Gerard Pangaud brought the two stars he earned in France from the Michelin Guide to Washington. He also brought along his very Parisian sense of insularity, which means he does little to promote himself or his restaurant. So patrons who celebrate a special occasion by enjoying the $85-a-person tasting menu at dinner are often surprised to learn that similarly excellent cuisine can be had in a three-course lunch for $29.50 Monday through Friday. It is the best fine-dining value in the metro area.
The dishes on Pangaud's fixed-price lunch reflect the work of a great chef at the top of his form. It offers a choice between two dishes at each course and is composed anew every two weeks.
Memorable dishes on the fixed-price lunch menu have included a duck terrine with a walnut-size circle of foie gras at its center; a curried eggplant soup textured with slivers of caramelized eggplant; stewed lamb with bulb fennel and baby figs; and a veal chop braised with assorted dried fruits. A chef of Pangaud's stature can make such bargain cuts as veal cheeks and oxtail sing, but it is all the more impressive when he finds a way to make such luxuries as foie gras and veal chops affordable on a $29.50 menu.
A recent fixed-price lunch at Gerard's Place began with an aspic-bound terrine of odd cuts from a suckling pig whose chops and legs had been used for one of the featured courses on the à la carte menu. The combination of the cool terrine and its accompanying salad of warm young leeks was sensational. The main course was an impeccably cooked portion of cod that separated into glistening flakes at the touch of the fork. The natural sweetness of the fish was contrasted by the pleasant bitterness of sautéed endives and matched by the subtle sweetness of a head of miniature romaine lettuce--no larger than a woman's thumb--braised with a dice of aromatic vegetables. For dessert, a classic that dates back to Escoffier's Le Guide Culinaire--a poached pear with house-made vanilla ice cream and warm chocolate sauce.
In conception and execution, each dish was of a quality one would expect to find at a Michelin-starred restaurant in France. What you won't find in France is a lunch of this caliber for $29.50.