Central Unveils New Seasonal Menu
Central, Michel Richard’s American bistro at 1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, recently introduced executive chef David Deshaies’ fresh spring menu of new dishes along with signature seasonal items.
The new lighter seasonal dishes use regional spring ingredients such as leafy Bibb lettuce, roasted peppers, beets, crabmeat, sushi-grade ahi tuna and calamari.
New salads and appetizers feature spring ingredients such as tuna carpaccio nicoise with ahi tuna sliced thin over a green bean tartare topped with a crispy potato tuile, hard-boilded egg, cherry tomatoes, olives and drizzled with basil oil and ginger mayonnaise; a sautéed jumbo crab cake cooked with garlic, parsley, butter and red pepper flakes served beside a zucchini caked baked with eggs, cheese, crème fraiche, cayenne and garlic; Provençal calamari made with baby calamari sautéed in olive oil and finished with lemon juice, garlic and red pepper flakes, topped with zucchini, tomato, bell pepper, and olives, and garnished with basil pesto; julienned roasted piquillo peppers mixed with sautéed onions and capers and seasoned with fresh thyme, basil and balsamic vinegar topped with warm goat cheese Bijou and a crostini; and Bibb lettuce salad with radish, tomato and avocado served with a buttermilk/yogurt/mustard dressing.
But the new star appetizer, in my opinion, is the beet carpaccio with thinly sliced roasted beets that are fanned-out on the plate and brushed with passion fruit dressing then topped with avocado, grapefruit segments, jicama, chayote and shallots. The avocado and grapefruit help to balance the earthy beets. The dish is tangy and healthy. Of course you can’t go wrong with Central’s French onion soup made with a miso stock, crostini, provolone and gruyere cheese. The onions are caramelized and braised in miso stock, served in small cast iron bowls and garnished with scallions. Using miso instead of the usual beef stock gives the soup a lighter taster and allows vegetarians to enjoy it too.
New seasonal entrées include seafood preparations with regional flavors of France in dishes such as pan seared salmon served over sautéed zucchini, fennel and tomato, and drizzled with a citrus ginger dressing; rockfish bouillabaisse pan-seared with the skin on then cooked in a classic bouillabaisse of fennel, onion, bell pepper, garlic, saffron, cayenne, tomato, Pernod and white wine, and served over a mixture of zucchini, tomato, fennel and potato with squid ink brioche toast; and shrimp sautéed in olive oil, garlic, parsley and red pepper flakes served over traditional risotto of Arborio rice cooked with white wine, garlic, saffron and Parmesan cheese. Meat dishes include Muscovy duck leg is marinated 48 hours in thyme, garlic, rosemary and olive oil then placed in duck fat to confit and served over spaetzle and Brussels sprouts; pan seared lamb chops served with cucumber cumin yogurt sauce and spicy tomato harissa sauce with a side of couscous and seasonal vegetables; cote de boeuf for two with 32 ounces of Angus beef served with choice of two sides and bordelaise or peppercorn Sauce; pasta primavera with broccolini, spinach, English peas and sliced asparagus in a garlic cream sauce topped with pecorino cheese and chili flakes, and served with tomato salad; pan-seared spaghetti squash topped with a mixture of farro, garlic, sautéed spinach and piperade sauced with piquillo coulis and balsamic reduction.
My favorite, however, were the pan-seared Maine scallops topped with piperade made with zucchini, tomato, bell pepper and olives, and served over sautéed corn and onion with a piquillo pepper coulis. Also, if you are lucky enough to find soft shell crabs on the menu the night you visit, you must order them. Deshaies cuts the crabs in half, removes the insides then fills it with more lump crab meat. The crabs are then dipped in tempura batter and fried. They were by far the best soft shell crab anyone in my party had ever eaten. The crabs were deliciously crispy and served on top of delicious avocado puree,
Of course the restaurant’s signature entrées remain on the menu, like Michel’s fried chicken and the lobster burger, 6 ounces of poached lobster mixed with a shrimp mousse to form a patty that is pan fried then topped with ginger mayonnaise, confit tomato and a potato tuille served on a brioche bun.
Make sure to leave room for dessert. No matter which you choose, you can’t go wrong. We could not decide, so we ordered several and took leftovers home. The banana split is huge – enough for two or three people to share. Scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with caramel sauce, chocolate ice cream topped with chocolate sauce and chocolate pearls, and strawberry sorbet topped with raspberry sauce are served in a ceramic TV dinner tray with one scoop of ice cream in each of the smaller sections. In the large compartment is the banana, whipped cream, vanilla crème anglaise, almonds, pistachios and pineapple topped with a cherry. The Napoleon is vanilla cream, crème anglaise sandwiched between puff pastry.
The Lemon Eggceptional is pretty to look at and ever better to taste with a graham cracker crumble topped with three “eggs” made from hazelnut chocolate and filled with French meringue and lemon curd. It is served with a passion fruit sauce, pistachios and coconut sorbet. And of course, Michel’s chocolate bar, which tastes like a Kit Kat candy bar, is a mainstay on the menu. It is made with feuilletine (dehydrated crepes) mixed with a hazelnut paste to form the crispy layer. It is then topped with a layer of chocolate mousse, dusted with cocoa powder and served in a pool of praline sauce and garnished with chocolate pearls.
The spring menu is available in the dining room or on the 44-seat patio facing Pennsylvania Avenue.
Editor-in-Chief Mark Heckathorn is a journalist, movie buff and foodie. He oversees DC on Heels editorial operations as well as strategic planning and staff development. Reach him with story ideas or suggestions at dcoheditor (at) gmail (dot) com.