Centrolina

For Marnay’s birthday celebration, we made reservations at Chef Amy Brandwein’s Centrolina, located in CityCenter DC.  We were 15 minutes late for our 8:00pm reservation—our fault, although we did call ahead to let them know.  However, we were not seated until 8:35pm—their fault.  They acknowledged it and made up for it, though, with a gratis cheese plate.  Not the first time that I have seen this technique in a restaurant and I think it works really well to engender good will.

Centrolina gratis cheese plate

Centrolina (pronunciation: “Chen-tro-leena”) specializes in housemade pasta dishes, which we were most excited about.  We ordered one small plate, one large plate and two pastas.  The melone with cucumber, tomato and extra virgin olive oil was refreshing on a hot day, although it would have been better if the salt and pepper was applied evenly.  The few bites I tried with salt and pepper were markedly better than the ones without.

Centrolina melone appetizer

The branzino was a standout, with its crispy exterior.  The crisp skin and tender flesh went well with the cool butter beans and yogurt sauce it was resting on.  We would get this dish again.

Centrolina branzino

Centrolina needs to hold on to the server we had.  She was in charge of the entire room and extremely knowledgeable about the menu.  She gave us our space but also understood when we needed some help.    Marnay’s Mom loves Prosecco, although it was not on the menu by the glass.  Instead, the server steered her towards a glass of Franciacorta, a sparkling white from Lombardy made using the champagne method.  That means that it undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle, as opposed to a steel tank like Prosecco.

As mentioned early, we were excited about the pasta dishes.  My take is that they were mostly good, although a bit of a mixed bag.  The fusilli with tomato, fennel sausage and calamari was delicious, the salty sausage and the chewy calamari going particularly well with the fusilli.  The neri, or squid ink pasta, with tuna crudo and spicy nonnata di pesce loaded with Calabrian chiles was good, but also could have benefited from more salt.  I have had a similar dish at Osteria Morini in the Navy Yard which was considerably better.

Centrolina fusilli and neri pasta dishes

It’s worth noting that the fusilli was the only dried pasta on the menu.  I could taste the difference, in favor of the dried pasta.  It held its chew and soaked up more sauce than the slippery fresh squid ink pasta.

We tipped off our server that it was Marnay’s birthday, so the pudding-like budino we shared for dessert came with a candle on top.  Centrolina is a solid restaurant with good, but not amazing food.  It is worth a trip if you are in the area.

Centrolina birthday cake

Best Bite
Paul: Fusilli pasta
Marnay: Branzino

Address
Centrolina: 974 Palmer Alley NW, Washington, DC 20001
Closest Metro: Metro Center

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Momofuku CCDC

On a Tuesday night we made reservations at one of DC’s most popular new restaurants, Momofuku CCDC.  This is the DC offshoot of David Chang’s extremely successful Momofuku empire.  The restaurant offers limited reservations and we made ours’ a month out.

The space is rather bare, with concrete floors and not much on the walls.  There is a giant peach projected above the bar, which is a nice touch.  The curved wooden seats do not even have backs.  My first impression was that this does not seem like a restaurant where guests are expected to linger.  While we reviewed the food menu, we started off with some drinks.  I got the Seven Spice Sour, which had some serious heat.  It consisted of sake, yuzu, lime and shichimi, that ubiquitous reddish-orange spice found at Japanese restaurants.  Marnay got a Grenache rose from Provence, the birthplace of rose.

Momofuku DC cocktails

Our food was coursed out, but it came fast.  The first two dishes to arrive were the Shiitake Buns with hoisin, scallion and cucumber and the Rockfish crudo with yuzu, bonji and sliced apples. The shiitake buns tasted like they were filled with crispy bacon. It was incredible what they did with the mushrooms…it was pure magic.

Momofuku DC Shiitake Buns and Rockfish Crudo

There was no indication on the menu that the Rockfish would be raw until the server told us after we ordered.  Not a problem, but a little warning on the menu would be nice.  The paper thin slices of raw fish came with bonji sauce, a David Chang trademarked creation similar to soy sauce.

Very soon after these two dishes left the table, the famous Momofuku Ramen arrived.  It is a pork based soup with sliced pork belly, pulled pork shoulder and a beautiful poached egg floating in the middle.  Piercing the egg provides even more delicious richness to the broth.   The bowl was substantial and even though we shared it, we were not able to finish.

Momofuku DC Ramen

Out of all the reasons to come to Momofuku CCDC, we were most excited to try dessert from Milk Bar.  Trying their famous Cereal Milk ice cream is almost a cultural experience and we were looking forward to it.  Honestly, though…we were a bit disappointed.  I guess it tasted like milk-flavored soft-serve, but we thought there would be a lot more flavor.  Same goes for the Compost Cookie that we ordered.  It was good enough, but we were expecting great.  Momufuku CCDC is not about to give Osteria Morini a run for its money as best restaurant for dessert in DC.

Milk Bar Cereal Milk ice cream

Outside of Milk Bar, Momofuku CCDC is very good.  I think that the next time we go we will just get dessert from RareSweets.  Or, if we’re feeling really adventurous, we will go to the bar at DBGB and order the Baked Alaska.

Best Bite
Paul: Shiitake Buns
Marnay: Momofuku Ramen

Address
Momofuku CCDC: 1090 I St, NW Washington, DC 20001
Closest Metro: Metro Center