Open for lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., dinner daily from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday brunch 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Ae, dc, mc,vyy V. Parking garage. Reservations suggested. Prices: Fixed-price dinner $24.50; a la carte main dishes average $17; full dinner with wine, tax and tip $35 to $40. Sunday champagne brunch, $17.50.
The view is marvelous. About The View, though, I have some reservations.
This is Marriott's bid for the big time, a glamorous restaurant 14 stories up, with top-flight table appointments, a nouvelle cusine menu and stratospheric prices. Its cultured tone, however, doesn't hide its Marriott accent.
The Marriott twang is, in some circumstances, charming. The telephone greeting could not be nicer nor more efficient or informative. The service is fresh and eager. But the veneer of training if thin and easily rubs off to show a core of inexperience.
The setting goes a long way towards smoothing the flaws. The dining room had been divided into intimate seating areas with dusty rose walls and a ceiling like a starry sky. The tables are covered with long flowered skirts and set with exotic fresh flowers. The hurricane lamps look like Lalique, and the soft rose color carries from wall to table, changing its texture, being reflected in etched glass.This interior is intricate, lush in every detail, from the domed glass butter dishes to the enormous botanical paintings. It is worthy of its backdrop: the sweep of Washington's monuments.
But why would anybody put a window table for two next to a pillar? In frustration, we moved it a foot down so that the pillar didn't block our view. And how can you be expected to enjoy such elegance with your coat on the back of your chair?
The captains -- who are women -- look very distinguished in black tie (other restaurants could learn from observing the elegant demeanor of these women, particularly the restaurants that complain that they can't get good dining room help, but never consider women for the jobs).Our captain recited the daily specials, explained the five-course nouvelle cusine menu and the a la carte menu (most people around us were ordering steaks and double Beefeaters).Although the fixed-price menu was not necessarily cheaper than ordering the same dishes a la carte (main courses range from $10.75 to $19.50), we decided to go the full course.
First came the wine list, then the news that they were out of the wine we wanted. The list is a good cross-section of French and California, at downtown (high) prices, and we indicated to the sommelier that we wanted something comparable to the moderatley priced wine we had ordered. He recommended several high-priced wines, and each time we asked him for something less grand. He didn't get the message until we turned the wine list to lower-priced selections and asked him to recommend something from that particular section. The sommelier made a great show of properly opening, wiping, tasting and pouring our wine -- but forgot us thereafter.
After a considerable lag came our soups. Our waiter was a young man so awkward and confused that we didn't have the heart to ask him what happened to our first courses, nor to tell him that our soups were cold. They were, however, good -- a curried zucchini strong and pungent with curry, unflawed by the sweetness too often found in curried soups, and a commendable consomme. Nothing novelle about them, but fine food.
When, after a long wait, we inquired after our appetizers, the waiter was full of apologies. He should have brought the kitchen in on the breast-beating, as it turned out when the appetizers finally arrived. iGood smoked salmon and trout, but tiny crab claw, indifferent sliced shrimp and fish terrine that tasted only of its flour paste base. In all, it was more precious than delicious. Snails in puff pastry flavored with cream and pernod on a bed of leeks were better, though their pastry was tough.
By the main course, it was apparent that this was a shell of nouvelle cusine, emptied of its soul. A fashionably butterflied slice of rockfish in dill cream was cooked a bit too long. Lamb -- rare, thinly sliced and arranged with nouvelle cuisine precision - was in itself quite good, but its brown sauce tasted acrid, as if overpowered by packaged bullion. Alongside came large spears of crisp broccoli - nagging for cutting and for seasoning -- and fried eggplant -- good, but more what one would expect at a Hot Shoppes than a nouvelle cusine restaurant. This was good food, but hardly in the $24.50-fixed price category. As the food was unveiled with a flouish of silver domes lifted from plates, the show moved us to giggle rather than gush.
Salad followed, a pleasant salad, for which the kitchen had cared enough to peel the tomatoes. Then dessert, again oversold. The captian convinced us to order the Black Forest cake because it was a "lovely presentation." It was a piece of cake- no more, no less. And pecan souffle was so heavy and doughy that we ate just the ice cream that topped it.
The best of the show was at the end, coffee served with a silver tray displaying tiny glass bowls of three kinds of sugar, lemon peel, cinnamon sticks, chocolate chips and unsweetened whipped cream. It was as grownup version of a sundae bar.
I am glad that Marriott is doing food this good; for, if it is not wonderful, it is a giant step above most chain hotels -- and most Marriott restaurants. One might congratulate Marriott if it had not already overpraised its own effort by setting such high prices. The menu is too short and too simple, the depth of talent too shallow, the attention to detail too lacking to put this in the class of Jean-Louis, which is where those prices place it. Like New York's Windows on the World, the best of The View would be enjoyed by going for a drink.
Brunch is a better value. The buffet stretches from table to table, prodigious in its variety. And if you pick your way carefully, you can concoct a stunning meal. The hot breads on each table -- almond, choclate and plain croissants -- are buttery and flaky, delightful.And the Franzia champagne is the best of any of the local all-you-can-drink pourings. Ask for orange juice; it comes freshly squeezed in a large goblet. Then concentrate on the smoked salmon, carved to order. Dozens of salads tempt you to fill yourself, but they vary from what tastes like diced chicken roll to king crab devoid of flavor to zesty pasta salads and marinated vegetables that are marvelous. There are international flights of fancy: cold rice with coconut, brazil nuts and raisins; curried salads; Mexican salads; conncoctions from the Middle East. There are platters of tropical fruits, a raw bar with good oysters and clams, a made-to-order omelet table. But then comes the letdown; the hot food tasted as if it was left over from a Hot Shoppes cafeteria.Poached eggs with dried-out hollandaise on unseasoned spinach. Roast beef and roast pork carved to order, leached of all juices. Mucilage-thick veal stew and seafood newburg. Mushy stewed lamb afloat in oil. And frozen mixed vegetables or a perfect facsimile thereof. I promise you won't miss anything but a little protein and vitamin A if you skip right from salads to dessert. And with the hazelnut torte, the shortbread pie filled with walnuts and dates, or just slices of kiwi, melon, pineapple and papaya, you will end happily.At least until you return to your table to find that that the previous plate had been left with its coagulating gravy, the first rush of replacing silverware and refolding napkins lost as the servers are diverted elsewhere.
After a sunny beginning, clouds gather and The View fades.