Big news, guys: Marcel’s is serving brunch. Marcel’s is the fancy pants Pennsylvania Avenue restaurant from the well-respected Belgian chef, Robert Wiedmaier.
Until I arrived for brunch, I’d actually never stepped foot inside Marcel’s. The traditional, white-table French restaurant always seemed a bit too stuffy for me. While I have no qualms about spending a pretty penny on a meal—or anything for that matter—I never had a desire to dine at Marcel’s. That said, I quite enjoy Brasserie Beck and Mussel Bar and I do support the esteemed Belgian chef.
So I arrived on a cold wintry day to a quiet, just-opened Marcel’s with my friend Emily. We were seated immediately by a friendly waiter. However, by the end of the meal, I was totally unclear who our waiter actually was because of the sheer number of wait staff assisting in the process.
We began with black coffees, sparkling waters, and mimosas—as is customary with yours truly. The waiter walked us through the menu, which is a three-course dining experience for $65, alcohol excluded. This brunch was complimentary—so the mimosas were, too.
We began with seafood courses for the appetizer: the smoked salmon carpaccio with red onion, creme fraiche, and frisee for Emily and the crab cake for me. The salmon carpaccio was fresh, light, and memorable—despite it being served in a traditional style.
My crab cake was phenomenal: the cashew-crusted jumbo lump crab was curry flavored and incredibly moist—made with a mayonnaise and curry base. It was sprinkled with black sesame seeds and served with a Nappa cabbage slaw. The curry and the sesame added a nice flavor to the otherwise traditional preparation of the crab cake.
My one qualm with the brunch at Marcel’s is the lack of actual brunch options. For the first course, there was not one brunch option—nary an egg or carb in sight. For the second, you could select Aunt Leila’s pancakes, with fresh berries and powdered sugar, of the poached farm egg with duck prosciutto. While both options sounded delightful, we declined to order either.
For our second courses, we again selected savory dishes more apropos for lunch or dinner. For Emily, the pan-crisped rock bass, served with a saffron risotto in a red wine reduction. “This is amazing,” she said between bites. “You absolutely have to try it.” You don’t have to tell me twice—and she was right: the dish was perfectly prepared and rich in flavor, while light overall.
Meanwhile, I opted to order the chicken, as the waiter informed me it was at one point quite famous. The farmhouse roasted chicken was, again, prepared in the traditional way the French roast chicken—noticing a trend here? It was topped with Tarragon Jus and served with Gruyere cheese potato cakes, which were hearty and cheesy and just yummy. The dish also included a melange of vegetables, and I liked the roasted skinny carrots the best.
The desserts were stunning and delicious—these old school dining establishments always know how to conclude meals with a wow. Emily chose the Earl Grey créme brûlée, which was served with tea meringues, thyme sauce and a lemongrass chantilly. It was beautifully presented and the impressive array of flavors complemented one another perfectly. It was a light, tart, lemon-forward dessert that was certainly memorable.
My dessert was gilded and delectable—a very dense, gold-flaked masterpiece. The flourless Valrhona chocolate cake was topped with caramel ganache, and served with a chocolate raspberry “mousse bomb” and Bailey’s Irish ice cream. I’ll be returning to dine at Marcel’s—if only to conclude a meal with this heavenly, dense chocolate dessert.
The Bitches say: A-. The caliber of cuisine and service at Marcel’s is top notch, we just wish there was a bit more brunch, and maybe a deal on the cocktails.
Marcel’s by Robert Weidmaier
2401 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037
Marcel’s serves brunch Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for $65 per adult guest and $28 for the little ones.