- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Just when we thought elegant French restaurants were gone, if not forgotten, along comes Adour and contemporary Gallic cuisine with style, substance and elegance. Celebrity chef Alain Ducasse has come to town.

Adour, in the St. Regis Washington, has modernized the hotel’s high-ceilinged dining room, enclosing it front and back with floor-to-ceiling glass wine vaults, and has set it shimmering in silver and white. It’s warm as in intimate, cool as in hip, and it hints of 1930s glamour. There’s no dance floor, but you wouldn’t be surprised to see Fred and Ginger supping at the next table.

The kitchen, which Mr. Ducasse supervises, is under the hand of executive chef Julien Jouhannaud. A treat from the chef starts dinner with a plate of miniature gougeres; an amuse-bouche of tuna tartare laced with bits of onion sparkles.

Corn soup is a perfect starter on an early-autumn night. The pale golden, slightly creamy soup is enhanced with a spoonful of chopped mushrooms and a few minced croutons. The flavor of the corn is assertive and delicious.

An appetizer described as Maine lobster medallions with wild greens and vegetables was not exactly that. The lobster was fresh and tender, but the medallions were chopped lobster meat, and there were more greens than lobster. For $26, the kitchen could be more generous with the lobster.

Four spoon-shaped ricotta gnocchi will delight as a starter or small entree. The gnocchi reflect the color and consistency of clouds and are brought down to earth with a handful of sauteed mushrooms and a slice of crisp prosciutto. The side of mild sauteed lettuce interferes.

Seared foie gras is served with date marmalade and preserved lemons; cucumber marinated hamachi is given a zing with apple mustard; vegetarians can opt for a colorful composition of seasonal vegetables.

Main courses are divided between fish and meats. Cod is gently poached in olive oil and then accompanied by a piperade; striped bass is baked and served with a confit of tomatoes, while halibut is steamed and comes with green vegetables.

Meats are classic dishes: rack of lamb with quinoa and apricot confit; squab with seared foie gras, potatoes and an earthy ragout sauce of game, wine and mushrooms; filet of duck breast with creamy polenta; and veal sweetbreads with Chinese cabbage.

Perhaps the most outstanding meat dish is a combination of beef tenderloin with a small portion of beef short ribs. The filet, delicious enough, competes for the leading role on the plate with the slowly cooked short ribs. Both are served in rich wine sauces. The deep color of the meat is enhanced by a sprinkling of bright orange carrots.

Desserts, made by pastry chef Fabrice Bendano, are outstanding. An unusual bitter grapefruit-and-raspberry-custard dessert combines slices of fresh grapefruit, a cookielike base, creamy custard and a rose-water ice cream that’s sweet and tart. Classic French desserts are given new twists: The baba is made with Armagnac instead of rum; the vacherin goes beyond whipped cream and strawberries to mango marmalade, coconut and passion-fruit emulsion.

Diners are rewarded with a tray of house-made chocolate and raspberry macaroons and a small plate of tiny chocolates to conclude a fine meal.

Mr. Ducasse was born near the Adour River in southwestern France. Adour, the restaurant, with its excellent choice of wines - both in bottles and by the glass - inspired French cuisine, admirable service and elegant ambience - there’s no noisy din to shout above here - flows smoothly into Washington.

RESTAURANT: Adour, 923 16th St. NW, 202/509-8000.

HOURS:Lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner Tuesday through Thursday 5:30 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 10:30 p.m.; breakfast Monday through Friday 6:30 to 10 a.m., Saturday and Sunday 7 a.m. to noon. Light fare is served in the lounge from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

PRICE: Starters $9 to $16 (lunch), $9 to $27 (dinner); entrees $19 to $39 (lunch), $25 to $46 (dinner); lunch salads and sandwiches $15 to $26; desserts $12; five-course tasting menu $95

CREDIT CARDS:All major cards

PARKING:Complimentary valet parking for lunch and dinner

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

METRO:McPherson Square; Farragut North



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