Power dining near the White House
Since its opening in 1926, The St. Regis Washington, D.C. has served presidents, royalty and A-listers alike. Today, its restaurant, Decanter at St. Regis, and the accompanying St. Regis Bar are power spots for lobbyists, political players on both sides of the table and well-heeled diners from all over the world.
In contrast to the hotel’s “Gilded Age glam” vibe, Decanter is decidedly modern, with muted pearl-colored leather chairs, cushy rounded alcove-style booths with oversized mirror backdrops and shiny silver and gold accents. There’s nary a white tablecloth in sight. Marvel at the hand-blown glass-flecked spheres suspended by bronze cables, or the glass-encased, temperature-controlled wine vaults at each end of the room. The only sign you’re in a historic hotel is the ornate landmarked ceiling in the main dining room.
Decanter is more than just a restaurant — it is also the creative vision of its executive chef, Sébastien Rondier, wooed there from his previous post at the hotel’s Alain Ducasse restaurant, Adour. Rondier crafted a Mediterranean-influenced menu that touches on flavors from the South of France, Spain, Turkey and Italy. Many dishes were inspired by childhood recipes and his culinary beginnings in Saint-Jean-de-Luz in France’s Basque country as well as the French Riviera.
The Menu and Wine
Decanter’s menu is seasonally inspired and certainly qualifies as fine dining, but it never feels stuffy. Many dishes include notes about their origin; a tomato jam on a recent lunch flatbread was inspired by Rondier’s grandmother’s recipe. At dinner, highlights include a sustainable catch of the day for two, served “Riviera” style with braised fennel, Meyer lemon and scallions; and a signature calamari burger with capers, piquillo peppers and red onion that’s ubiquitous in the Mediterranean. For an indulgent dish, order the venison and foie gras burger topped with quince chutney and black truffles. The wine list highlights new Mediterranean regions as well as classics from France and California, plus a robust list of champagnes, thanks to a partnership with Dom Pérignon.
If you want a power breakfast, meet over more traditional fare, like a New York strip loin and sunnyside-up eggs or a half-smoked and caramelized corned beef hash cooked a la plancha (a cast-iron griddle) with a fried egg and hollandaise sauce.
The Signature Sips
The St. Regis Bar is known for its pre-Prohibition and classic cocktails expertly mixed by director of beverage and mixology Orcun Turkay, but there’s one sip you simply can’t miss. Ask for a Bloody Mary, a St. Regis original. Once called the Red Snapper because the hotel deemed the title “Bloody Mary” too inappropriate, this drink was perfected at The St. Regis New York’s King Cole Bar in 1934, and now every hotel offers up a signature variety. The D.C. restaurant’s take on it is called the Capital Mary, a spicy version (coriander, chili flakes, garlic, horseradish, gin, tomato, lemon and clam juices, Tabasco, Worcestershire, Old Bay seasoning) that’s garnished with oyster crackers and a tail-on shrimp.
We’d also suggest the charcoal-aged boulevardier, a special blend of Knob Creek made exclusively for St. Regis that has been barrel aged with organic charcoal, Campari, vermouth and orange.
The Best Seats in the House
There are two best seats in the house. For dinner, the semi-private dining area in the rear of Decanter features a sleek dark wood table for up to 12. VIPs are shielded from view by the glass-encased wine wall, making it the perfect spot for off-the-record meetings. Rondier will serve your meal family-style, even going so far as to carve meats tableside.
In the bar, request the “General’s Booth,” a prime corner seat that lets you see the entire bar as well as into the restaurant and hotel proper. Named for longtime St. Regis resident General John J. Pershing, who helped lead America to victory in World War I, the booth features a rotating menu of dishes paired with classic cocktails. You’ll feel like a Washington insider with this special treatment.