Saturday, December 31, 2011


Inspired by the story of Marvin Gaye's infamous two years in self-imposed exile in the small Belgian town of Ostend, the creators of Marvin have combined the cafe society of Belgium, with the proud soul of DC. This bistro and bar serves home cooked classics from Belgium to the American South. Upstairs at Marvin you'll find one of DC's best lounges and rooftop decks which is heated, partially covered, and open year round. Closest Metro is U Street – Cardozo.

May 2009: We went for a special dinner and were seated towards the back near the kitchen where many tables are squeezed in – typical of the row house style restaurants in the city. The d├ęcor was classic with black walls, wood trim and black and white photos of legendary musicians like Marvin Gaye, Duke Ellington, Chuck Brown, and Shirley Scott. I gave it a 4 for ambience since the kitchen was a little loud with the clanking of plates and so was the chatter of patrons. But the server was attentive and courteous. She explained the farmer’s fresh specials of the day with ease and offered us a different bottle of wine for the same price, as the one we chose was not available. Our food was cooked perfectly and paired with fresh vegetables that kept the homey foods light, especially for the warm season we are in right now. After our meal, our server suggested we order another glass of wine from her to take with us upstairs to the roof deck. Smart of us to do so too because it was pretty crowded up there and limited seating. Overall Marvin is a cool restaurant and I really enjoyed my meal and would definitely come back again.

December 2011:  We finally returned to Marvin to celebrate New Year's Eve as they were featuring a lovely tasting menu with a champagne toast and "unspecified treats" for when the ball drops.  We chose the late seating of 10:15pm and the atmosphere was more crazy than I remembered - compact, super loud and overly crowded.  Many of the earlier diners were lingering around and were already quite tipsy and yelling their conversations.  It was honestly unpleasant at first, until Keith and I just went with it and yelled across the table to each other too.  The server took his time coming around to take our orders, but we did not mind as we knew we wanted to stay until midnight at least anyways.  I was also a little disappointed that there were no cheesy NYE decorations at all - no confetti - no hats - no balloons - nothing!

champagne to toast in 2012
As we ordered a bottle of wine, our server then told us that one of our first "treats" was a complimentary cocktail choice between vodka or bourbon.  Keith and I opted for the Moscow Mule - vodka, ginger beer, and lime.  It was a clean drink, but not really what I was in the mood for so I gave the rest of mine to Keith.  I preferred the wine.  Our second "treat" soon arrived - a shooter of leak soup?  Since it was so loud we could not hear what the server said it was - even when we asked him a second time.  By now it was almost 11:30pm and the dining room was still packed and loud.  A few tables were seated well after us and just receiving their drinks.  The appetizer course was delicious - I really enjoyed the colorful, sweet and tart beets and carrots, which paired well with my perfectly cooked scallops.  Keith enjoyed his lobster ravioli as well, as it was served with a heavy mushroom sauce.  The main course was a little smaller than expected and mine lacked flavor or moisture.  Even though I could see the shavings, there was no trace of truffles in taste, which was very surprising since that is such a distinct earthy flavor.  However, Keith devoured his snapper dish and wished he had a spoon or some bread to mop up the bouillabaisse - it was that good.  Soon, the servers came around to pour us each a glass of champagne and give the two-minute warning.  Since there were no tv screens or anything, everyone kept checking their iPhones for the clock.  THREE...TWO...ONE...HAPPY NEW YEAR!  After the excitement of counting down, our desserts arrived.  (The table next to us still did not receive their main courses.)  My pear was cute and filled with a sweet cream.  It matched the champagne so much that I ordered a second glass.  Keith's chocolate cake was a nice portion and he loved it too.  Overall, the food was just a good as my first visit.  The new dishes we ate are listed below the dashed lines.  I apologize for the poor quality of my Blackberry pictures - one of my goals for the new year is to take better food pics.  It was a slightly different experience for us to ring in the New Year mid-dining, but perhaps that is a sign for what is to come.  Wishing you all a Happy New Year!  Let's have another great year of eating...

Total Rating: 4
Food: 4, Price: 4, Service: 4, Ambience: 4, Accessibility: 4

What I ate:

Seared Sea Scallops
braised leeks & beurre rouge

Goat Cheese Croquettes
with Fig Vinaigrette

Roasted Striped Bass
with shitake mushrooms, asparagus, spinach, and corn butter
Leak Soup

Seared Scallops
with roasted beets and poached baby carrots

Black Truffle Gnocchi
with chestnut puree and baby kale

Sauternes Poached Anjou Pear
with Creme Anglaise and Pain Perdu

Plus Keith ate:
Soft Shell Crab
with fingerling potatoes and haricot verts
Lobster Ravioli
with Leek Fondu and Sauce Americaine

American Red Snapper
with saffron Parisian potatoes, baby clams, and bouillabaisse

Chocolate Cake
with Crispy Cremeaux and Tonka Bean Ice Cream

Marvin on Urbanspoon

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