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Fahrenheit
Ritz-Carlton Georgetown
3100 South Street NW
Washington, DC
(202) 912-4110

www.ritzcarlton.com

Situated on the site of a former incinerator, the beautifully restored building that houses the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown - replete with the original 130-foot smokestack - is all about heat. There's always a fire in the lobby fireplace - even during the long, hot days of summer; the complimentary candies are Atomic Fireballs; the bar is called Degrees; the signature cocktail is the "Fahrenheit 5 Martini"; and the hotel's formal dining area is called Fahrenheit..

There is absolutely no question that restaurant Fahrenheit is an impressive establishment: The massive brickwork, the huge windows, the tremendously high ceilings bearing the incinerator's original steel apparatus and beams, the highly polished wood floor, and the appropriately "fiery" rugs and upholstery all combine to woo its patrons with a chic and sophisticated decorative gestalt.

The décor isn't the only thing designed to impress. The wine list sets off plenty of oenological bells and whistles - and there are also two dozen excellent selections available by the glass. For that special occasion, you can start things off with a bottle of Roederer Cristal Champagne 2000 ($320.00) or Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut NV ($23.00 glass/$115 bottle).

Then, of course, there are other more moderately priced choices as well. The 2006 Danzante "Delle Venezie" from Italy ($9.00/$35.00) is crisp, light, and goes down mighty easy. And for Chardonnay fans, there's the 2006 Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé ($14.00/$54.00), Napa Valley's 2006 Cakebread ($22.00/$90.00, and Steele's 2006 "Steele Cuvee" $15.00/$50.00.

First-rate red wine choices include: 2006 Chehalem "3 Vineyards" Pinot Noir from Oregon's Willamette Valley ($17.00)/$72.00); 2004 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon ($22.00/$90.00; and the 2005/2006 Ridge "Three Valley's Zinfandel" ($14.00/$52.00). And if you're really feeling flush, there's always the 2005 Nuits-Saint-Georges "Les Boudots" ($235.00) or 2004 Opus One ($240.00) .

Ritz-Carlton dining rooms enjoy well deserved reputations for the quality of their cuisine, and restaurant Fahrenheit is certainly no exception. Whether stopping in for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, the quality of the food is beyond reproach, and its preparation, for the most part, excellent. The service, of course, as you would expect, is impeccable, completely professional, yet with a disarmingly personal touch.

For breakfast, the three-egg omelet ($16.00) is exceptionally light of consistency, fluffy but not underdone. The real winner here, however, is the "Breakfast Tasting" ($25.00), comprised of two eggs any style, choice of pancakes or French toast, choice of bacon, ham, or sausage, and choice of yogurt or seasonal fruit. All the constituents are attractively arranged in bento-style compartments and are generously proportioned.

On the other hand, should you decide to stop in for lunch, the turkey club ($16.00) is a sine qua non. The white bread is grilled rather than toasted, then buttered. Add on cheddar cheese, applewood smoked bacon, lettuce & tomato and splash of mayonnaise, and you have the quintessential club. My wife and I would gladly return to the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown for the joys of one more bite.

Given our experiences at breakfast and lunch, dinner, of course, was highly anticipated - but turned out to be a bit of a letdown. But certainly not the appetizers, which were as attractive to the eye as they were pleasing to the palate.

Rings of perfectly fried golden brown calamari ($15.00), for example, were beautifully arranged on a tomato concasse and embellished with artistic squiggles of a poblano chile aïoli. The rings of squid were inordinately tender, and the aïoli added just the proper spicy counterpoint to the concasse.

The salad of frisée, mâche, and arugula ($13.00) was also an exceptional presentation. The greens were pristinely fresh and their inherent bitterness was nicely counterpoised by slices of poached pear arranged at the four corners. Candied pecans added a perfect textural contrast, and a judiciously applied blood orange dressing proved the perfect culinary catalyst.

Entrées, on the other hand, were somewhat problematic. The diver scallop and jumbo shrimp ($35.00), for instance, were pristinely fresh and quite delicious of their own accord. However, they swam to table in a rather needlessly complex conglomeration of celeriac mousseline and clam & corn chowder, which proved entirely too rich for my palate. This, of course, is a matter of taste& other diners, perhaps, found the dish superb.

On the other hand, there could be absolutely no difference of opinion with regard to the grilled New York strip steak ($38.00), which was incredibly tough and barely approachable, even with the spirited ministrations of a serrated knife. And this was, indeed, disappointing, as the red onion jam and Gorgonzola butter provided inspired accompaniment.

There is no question that I would recommend Fahrenheit to potential diners. I just wish that the dinner entrées were somewhat less self-consciously convoluted.

The Artful Diner
March 2008

The Artful Diner is an independent, freelance food writer.  His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.

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