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“Top Ten Restaurant And Not By Accident”
5 of 5 bubbles Review of CityZen - CLOSED

CityZen
Price range: US$50 - US$50
Cuisines: American, Contemporary
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Special Occasion Dining, Business meetings, Romantic
Dining options: After-hours, Dinner, Reservations, Seating, Serves Alcohol, Waitstaff
Dining style: Fine Dining
Cross street: 12th Street, SW
Transit: Smithsonian Metro (Orange and Blue Line) L'Enfant Plaza Metro (Yellow and Green Line)
Arlington, VA
Level Contributor
161 reviews
133 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 68 helpful votes
“Top Ten Restaurant And Not By Accident”
Reviewed 16 July 2014

Since our visit to CityZen was a carefully planned birthday celebration, our expectations prior to arrival were set incredibly high. Our previous two birthdays had been successfully celebrated at Marcel's and Komi, so comparisons were inevitable. I will say that not everything tasted divine, all service was not impeccable, yet our overall experience clearly illustrated that CityZen belongs among the Washington elite.

Upon arrival we were greeted by a trio of friendly hosts/hostesses. Something about the opening minutes indicated that the restaurant was not entirely ready for us. A waiter approached our table to take our drink orders. He did not seem particularly knowledgeable about what he was doing, and I could not help but think that we were in for a long evening. However, as it turns out, it was just his role to take a basic drink order. Fernando, the man in charge of our table, took over, brought us our menus, and went over our options for the evening. One other hit-and-miss here was that we ended up making our own wine selection, one glass of red (an exquisite pinot noir) and one glass of white (a so-so riesling). If we were bigger wine snobs, perhaps we would have insisted on meeting with the sommelier.

Both of us opted for the six course tasting menu. Most of the dishes are relatively small, but they left us pleasantly full by the end of the evening. The first bite we had to eat was the amuse bouche which was a thin slice of wagyu beef plus some jellylike substance. Nice touch but not a particularly memorable one. We were offered multiple choices of bread - all of which tasted freshly baked - plus later during the meal, there was also a serving of yummy rolls in a wooden box. The first dish was roasted asparagus, one of the better dishes in terms of a variety of different tastes that worked equally well individually as they did in combination with each other. The second course, the chilled lobster salad, was probably the least impressive dish, although there was nothing wrong with it, strictly speaking. I guess I am just not big on cold dishes. The third dish, soft-shell crab with cabbage, was pretty good, but it was unclear what exactly the role of the cabbage was. The fourth dish, the lamb carbonara was probably the best dish of the evening. I probably would have been happy ordering this dish five times over (plus the dessert). The fifth dish was the beef ribeye, perfectly cooked, and an acceptable ending to the selection of entrees. Prior to the dessert, we enjoyed three pieces of chocolate and candy, and as part of the birthday celebration, Fernando also treated us to some muscato dessert wine which was fabulous. In restaurants like CityZen, when you go with a fixed price menu, sometimes the best things you end up eating or drinking are not even listed anywhere on the menu. The dessert was an elaborate version of the root beer float. Plus for the birthday, we received an additional ice cream treat with "Happy Birthday" calligraphed on the plate in chocolate syrup. A nice way to wrap up our evening.

CityZen is located at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, in a somewhat awkward neighborhood, behind government office buildings just south of the Mall/Smithsonian. During the day and in the early evenings, it's actually a simple enough walk from the Smithsonian Metro Station. And I believe CityZen would also have validated our parking had we driven. The hotel is quite upscale and has some nice facilities, including restrooms. The decor of the restaurant is sophisticated and is in line with other restaurants of similar caliber. From my seat I could observe Chef Ziebold and his crew working on the dishes, applying final touches, right before they got shipped to our tables.

My initial reaction after leaving the restaurant was that service was not quite as good as Komi, that the dishes at Marcel's had been tastier on that particular evening, and that the bill was just as high as its peers, and I was actually thinking about going with four instead of five points. But after I came to my senses, I realized that CityZen had actually met our high expectations and that the personal touches in acknowledging our birthday celebration exemplified the interest that the restaurant staff took in treating all of its customers. While not everything was perfect on this visit, rather than dock the restaurant points for a few shortcomings, I would rather acknowledge and reward them for the things they did above my expectations.

  • Visited July 2014
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
5 Thank Markus1995
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

174 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
    110
    35
    16
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    6
Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
Level Contributor
38 reviews
19 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
“Worth every penny”
Reviewed 14 July 2014

I have eaten in many fine dining restaurants, and I have had many tasting menus. This was one of the best. The food is not going to "wow" you with flashy presentations or unusual preparations, but it is perfectly cooked and delicious. The six-course tasting menu will leave you well satisfied as the portion sizes are larger than you might expect. Mostly though, I want to point out the top-notch service !! Every person in the restaurant, the hosts, the servers, the busboys, the sommelier, EVERYONE was friendly, courteous, knowledgeable and very efficient. Yes, it will be expensive, but you will get more than your money's worth. Perfect for any kind of celebration.

  • Visited July 2014
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
1 Thank Patrick B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
northern VA
Level Contributor
135 reviews
103 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 50 helpful votes
“23rd anniv clearly year to celebrate with world class food, wine and warm and impeccable staff”
Reviewed 11 July 2014 via mobile

My husband and I celebrated our anniversary by trying both the 6- course tasting menu with wine pairings for one ($200 ish) and the 4 course dinner option ($90) that included a creative array of choices for appetizer, fish dish, meat dish and dessert. These are creative and cutting edge dishes with superb sauces and presentation. Having never experienced a tasting menu - it felt nearly regal and each bite was superb and surprising - whether it used steak, rhubarb, scallops, sweetbreads, root beer, or berries. The wine pairings were so enjoyable - with a heavy pour - for each of the 6 tasting dishes - so plan on sharing. Given the food was outstanding, the service and staff and seemingly effortless fine tuning by staff made the evening feel like an effortless, constantly moving dance. But staff visits to present and explain dishes and wines were quick - informative - and non intrusive. Further, all staff made us feel welcome , congratulated us and an extra dessert tasting and dessert wine were added on the house. If my financial plan to increase scratch and win earnings pans out - I'll be returning before the next 23 years of marriage.

Visited July 2014
Helpful?
3 Thank constantgardener87
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Jupiter, Florida
Level Contributor
8 reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“Food prepared perfectly”
Reviewed 8 July 2014 via mobile

In DC for a special occasion so I booked citizen well out only knowing it had some good reviews. We're we surprised to be prepared one of the finest dining experiences in our lives. The tasting menu prepared by Eric is all recognizable food executed with creativity and perfection. The sommelier Andy created a perfect tasting to compliment the meal with wines you will only get a very small opportunity to taste but the best part is the passion and kindness they serve you all this wonderful goodness. They have a way of making you feel at home and their genuineness will impress you.

Visited July 2014
Helpful?
1 Thank GrantB15C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Phoenix, AZ
Level Contributor
934 reviews
472 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 435 helpful votes
“CityZen - Delivers Again!”
Reviewed 19 June 2014

This was our second visit to CityZen in the DC Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Unlike our last visit, we were staying across the Mall in NW. Originally, we were a bit sad that we could not secure a table for the early seating, as we were to arrive at IAD (Dulles) at 3:00PM, and a 9:00PM seating seemed so far away. Well, the fates knew what they were doing, as our flight from PHX was delayed by more than 3 hours, so we would have missed the 6:00PM seating. The second seating was perfect.

We did arrive a bit early, and were promptly seated in the small area beyond the bar. A half-bottle of Puligney-Montrachet started off the evening nicely. At 9:00PM, we were promptly seated, and our main server immediately recognized us from our previous visit, 10 mos. earlier. He even recalled where we were seated, and that my wife left to attend an event, but returned to dine with me later in the evening. He even knew that the kitchen had prepared a Barrimundi dish for her! I was impressed, but that seems to be how it is at CityZen.

We opted to go with a mixture of the various course options, passing this time on the Chef's Tasting Menu (my order on the previous visit). CityZen offers two wine pairings and, as we so often do when similar is offered, chose one each - the "Regular," and the "Vintage Pairing." This always proves to be great fun, as one gets to sample two wines per dish (we also save a bit, to try with other dishes). The only drawback is that a four-top can get pretty full of wine glasses, but the four-tops at CityZen are on the larger side, and well-spaced throughout the dining room.

We settled on the Roasted Spring Asparagus & Baby Mache, paired with a 2010 Eric Morgat Saveniéres (Chenin Blanc) and a 2006 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Herrenweg du Turckheim Alsatian Riesling. Both wines were great, but the nod went to the Chenin Blanc - shows that a more expensive wine might necessarily be the best pairing for a particular palate.

The Chilled Maine Lobster Salad, with a 2012 Domaine Michel Briday Rully (Chardonnay) and the 2012 Littorai, Charles Heintz Vineyard Sonona Coast Chardonnay. Both were excellent, and the Littorai was the winner. We still had the Montrachet, but it did not fare as well, as I had imagined - good, but behind both the Rully and the Littorai. Great to have the opportunity to try three wines here.

The Sautéed Chesapeake Bay Soft Shell Crab was next, paired with an interesting treatment (at least for me) of a 2012 Viñedos Ithaca, Odysseus Pedro Ximénez from the Priorat. I know this grape, but see it expressed more often as a dessert wine from Jerez, or in a Madeira. This version was vinted dry. The other wine was the 2010 Château Olivier Bordeaux Pessac-Léognan (Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon). Both were great, as were both the Littori and the Rully. The Montrachet was now gone...

We opted for the Pan Roasted Prime Midwestern Beef Ribeye, served with the 2009 Remellui Reserva Rioja (Tempranillo) and the 1998 Kay Brothers A Very Vineyard Block 6 Shiraz, McLaren Vale. Both were excellent, and we did not try any of our previous wines, as we hoped to do the Cheese Course. The only little glitch in the Ribeye was a tad too much salt in the rub - it was only on one side, and slight, but kept the dish from total perfection. Mention was made of our perception here.

For dessert, we went with the Iced Mint Mocha, paired with the Rare Wine Company's Baltimore Rainwater Madeira (Verdelho/Malmsey) and the Rare Wine Company's "Thomas Jefferson's Reserve Madeira (Sercial/Malmsey). I am usually not a big fan of a "Rainwater-style Madeira, but the "Baltimore" was perfect with the Mocha - as was the "Thomas Jefferson's Reserve."

Alas, even with the best of intentions, those courses, along with two amuse bouches, proved to be too filling for us - no Cheese Course this time, though we had dutifully saved some of the wines in hopes.

The experience was perfect (or would have been, if we only had room for the cheese), with excellent pacing, and spot-on timing. The food service and wine service were at a level that I would expect from a European three-star restaurant.

While not inexpensive by any criterion, the meal was a very good value, and the total experience bordering to absolute perfection.

I also feel that CityZen has one of the best wine lists in the area, and while it might not be the deepest, or contain the greatest number of "trophy wines," it is well-suited for the fare from the kitchen, and the service is impeccable.

  • Visited June 2014
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
1 Thank Bill_Hunt_AZ
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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