all words and photos: Marie Formica
The downtown familiar St. Regis Hotel redesigned and relaunched their restaurant as Decanter earlier this month. Chef Sébastien Rondier, drawing on a childhood flavor palette from the French Riviera and Basque country, designed a new Mediterranean-influenced menu for guests and DC-elite, alike.
Decanter’s redesign emphasizes light, open space, with arched windows and white leather furniture. Mod-style accents like the galaxy wall chandeliers and the angular salt and pepper shakers give a playful impression.
It’s inviting, but you’ll hardly forget where you are- the original painted 1920s wood ceiling is a glance above you, and two glass coolers on either side of the dining room hold the restaurant’s $450,000 wine inventory. So with a moderately priced menu, you’ll feel like a million bucks for less than .0001% of that amount.
Chef Rondier is friendly and relatable, yet polished. An example: he speaks eloquently in a refined, thick French accent and also has all nine seasons of Seinfeld. Rondier’s dishes reflect those qualities. He and his team created a family-table-style experience for Decanter using knockout Med comfort food ($55/person for a table of you and your eight closest friends / family).
The garlic burrata with fresh herbs is not to miss; an irresistible cheese in the mozzarella family, the creamy burrata is satisfying and light topped with green onions, garlic and oil and plunked on toasty, in-house created bread points.
The lamb shank flatbread, topped with lamb (of course) humbolt fog cheese and greenery is another easy, classically satisfying bit for the table. The marinated hamachi niçoise, served with half a tiny quail egg, a cucumber slice, waited under a pile of vegetables (roasted red pepper, sliver of lemon, slice of radish). A crunchy, braised-and-charred Spanish style octopus dish, served with chickpea puree, olive oil and chermoula sauce evoked a dish at a seaside inn.
The whole braised rockfish “riviera” was served as such, one of the best dishes of the night, tied with the Amish baby lamb shoulder with rosemary. It’s really hard to go wrong with a tender whitefish cut tableside, served with Meyer lemon slices (it’s hard to go wrong serving a ten-hour braised lamb shoulder, for that matter).
To polish off dinner, they served mini savory/sweet cupcakes (flavors like basil and goat cheese intersect with apple and lemon), a traditional tarte tardin and the stand-out dessert of the night, a chill strawberry soup over vanilla mascarpone ice cream.
If you’ve got a few minutes to spare before your dinner reservation (I know you made one after reading our review), also check out the redesigned bar. They’re serving pre-Prohibition cocktails with just the right punch. They have all those classic 1920s flavors and a lot of that jumbo artisanal ice you’ve been hearing so much about.
It’s a good deal to feel snazzy: Imagine yourself holding a sidecar, french seventy-five or a bloody mary (invented at this hotel in 1934, NBD). You’re sitting in a comfy armchair near the fireplace, under a chandelier literally piled with crystals. Now, go live that dream for $16.
Decanter, in the St. Regis Hotel, is located at 923 16th and K Streets, N.W.