Sometimes it feels like "fine dining" is a dirty word in D.C., with even the fanciest restaurants scaling down prices, shirking dress codes or making things more casual.
Marcel's has no interest in going that route.
"I'm not going to let fine dining die in the nation's capital," says chef and owner Robert Wiedmaier. The chef scoffs at the idea that there's any reason Washington diners should be wary of fine dining, even if he acknowledges most of the places still providing the experience are in the city's hotels. But Marcel's has never shirked away from its classical French roots, and it now has a $350,000 makeover to make sure its appearance matches its ambition.
Wiedmaier started by revamping the lounge about a year ago, and has since moved on to the dining room, flatware and silverware, dishes, lighting and glassware. The restaurant's menu remains the same.
Wiedmaier said he wanted to retain the warmth of Marcel's previous look, while upgrading the place's appearance to be more elegant, contemporary and classy. White tablecloths remain, but there is new carpet (which almost has a wood-like texture), eye-catching metal chandeliers, new curtains and elegant silverware made of titanium. "If you walk into any Michelin 3 Star restaurant, that's what I wanted it to feel like, he said.
Marcel's has been open for sixteen years, and much of its staff remains the same since it opened (it's the chef's belief that a restaurant's staff rather than its appearance is what determines whether people see it as stuffy, and he says Marcel's never treats people that way). The restaurant still has an open kitchen and familiar touches, like the coveted semi-private Table 28. Wiedmaier's wife Polly collaborated with an interior designer, Charles Craig, rather than a restaurant architect on the space. About 10 seats were removed from the dining room to make way for bigger, comfortable leather chairs (there are now 88 seats, and he likes to serve no more than 130 covers each night).