Monday, April 16, 2007


Marcel's decor exudes understated elegance from both the inside and the outside. I've walked past it numerous times, yet I always forget that it's there. Reviews by friends and on the web all give the restaurant high marks for food and service, so I was looking forward to our dinner reservations on Sunday night. The experience was like watching a great movie with a bad soundtrack. The music should have complemented and enhanced the movie, except it interrupted the wonderful story just enough to degrade the movie from excellent to good.

The Service

The only reservation we could get was at 5:30 pm, so the place was nearly empty. Disappointment started to build as soon as we walked in. I was greeted nearly immediately ("Welcome, young lady."), even though two of us walked in at the same time. On the positive side, they offered to seat us even though we were waiting for one more.

As we got to our table, I indicated my seat choice out loud, but was politely told by the host that "the lady usually sits in this seat." Caught by surprise by this odd and unwarranted comment, I yielded to the host's "suggestion."

We were promptly offered drinks while we waited, and we looked over the wine list while waiting for everyone to arrive. Once everyone was seated though, we waited several minutes before anyone walked the three feet from their stations to offer us menus.

Since we had such an early reservation, we had the opportunity to review the regular menu, the tasting menu, the daily specials menu, and the theater menu. Our waiter dutifully explained the four menus to us in a subtly condescending manner that mirrored the host's "young lady" greeting. Not what you would expect from a pricey restaurant.

Our appetizers and entrees all arrived freshly prepared, but both times, our main waiter had to correct the servers about which dish goes where. The dining experience was further diminshed by the servers walking around our table with large metal trays. Despite the well-lit environment and unobstructed view of our table, the servers kept looking over our shoulders to see if we were finished. Again, not what you would expect from a nice restaurant.

The worst offense of all came when we ordered dessert. Since we were given no prioir warning about how long the souffle would take to prepare, I assumed their "souffle" offering was probably some kind of molten hot chocolate cake. That was fine. I just wanted chocolate. Our waiter's non-comment about my souffle order seemed to confirm that I was getting some random chocolate concoction. He took everyone's orders, and as an after thought, told us the souffle would take about 12 to 13 minutes to prepare. What an appropriate end to a bad service experience all night.

The Food

To be continued...


2401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20037

(202) 296-1166

Food: Excellent
Cleanliness: Excellent
Service: Good
Price: Expensive ($90 for a 3-course meal and a glass of wine, including 10% tax and 20% tip)

No comments: