Fwd: Senses DC / Chi-Cha Lounge

Rohit Khare (rohit@uci.edu)
Fri, 12 Nov 1999 13:39:14 -0800

So, some subset of FoRKs actually made it to both little landmarks
this week. The Chi-Cha lounge was as funky and smoky as advertised.
The signature cocktail was a red, cinnamony concoction with a
distinct note of apple pie, as well as a rosy, fruity,
cotton-candy-machine-exhaust-esque hookah. Hint: don't touch the
white-hot coal sitting on the the top of the glass neck.

As for Sen5es (yes, that's how it's advertised) -- www.senses.ca --
I made it there for lunch and again the same evening for dinner. At
lunch, our party was running late, so I called ahead and they were
quite good about taking down names of the others even without a
reservation. I ordered a cocoa, twice, and eventually received a
glass of Coke before I could reiterate I wanted the hot stuff. That
took a surprisingly long time to fulfill, -- perhaps they were out
back microwaving the coke? -- so we doubled our order to two cups :-)
As it was, it was well worth it. Though, in return, a new FoRK in our
partyoffered a recommendation for the best chocolate chaud in Paris.
His hot chocolate spot was:

Cafe Deux Magots
Boulevard St. Germain at Rue Napoleon

Note how conveniently the above was tagged in two languages for
future web search engines :-) Continuing, I'll leave the comments
about the meal to sprinkle into the review below. My point was that I
lost that valuable little slip of paper; only to find that when I
returned in the evening, Gi recognized me and asked if I had left
some scrap behind. I informed him of its vital contents, and with a
twinkle, it rematerialized! He had recognized the address as a mark
of good taste :-)

On the other hand, I was so captivated by that little bit of
thoughtfulness, I left my platinum card behind... I recognized this
by 1:30 AM after Declan McCullagh's most excellent salon, whence I
went ahead and canceled the card, though I was fairly sure it was in
good hands there.

By 3 AM Friday, I went back to the hotel and called AmEx back to give
them my address where I'd be staying in Santa Rosa this weekend for a
Saturday delivery by express mail (as I had been promised was
possible initially after slogging through too many phone trees).
Hint: I'm not going to get a card until I return to Irvine on
Tuesday. This is pretty sad for something I'm not supposed to leave
home without. First, I can't get a new number. Even though I've
authenticated myself up the wazoo to cancel the damn thing, they
can't give me my new number until I physically take possession of
that silly little advertising token. Second, they "can't print a new
one on Friday and make the Airborne deadline" as though they've never
done any capacity planning on lost-card-replacement rates and are
trying to blame the messenger. Third, they try to convince me to go
to an AmEx office, which turns out to be impossible on their banker's
hours. Here I am, the absolutely prototypical cardholder, stuck in
DC, with a morning meeting in College Park, rushing to BWI,
connecting in Denver, arriving in SFO at 7:30 and off to another
remote meeting, and they expect me to be at their DC office after 10
or in their SF office before 5:30. Don't even get me started on how
long it took to convince them that the Baltimore office was nowhere
near BWI... [Dan, tell me what the Centurion folks think of this

Otherwise, I'll say merely that Grillfish was also good -- with a
spectacular brownie sundae and at-ti-tude! -- and little note
Blackie's House of Beef ...

WashPost Review follows --


>Senses (formerly Xavier & Bruno Patisserie Cafe)
>3206 Grace St. NW, Washington
>PHONE 202/342-9083
>Review by Phyllis Richman
>So quiet, so gentle, so civilized. Patisserie Cafe Didier has been
>transformed under new owners into a pastry shop surrounded by a
>full-blown restaurant. It's now called Senses, and the place makes
>you believe it's possible to lead a life of calm.

White, pure -- quite a beacon of calm after the cabbie @!%$s up the
directions because no one's ever heard of Grace St. Both parties had
this problem. Remember to use the Wisconsin Avenue coordinates.

>On tiny Grace Street, a few steps off Wisconsin Avenue below the
>canal, Senses feels like a discovery every time you return. You
>expect a bell will jingle when you open the door and a beautiful
>parchment-skinned elderly woman in a time-faded cashmere cardigan
>will greet you in a voice that echoes the bell. Her accent will be

Actually, there was nothing feminine about it, but I'm a literal guy.
The only exception was a stunningly tall, thin black woman who waited
on us -- her waist was only centimeters wider than my thigh, I

>Instead of a bell, classical music, maybe opera, is what you hear
>when you open the door.

Andrea Bocelli, in fact, who one of my dining companions thought
rather overplayed these days. I even hear it at the Gypsy Den at the
anti-Mall in OC. And the same CD was in use eight hours later for

>And the person who greets you is youngish. The accent, however, is
>French. And the room really does have the subtle loveliness you
>might have expected. The walls are the shade of whipped cream, with
>bright splashes of just a few abstract watercolors. The carpet looks
>like sand combed into geometric designs.

didn't notice.

> On table, white butcher paper protects the cloth in the French manner;

Excellent for working meetings. Adam has several of my 'tablecloth
rants' in the file cabinet...

>each is set with a small silvery lamp under a beaded shade and a
>pair of trim silver salt and peppers.

Shakers, nice pylons. Beaded shade: a little Pottery Barn-ish. Still, clean.

>Your eye is drawn to the glass-fronted pastry case; that, after all,
>is center stage.

Yes; I believe that after lunch I called Jim over so we could "go
watch the topless review under the glass", since it's so clearly the
spotlighted star of the show...

> Fruit tarts are piled with the plumpest berries in precarious
>hillocks, glazed with reduced juices rather than commercial gels.
>Chocolate tortes are so dark and glistening, you expect they could
>leave you with a caffeine high.

Jim will kill me when he finds out the chocolate mousse parfait
topped with gold leaf we had to drop was a *raspberry* chocolate

>The decorations are as precise as a jewel cutter's. And the cookies
>- an entire case of them - look worthy of the world's finest teas or
>sherries. These are the work of Bruno Feldeisen, who gained some
>fame as pastry chef at New York's Four Seasons Hotel.
>The rest of the menu is orchestrated by Xavier Deshayes, a Canadian
>chef who is learning Washington's ways. His menu is smal - about
>eight entrees at dinner, and only soups or salads as appetizers. He
>has also devised menus for breakfast, brunch, lunch and tea. A quiet
>interlude is now a possibility at any time of day and into the


>This is a restaurant born for brunch. Georgetown is at its quietest
>on Sundays, and Senses lulls you into tranquillity. The cooking is
>soft and sweet, foods of delicate color and gentle texture. The
>yolks in the eggs Benedict flow slowly under your fork, the
>hollandaise is lemony and nearly disappears on your tongue and
>smoked salmon provides a calmer base than Canadian bacon. The
>English muffin carries the theme too far - it should be crisply
>toasted rather than softly pale -

Yes! Crisp, crisp, crisp. Shoreham room service over breakfast with
Marshall Rose definitely suffered the same fate -- though they ably
recovered by including a separate basket of toasted muffin halves to
reconstruct the dish with...

>but all conspires to make this inevitably rich dish taste as light
>as morning sunshine. The breakfast and brunch menus sometimes offer
>hazelnut-ricotta or lemon-souffle pancakes, and French toast that's
>a celebration, an eggy brioche in a flowery tart-sweet orange sauce.


>The bread basket is particularly suited to brunch, with its nutty
>fruited tea breads.

I couldn't tell you. Jim ate all the carrot bread before I even got there :-)

>The first courses at brunch are particularly refreshing, from diced
>fruit salad steeped in orange juice, to gazpacho, to a wonderful
>green salad, dressed with olive oil emulsion and accompanied by a
>drift of white house-made cheese. (At dinner a Caesar salad with
>freshly crisped croutons and shards of baked Parmesan reaffirms that
>this chef understands what makes a salad great.) As of late last
>month, Senses was still awaiting its liquor license, but offered
>punches of watermelon or raspberry as a pretty alternative.
>Brunch can include a couple of rude awakenings: Omelets can be
>overcooked and tough, nothing a Frenchman would want to own up to.
>And fried potatoes with mushrooms are greasy, and their texture
>suggests precooking. Most surprising, a warm chocolate cake is gummy
>and tastes far too much of sugar.
>Too much - that's a recurrent problem, especially at lunch and
>dinner. Lamb chops with a fetching mustard tang and homey spaetzle
>are buried in sauce and vegetable garnishes. A chicken breast
>swamped by vegetables is smothered in crab that tastes as if it
>belong on another plate. Salmon, on the other hand, shines on its
>own, with just a thin veneer of herb paste and a bed of creamy
>skin-on mashed potatoes; its red wine sauce is but not intrusive.

Actually, they had with a saffron reduction sauce that day, for two
satisfied patrons that day.

> Miniature ravioli are filled with a dab of earthy cheese and
>swabbed with a lovely pale green sauce of English peas. A touch of
>vanilla serves as a reminder of sweetness without any actual sugar;
>it's fashionable, but unnecessary. Risottos - which are the mainstay
>at lunch and also offered at dinner - are comforting and creamy,
>with just the right bite to each grain of rice.

The wild mushroom risotto -- with a full bench of varietals --
delivered in exactly this manner. It wasn't the creamy, dreamy stuff
of Italian childhood (or so I hear), but left lots of room for the
sharp tang of the morels &c over still-defined rice grains.

>The nicest dish I tried at dinner, though, was one night's simple
>salmon-and-corn chowder, with no extraneous flavors but a crunch of
>near-raw, very fresh corn kernels.

The carrot soup was a little too sweet-creamy. May just be the nature
of the dish, though, when it's taken out of the firey tropics back to

>The sleeper on Senses' menu is at lunch. The salmon burger is a
>dazzler. It's juicy and fresh, bound with a bit of tofu (don't
>flinch; it works) and piled on a buttery toasted brioche roll with a
>rich brown tangle of fried onions and mushrooms. This is no ascetic
>health-food sandwich. The bread soaks up those aromatic pan juices,
>and the whole thing tastes as succulent as foie gras. The house-made
>potato chips and onion rings alongside seem as light as crudites.

That was my order, and the description is correct, though it left me
underwhelmed. The onions and mushrooms came across as sweet, and the
fish didn't counterpunch. It wasn't as crispy as I would have
thought. And the major issue was a tiny, tiny flaw in presentation:
the bun was placed over excess drizzled dressing from the salad part
-- making it more like a Jack-in-the-Box experience than a civilized
one ("if it doesn't get all over the place, it doesn't belong in your
face" :-)

Still, a 7 on the taste scale. I was happier, though, with the wild
mushroom quiche from the appetizer menu -- though it could have
qualified as an entree in its own right.

>There's no passing by the pastry case unscathed. Though the lemon
>meringue tart could use a lot more lemon and a lot less sugar, a
>chocolate-covered dome is exquisitely creamy, bittersweet and potent
>with coffee flavor.

The chocomammary is extremely highly recommended. Period.

> Tarts of pecans or macadamias are buttery, especially if you look
>for the well-toasted ones. The fruit tarts are gems through and

Yes, though I preferred the pear frangipane, and Jim the raspberry.

>What lingers most after a meal at Senses, though, is the sense of
>its niceness. This is a warm and personal restaurant where the
>invitation to return seems as genuine as your inclination to do so.

Nice, in this town, though is a mark of question. I had a great time,
and would definitely return even without Mr. Chicago's underworld
influence over my dining budget. But it didn't get packed, especially
so at night, so I hope its financials and waitstaff coordination
catch up with the precision of its pastries soon enough...

>HOURSTue -Sat 7:30am- 7:30pm
>Sun 8:00am- 6:00pm