What could be a better comfort on a cold winter night than deliciously prepared French food in a beautiful setting? Experiencing it during Restaurant Week for $35.10 per person. Previous attempts to visit Adour had been foiled by illness, meaning Chef Ducasse’s restaurant lingered on our must-visit-SOON list for longer than we liked. When the Restaurant Week participant list came out, Mike jumped on a prime Saturday night reservation.

Adour sets the right tone as soon as you enter the bar area. I admit I am a sucker for a killer interior design. Done right, it sets expectations for the entire evening telling diners exactly what they should anticipate for their palates, their service, and their wallets. I’m not loyal to a specific style. Be it the old world coziness of Tabard Inn or 1789 or the sleek sexiness of Sei, distinct design tells me the restaurant has put extra thought into the full dining experience. Designed by David Rockwell, Adour sends diners the message that wine is an important facet of their experience (witness the glass wall that allows diners to peer right into the cellar) and cuisine served will be modern with the eyes of the classic French techniques watching over it (enjoy the interplay of sleek, masculine furniture and banquettes underneath gorgeous rococo ceilings).

Upon seating, we were quickly greeted by our deft waiter who welcomed us to the restaurant with the confident reserve of an industry professional, guiding us through the menu options for the evening. Frankly, the Restaurant Week menu options were wholly uninspired compared to their a la carte cousins. Of the three entree dishes available one was a chicken breast and another a beef short rib. My spirits lifted as soon as we were greeted with a plate of peppery gougeres – the rich man’s cheesy poofs! – which was shortly followed by demitasse cups of a robust pumpkin soup. If these tastes were  a sign of things to come, perhaps the limited menu would work out well.

Dining experiences and how we got Restaurant Week pimp-slapped after the jump.

Our first courses demonstrated equal promise. My chilled lentil salad with shitake mushrooms made for a bright start, balanced expertly with the slight acidity and crunch of diced carrot. Mike’s polenta soup wasn’t the grainy broth I anticipated but a smooth puree dotted with bites of foie gras. Rich and layered, it was a gorgeous concoction for any wintery day.

Our entrees were more controversial. Mike’s slow-cooked beef short rib was rich and decadent though we were divided on it. I suspect the beef was cooked sous vide, creating a consistent moist bite. It also meant that those juicy bites had a much higher fat quotient than you may anticipate, as the slow sealed cooking method traps fats in the meat that would typically sear off. Considering how fatty short ribs are anyway, this is makes for a decadent bite indeed. The richness was too much for my palate but Mike enjoyed it just fine, thank you. Meanwhile my seared haddock was universally admired – a delicate balance of the rich white fish – just firm but flaky enough – with fried parsley and capers but was kept from being overly briny by another masterful balance of acidity and richness.

Dessert – key lime pie coupe and chocolate fondant – were sweet staples dressed in haute clothing, both good but not worth the choir of angels I’d hope to hear at a high-end French restaurant. The real sweet treat arrived at the end of the meal with the kitchen’s famous raspberry and chocolate macarons, or French macaroon. Not to be confused with its coconut cousin, the French macaroon are cartoon-colored meringue joys whose domed top and bottom and fluttery middle make the treats look as though they trotted out of a French haute happy meal.  Chef Ducasse’s macaroons are so popular the restaurant has a retail macaroon operation on the side. Keep it mind if you need to delight a dinner hostess with a special treat (French macaroons are also available at ACKC chocolates if the St. Regis isn’t on your route home).

Timing was inconsistent throughout the meal. The dining room was active but surprisingly uncrowded for a Saturday night, particularly during the throes Restaurant Week. We certainly didn’t mind the extra elbow room this granted but it did make the fits and starts of food delivery throughout the night all the more perplexing. Our amuse bouche and Mike’s cocktail (a local version of the St. Regis’ classic Bloody Mary made with gin, topped with a skewered shrimp and doused with Old Bay) arrived promptly but the wait time lagged between our first course and second course and then lagged considerably longer as we held out for our dessert.

Although our waiter was always polite and professional, I felt he tossed us into the Restaurant Week dining amateurs category early on in our meal and focused the bulk of his attentions on higher maintenance tables nearby. (As we heard from one diner “Are the half bottles actually bottles or carafes? If they are carafes how long have the bottles been open? No, how many HOURS?”). This was somewhat confirmed  when we heard him recounting the evening’s specials on the a la carte menu to a neighboring table, which we never had the benefit of learning before ordering.

Then it got even better. When our waiter came to deliver the check Mike casually mentioned that the specials we overheard sounded nice, eliciting the following yes-we-are-definitely-on-the-‘they-never-dine-out-why-bother’-list reply:  “Specials are dishes that are available for the a la carte menu on certain nights but aren’t written on the menu because we don’t always offer them.” Ohhhhhhhh.

I was tempted to ask him what “a la carte” meant cuz I never saw no cart comin’ out ya’ll, dang. Alas, my fit of giggles prevented it. [Edit: Mike felt the waiter explained the meaning of a special by accident, tripping over his words before he could catch himself, instead of assuming we didn’t understand the concept. I disagree but we both saw the incident as more a humorous anecdote than an offensive remark. No harm, no foul.]

Despite the somewhat bumpy introduction, we both enjoyed Adour and hope to revisit at some point. Though probably not during Restaurant Week.

923 16th St NW
Washington, DC 20006
Adour (St. Regis Hotel) on Urbanspoon