Editors' pick

Adour at the St. Regis Washington, D.C.

French
$$$$ ($35 and up)
Adour at the St. Regis Washington, D.C. photo
Allison Dinner/For The Post
Alain Ducasse brings French cuisine to the St. Regis.
Mon 10-11 am; Tue-Thu 10-11 am
5:30-10 pm; Fri 10-11 am
5:30-10:30 pm
(Downtown)
McPherson Square (Blue and Orange Lines)
202-509-8000
74 decibels (Must speak with raised voice)
'

Editorial Review

2010 Spring Dining Guide

By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, May 23, 2010

There's a three-star appetizer on the menu of this tony David Rockwell design in the St. Regis hotel. The dish celebrates sweet lobster medallions and an ivory salad of soft orzo tossed with crisp bits of cauliflower: a pretty construct topped with a fluff of greens and circled with caviar cream. The dish, by chef Julien Jouhannaud, is elegant and full of delightful contrasts. There's also a three-star dessert on the menu. While a diner might expect to see a souffle on a high-end French menu, pastry chef Fabrice Bendano's contribution is first-rate and fun: a towering cloud of sugar, eggs and hazelnuts that comes with a side of orange sorbet and granite. "Add them to the souffle," a server coaches, "and the whole thing tastes like Grand Marnier." Indeed, it does. Not a spoonful of the warm and nutty, cool and citrusy dessert is left after I have my way with it. White leather chairs and illuminated displays of wine beneath a baronial ceiling create a setting that is at once cool and comfortable. Warm and peppery gougeres and a gratis tease from Jouhannaud (salmon rillettes most recently) at the start of dinner hint of good things to come from the kitchen, whose muse is the celebrated French chef Alain Ducasse. Sometimes they do. Carefully roasted turbot is beautifully staged with "a contrast of carrots," including see-through ribbons and gremolata-spiced baby carrots. Like several dishes, this one can be ordered by the half- or full portion. Veal loin, as succulent as it gets, trumpets spring with a shower of bright peas and morel mushrooms touched up with cream and lemon. To accompany these dishes, I know to trust sommelier Ramon Narvaez to bring me something that flatters them (and that rests in my price range) from his cellar. Adour can also be uneven and unexciting. A square crab cake, perked up with a slaw of green papaya, is more clever than delicious. There's no spark in its sauce of coconut milk and curry, just richness. (That's true of a number of sauces here.) Cocktails emphasize sweetness, mini-baguettes are bland, and a collection of all things spring -- ramps, asparagus, morels -- topped with a poached egg is just colorful mush in a stylish porcelain dish. There's no doubt the kitchen uses prime ingredients, many of them local. But as I felt about Adour the last time, I still leave my meals here wishing for a touch more finesse and a few more compelling reasons to return.