From April 2005
Reliable American-French Dining in Crystal City
Diners who take food seriously usually approach hotel dining rooms with caution. Unless the hotel is out to make a statement--which more of them are--hotel restaurants are likely to feature bland cooking, the kind that managements imagine visiting families prefer. The Sheraton Crystal City Hotel takes a middle ground, calling its eatery an American/French cafe and giving it the name 18 Eads.
The dining space--carved out of the lobby, which is undergoing renovation--is attractive and airy, with high ceilings and earth-tone hues. Dotting the walls are old black-and-white photographs of France and the United States. Adjacent to the dining area is a bar that features two high-definition TV sets and allows smoking.
The menu is short: six appetizers, four salads, and nine main courses. There are enough French preparations--such as Chicken Rôti, Filet au Poivre, Risotto Jardinière, and Salmon au Citron--to meet expectations. But there are also Country Style Short Ribs and Frenchy's Mac-n-Cheese, penne baked with four cheeses and truffle oil. Nomenclature aside, the restaurant provides satisfactory cooking at a generally reasonable price.
Among the appetizers, onion soup gratinée, made with a mix of Parmesan and Gruyère cheese, looks the part and tastes good. Shrimp cassolette consists of good shrimp topped with bread crumbs and a Cognac-and-Dijon-mustard cream sauce. A fondue of simmering Gruyère and Emmentaler cheeses and white wine, with branched vegetables and slices of baguette for dipping, was fine. Garlicky Wings were accompanied by a chipotle aïoli dipping sauce. The oven-roasted mussels didn't work; they were dried out and unrevived by the garlic, white-wine, butter, and lemon sauce. The otherwise excellent Pommes Frites Bleu--thin fried potatoes with a "bleu-cheese drizzle" and roasted peppers--were marred by lumps of room-temperature bleu cheese.
Main courses were generally good. Two fish dishes, Rockfish Meuniére and Salmon au Citron, were well cooked for $18. The roast half chicken with garlic mashed potatoes was also good. Perhaps the best dish was the country-style short ribs, meaty and tender in a red-wine sauce. Sausage with French green lentils, garlic confit, and pearl onions was another winner. The dish of steak frites was very good, though for $21 it should have been a more generous size.
Diners seeking lighter or simpler fare might try the Bistro Burger, made with Angus ground chuck and Vermont cheddar; its limited handling should please purists, and its flavor should please almost everyone. The niçoise salad is an attractive mélange of seared tuna, string beans, hard-boiled egg, fingerling potatoes, greens, and a Dijon vinaigrette.
The baguette is so-so. Desserts, according to the server, are store bought and not bad. The wine list is fairly priced with a good variety. Coffee is good.
Lunch is similar to dinner in price and portion, though the menu has fewer main courses.
Bottom line: A comfortable restaurant that should appeal to people who live or work in the neighborhood.