than 10 years), has designed a Mediterranean themed menu with delectable flavors from the South of France, Italy, Turkey and Spain. With so many new restaurants opening these days, Washingtonians have many different options available. But Laetitia and I share a love for good French food so we wanted to try Decanter right away…
And I’m certainly glad we did! It was truly une experience inoubliable. Unlike the menu, the décor at Decanter remains mainly unchanged from its former life. The famed wine cellar is still there while modern white chairs fill the space underneath the tall (and ornate) ceiling. We had an unbeatable view of the whole restaurant from one of the beautifully appointed circular booths. Our attentive and smiling waitress greeted us with two glasses of pink champagne (my favorite) and, without getting so much as a glance of the menu, we let Chef Rondier take us on a culinary journey through the Méditerranée.
First course: Braised Octopus and Hamachi Nicoise. The Braised Octopus, grilled to perfection, was accompanied by a chickpea purée with espelette pepper, a spice traditionally from the French Pyrenees. Chick peas marinated in pesto and fried parsley round up the plate, giving the dish some color and a perfect crunchy kick. I’d never had octopus before so I was a little hesitant, but to my grande surprise, it was unbelievably tender and delicious. I’d order again it in a heartbeat. In keeping with the seafood theme, the Hamachi Nicoise, a menu item carried over from the Adour days, was presented as an elegantly deconstructed salad. The plate was adorned with radishes, red peppers, a quail egg, fennel, anchovies, spring onions and melt-in-your-mouth Hamachi tuna. The best part about this dish was that you could couple the flavors to your preference.
Second course: Lamb Shank Flat Bread. I’m sure you’ve already read about this dish. And if you haven’t, I’m sure you will soon. The 10-piece flatbread is very simply presented on a wooden board and garnished with braised pieces of lamb shank, hummus, mesclun, tagine condiment and *wait for it* Humboldt Fog cheese. To. Die. For. It was perfectly paired with a 2012 Ravines Pinot Noir from the Fingerlakes, a ruby colored, light bodies wine with garnet hues and an intense finish. The Pinot also accompanied our next course.
Third Course: Rockfish for Two. This was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. The whole fish was first presented to us a cast iron platter before being plated. The entire fish was decorated with basil, lemon and tomato with two bouquets on the side comprised of scallions, Meyer lemons and my personal favorite, fennel, all basking in a lobster jus that reminded us both of the bouillabaisse dinners we’ve enjoyed during our respective summers in the South of France.
Fourth Course: Strawberry Soup with Mascarpone Ice Cream and Lemon Tart with Basil Sorbet. I have to be honest, I am more of a savory food girl, but if you read this blog semi-frequently, you’ve probably figured out Laetitia has quite the sweet tooth. I love strawberries so I was partial to the soup, which was created with mouthwatering pieces of fresh fraises topped with mascarpone ice cream in a strawberry sauce. Delicieux! Laetitia, on the other hand, preferred the tartness of the lemon dessert though we both agreed the basil ice cream, with a hint of fresh mint, was absolutely divine and worked well with either desserts actually. Or on its own.
Sadly, with Pastry Chef Fabrice Bendano’s departure, the mini-macarons that closed out every meal have been replaced with small cupcakes. Le sigh. Though to be honest, we were too full by then to eat them anyway 😉
Chapeau to Executive Chef Sebastien Rondier and his stellar team for one of the best meals I have had in a while. We will be back and are already looking forward to some of his other dishes, such as the lobster tater tots (how sinfully good do those sound?!) and the calamari burger, two American staples with an “under the sea” French Twist…
Another excuse to head back to Decanter is the new family-table and its separate family-style menu. Celebrating a big event with family or a group of friends? For $55, you can enjoy a private room adjacent to the kitchen and a spread that includes free range chicken or Amish baby lamb shoulder with rosemary with your choice of appetizers, sides and desserts. Too bad our birthdays aren’t for another six months…
About the author: born in India, Cecile (@petitefleur77) grew up in Arlington, VA. As a dual citizen of the U.S. and France, she’s lived and studied in Wisconsin, France and Monaco. She enjoys all things French and I love having her as a guest contributor. Cecile was initially a friend of my husband, who used to work with her. He thought we would get along and introduced us. That was 6 years ago, so I guess he was onto something!