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Michel Richard’s Mystery Fried Rice

The chef re-creates the Chinese takeout staple at Citronelle with a twist.

At Citronelle, a dish of potatoes masquerading as fried rice elevates Chinese-takeout-style cooking. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Travelers often say Chinese food in China is nothing like Chinese food in America. Here, chefs are sometimes inspired to dabble with Szechuan peppercorns and five-spice powder, but they rarely bother with the Americanized stuff. So it was a surprise to encounter a bowl of fried rice with bits of duck jerky on the $120 24-course menu at DC’s Rogue 24, then find wonton soup at Modern American places such as Ris and the Atlas Room.

At Michel Richard’s Citronelle, an entrée of lobster—a $20 surcharge on a $110 prix fixe menu—arrived with fried rice that tasted remarkably similar to the carryout variety. Why is Richard serving something so casual at Citronelle, as opposed to his more relaxed bistro, Central?

Turns out the fried rice—in typical Richard style—is not what it seems. That “rice” is super-finely diced potatoes fried in butter. “It’s a complicated dish,” he says.

This article appears in the March 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

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