UNTIL RECENTLY, Washington boasted of one French chef: Jean Louis Palladin of Michelin two-star acclaim. Now there's another. The Ritz-Carlton at Pentagon City has hired Gerard Pangaud, whose Parisian restaurant won two Michelin stars before he immigrated to New York six years ago.
In New York, Pangaud was hired by restaurant impresario Joe Baum to run the kitchen at Aurora, but after much opening fanfare he won only mixed reviews. A year ago Pangaud opened his own restaurant in Manhattan, but it never took off. He blames his lukewarm American accomplishments on personal problems and having to produce too many meals a day at the 185-seat Aurora.
"In New York," he adds, "it is very difficult to cook if everyone is on diets."
He decided to move out of New York and take a new lease on life. Besides, he adds, "The hotel chains are going to be more and more involved in top-class restaurants in the U.S."
At the Ritz-Carlton, for example, Pangaud won't have to worry about the budget during the difficult start-up months, and the small restaurant, to be called The Dining Room, will be open only for dinner and Sunday brunch. He will have no responsibility for banquets, and since the Ritz-Carlton also has a grill restaurant, Pangaud says he can concentrate on sophisticated cooking and leave the plainer fare to the grill.
"I'm going to try to do what I used to do in France," says Pangaud, who says he dreams of making the Ritz-Carlton have one of the best restaurants in the country.
The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton is scheduled to open Jan. 15.
JUST AS WE are getting used to commercials on our movie screens, someone has come up with a new venue for advertisements: restaurant restrooms. Bathroom Billboards is the brainchild of Christopher Tavlarides, a recent college graduate who runs the business from a garage with his cousin. Starting with a client list of 37 Washington-area restaurants, night clubs and movie theaters, Tavlarides says, "We're going everywhere."
Tavlarides projects more than a million readers for his ads. So far, no distinction is being made between men's and women's ads. And as the company's brochure puts it, the advertising billboards are "strongly adhered to each location" and "protected completely" by clear shatterproof plastic.
Every business has its unique advantages; this one's is that these two young guys have the chance to vent all the bathroom jokes and puns in polite society that other kids just dream about using. Their promotional materials talk of having the "undivided attention" of "a captive audience," and suggest that Bathroom Billboards are "the way to go." They claim to have readers "lining up to read your ad" and offer "close-up, high impact placement." There's more, but nothing I care to repeat.
IT HAS BEEN a hard year for the restaurants of Washington, and I am sorry to say that the next will be even harder, at least in one regard. John Rosson, the restaurant critic for the Washington Times and before that for the Washington Star -- for a total of just about 30 years -- has retired. For those three decades Rosson, the Southern gentleman of Washington critics, contributed particular warmth and humanity to the reviewing process.
Rosson discovered innumerable family-run restaurants, he encouraged countless chefs with his understanding, he knew more local lore and history than anyone will ever again, and he played a strong hand in turning this town from a gastronomic backwater to a thriving environment for more than 50 cuisines. A fitting tribute to Rosson would be for someone to open a great Southern restaurant here, one worthy of his emeritus review.
Phyllis C. Richman's restaurant reviews appear Sundays in The Washington Post Magazine.