Tuesday, January 31, 2012


We've made no secret of our crush on Brasserie Beck, the casual younger sibling of the esteemed Marcel's. For B's birthday, I booked a table at Marcel's to see if Robert Wiedmaier's French-Belgian fancy restaurant could compare.

Since 1999, Marcel's has been delighting diners with its impeccable service and menu of rich, hearty French classics with a Belgian spin. Marcel's has also become famous for its $65 three course pre-Kennedy Center menu that includes car service to and from the show. While we didn't test it out, we'll have to keep that in mind the next time we think of driving to a show and forking over $20 for parking.

We didn't take any photos of our experience, but I can set the stage with one phrase: fleur-de-lis. Apparently whoever designed Marcel's thought that "French restaurant" means you have to work in a fleur-de-lis pattern in every square inch. It wasn't over-done to the point of being cheesy, but once we began to notice the abundance of fleur-de-lis, we saw them everywhere. From the menu to the walls, it was one big game of "I spy a fleur-de-lis..."

Our server Rebecca was fantastically attentive and guided us through Marcel's somewhat complicated menu. At Marcel's, you choose between four, five, six, or seven courses. The menu is then broken into the following sections: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, cheese, and dessert. Complicating matters further is the fact that you can order from any of the menu sections. For example, if you order five courses, you can order 3 from the second course menu and two from the fourth course menu. It's all up to you, and all adds up to somewhat of a headache. You can also change the number of courses as you go, so if the seven seemed like a good idea at the beginning, you can wave the white flag and head for the five course menu as you get too full to continue. Is your head spinning yet? Yes, mine too.

The food at Marcel's was very good but just not anything to jump up and down about. It was hard to point to specific flaws in the dishes, but we left feeling full though uninspired. It wasn't one of those Jose Andres-like meals that you discuss all the way home. I tend to be able to rehash every dish of a great meal for months (or even years) afterward, but I don't remember much about what we ate at Marcel's last month aside from the fact that I liked the duck I ordered. It was good, the service and atmosphere were great, and I'm glad we tried it once.

While Beck is a place that you can return to again and again, Marcel's is more of a "checked it off the list" type experience that we're unlikely to duplicate.

Second Thoughts From B

I'm either very secure in my marriage or I've turned into the stereotypical clueless husband because I'm about to yawn at my birthday dinner that J probably spent a great deal of time selecting.

Don't get me wrong, it was a lovely evening. The food was very good and the service was excellent. But it felt generic. Ouch. Not what you want to hear when visiting one of the city's elite restaurants. It was memorable in that it was a nice meal but in a town overflowing with great and memorable meals, Marcel's simply blends in and will probably be forgotten.

Well, not completely forgotten. Aside from the dizzying array of fleur-de-lis (what is the plural?), one particular thing will stick in our mind. In contrast to the jacket-required dress code, the staff at Marcel's is notably forward thinking regarding technology. Recognizing that the next generation fine dining experience is fully plugged in and connected 24/7, Marcel's accommodates those of us who must chat on the phone while eating.

When we arrived, a gentleman sat and chatted on his phone at the table next to us while his wife looked bored. As we started in on dessert, a table across the dining room started playing a youtube video (at full volume) on repeat.

There are times that people are so obnoxious that everyone is frozen in disbelief. This was one of those times. Thankfully, by the time video number 3 was playing, we were walking out the door.
Marcel's on Urbanspoon

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