Tuesday, May 25, 2004

DINING: Entering the Mandarin World

Oculus readers may remember a few posts on the new Mandarin Oriental hotel located in Southwest Washington. Since its opening in March, I've been curious as to how long it would take the hotel, which is aiming to secure a coveted five-star rating (something no hotel in the capital can claim), to register on the social radar screen of the average Washingtonian.

The conventional wisdom for the Mandarin's eventual success goes something like this: Although the hotel is located in the middle of nowhere (wedged between a graffiti-scarred railroad trestle and the approach to the 14th Street Bridge), development along the Southwest Waterfront will make the hotel an anchor, drawing people to a deserted part of the central city.

And the hotel's Cafe Mozu got a badly needed dose of free advertisement on Sunday in a Tom Sietsema food review in The Washington Post.

From The Washington Post:
To reach my table at Cafe Mozu, I cross a lobby with enough polished marble to build a monument, then a long hallway lined with wide rocking chairs and pillow-strewn banquettes. The passage is impressive, and so is what follows: an airy, high-ceilinged room set off with a giant chrome-and-walnut grid and framing an uncommon Washington vista of both water and memorials. "Good evening," the hostess practically purrs as she guides me to a chair facing a floor-to-ceiling window. Before I see a morsel of food at Cafe Mozu, my senses are awakened, my interest piqued.

Sietsema gave Cafe Mozu two stars.

Not all agree with Sietsema's reading of the place ...

From the washingtonpost.com Cafe Mozu page:
Posted by georgetowngourmet on May 23, 2004
I just read Tom's review which reads like three stars but then he gives it only two. Must be a typo! I've been to Mozu a couple times now and it has always been amazing. I certainly agree with Tom on that Mozu has the most beautiful Bento box in town - it's also a bargain! However, I don't know what desserts Tom tasted - mine were yummy. Food is delicious, service personable and efficient, the view georgious - what do you want more? Definitely my new favorite place.

Shocking Chardonnay
Posted by Louise Glenn on May 07, 2004
We were going out for a simple pre-theater dinner for four. The review said the prices were moderate. We were expecting about $200 for the four of us. The bill came to $341! We were shocked. Part of the problem - a glass of Chardonnay was $22. Perhaps we should have asked, but when you order a house Chardonnay, is that what you expect? I don't. The food was good, but the portions were very small. Service was excellent.

So the combination of its location, the price and the relatively luke warm/favorable reviews, it seems that the Mandarin's Cafe Mozu has some maturing to do if its host hotel wants to garner a five-star rating.

You may remember me saying that the hotel's roofline reminds me of the Willard. Let me amend that slightly. While the hotel's Mansard-like roofline is similar to the Willard, it looks like it would be better placed in Orlando.


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