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Adour Restaurant in the St. Regis: A Peerless Marriage of Food, Wine and Luxury

By Jordan Wright
Published: The Georgetowner/Downtowner, October 2009

The St. Regis Hotel in Washington DC, designed to resemble an Italian Renaissance palace, is associated with the posh life of the international jet set and stratospherically successful business traveler. Its gilded portals, marbled floors and orchid-laden tables gently whisper the definition of luxe living.

Most recently the hotel and restaurant have experienced a metamorphosis with the arrival of uber-chef Alain Ducasse’s Adour Restaurant. Interior designer, David Rockwell’s sophisticated blend of Old World elegance and sleek modern cachet have translated the update into a very chic yet laid-back style, greatly enjoyed by the Washington glitterati since its opening last year.

Beef Tenderloin with petits farcis Nicois vegetables at Adour - photo credit Jordan Wright

Beef Tenderloin with petits farcis Nicois vegetables at Adour - photo credit Jordan Wright

Wine Director Ramon Navaez at Adour - Photo credit Jordan Wright

Wine Director Ramon Navaez at Adour - Photo credit Jordan Wright

While the lovely original dark wood beams (think Dumbarton Oaks Music Room), opulent rococo appointments and marbled floors remain intact in this stunning hotel they are partnered with edgier Euro-inspired décor in the dining room which features white leather and chrome dining chairs and Venetian starburst sconces in a striking setting. Linen-draped tables are positioned far enough apart for financiers to discuss oil futures and spacious dining alcoves cosset romantic diners with a perfect spot for a tete-a-tete.

Famed chef, Alain Ducasse, writer of 18 cookbooks, chef at the legendary Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower, owner of 22 restaurants (at one point his restaurants totaled 13 Michelin stars), who toiled in the kitchens of Gaston Lenotre, Roger Verge and Alain Chapel and Michel Guerard, founders of “la cuisine minceur”, the nouvelle cuisine that revolutionized the French culinary world with lighter, more delicate dishes, yes, that Alain Ducasse, is the creator of Adour. The name derives from the river in the town of his birth, Castelsarrazin in southwestern France.

Ducasse has assembled a team of the finest professionals, trained in the French technique, to execute his vision. He has hired an Executive Chef, Julien Jouhannaud who has followed Ducasse in and out of his worldwide restaurant empire and a sommelier, Ramon Narvaez, formerly of Marcel’s in Washington, DC who is not only erudite about wine and spirits, but also charming and eloquent. He is the perfect guide to serve Adour’s connoisseur clientele. And so you might say, all the elements are mis-en-place for a spectacular dining experience.

Adour describes itself as “cuisine designed with wine in mind”, and if a well-turned phrase is required to describe what most gourmands take for granted, then, surely this is it. All dishes are conceived along with the sommelier to be a complement to the wine.

Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose 2008 at Adour - photo credit Jordan Wright

Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose 2008 at Adour - photo credit Jordan Wright

There are over 700 wines, housed in floor to ceiling wine vaults, with 20 selections offered by the glass to enhance each dish. In addition, many of the wines can be ordered by the half or full decanter, affording guests the opportunity to perfectly pair a different wine for each course.
Preparing the baba au Armagnac  - credit Jordan Wright

Preparing the baba au Armagnac - credit Jordan Wright

Before the making our dinner selections our sommelier, Ramon, asked us about our wine preferences and when we mentioned Burgundy, his face lit up and we could see that he was eager to introduce us to some of his favorites from the region.

The mid-September evening I dined there showcased something called an Anniversary Celebration Tasting Menu, celebrating the restaurant’s first year and although fall had certainly arrived the first course was Adour’s Tomato and Watermelon Gazpacho served with fresh almonds and croutons. It seemed a bit off balance with the chill already in the air but nonetheless it was lovely and refreshing, if not out of season. Monsieur Ducasse has personally created a comely and well-balanced champagne to complement his cuisine and on this night it was paired with the chilled soup in an elegant duet.

A Multicolor Summer Vegetable Composition as an amuse bouche was presented as a reinvented Waldorf salad with celeriac, raisins and apples in a light lemony mayonnaise…a blend of summer and fall.

For a touch of extravagance succulent lobster pieces were perched atop a ring of Israeli cous cous and lifted by a tangle of spring mix salad dressed with lobster coral vinaigrette.

The baked John Dory Riviera style at Adour - photo credit Jordan Wright

The baked John Dory Riviera style at Adour - photo credit Jordan Wright

An exquisite and delicate John Dory Riviera-style with its little tomatoes, basil, zucchini and Taggiasche olives, whose perfect rendering would necessitate a re-examination of every previous approach to this fish, echoed the Cote D’Azur in summer. Here an exquisitely floral Xavier Monnot Limozin 2006 Meursault, was well chosen to accompany it. And in this way I came to believe it was still summer as the flavors of the French kitchen merged with the golden light pouring through the grand Palladian windows bathing the dining room in an end-of-day honey glow.

But before I could settle in with reveries of Gallic holidays past, Braised Halibut arrived with tiny clams, spring onion and parsley jus to convince a non-fisheater at the table to excise the memory of any fish he had ever met and never liked. With stealth and alacrity I managed a taste of this yummy dish.

As the menu shifted to heartier fare we explored the reds. A perfectly prepared Roasted Veal Rack and golden chanterelles became complete matched with a beautifully expressive 2005 Beaune 1er Cru Toussaints from Xavier Monnot to complement the veal. It dovetailed as well with a Black Angus Tenderloin sporting a shallot and tarragon reduction and served with petits farcis Nicois vegetables…a cute carved-out and filled tomato, onion, eggplant and yellow pepper…the tiny veggies, a labor of culinary love.

From a selection of six alluring desserts we chose a Hazelnut Souffle that was paired with an aristocratic madeira from the Rare Wine Company’s Historic Series, New York Malmsey Special Reserve, and Ducasse’s signature Baba soaked in Armagnac with Crème Chantilly and paired with a 2000 Sole e Elena Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico. You might drop in just for this.

As if this sumptuous meal needed any further embellishment, Pastry Chef, Fabrice’s famous macaroons, crisp filled disks of both raspberry and chocolate accompanied meltingly smooth house-made truffles of gianduja and caramel. The macaroon fillings change with the seasons and can be ordered and boxed to go for a gift, well, you could pretend they were a gift…

Macaroons, truffles and hazelnut souffle at Adour - credit Jordan Wright

Macaroons, truffles and hazelnut souffle at Adour - credit Jordan Wright

When you go, and you must, look for the new fall menu. Roasted Lobster with butter beans and espelette pepper, Halibut Meuniere with salsify, walnuts and grapes in Arbois wine sauce and Squab Breast and Foie Gras with chartreuse Savoy cabbage are a just a few of the temptations beckoning you.

Adour Restaurant
The St. Regis Hotel Washington DC
923 16th and K Streets, NW
Washington, DC 20006
202 509-8000

For questions or comments on this story contact [email protected]

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