For all you City Paper readers out there with $400 to burn on a meal with someone you like very, very much, I totally recommend Citronelle.

For every other food-lover out there: There’s the bar menu. Or you could do what I did: Get hitched and have nice friends who give you a hefty gift certificate as a wedding present.

We cashed ours in last Saturday, prepared for both wow and for a letdown because of all the hype. I told our food critic, Tim Carman, I’d gather evidence for why Citronelle is not the best restaurant in D.C.

Sorrry, Carman. It’s easily the best restaurant I’ve ever been to, the best meal I’ve ever had (although Lupa in NYC is close, for anyone who cares). I’m really glad to have had the experience because I’ll never be able to afford to go again. No offense to Mr. Richard and his team of highly qualified chefs—especially the geniuses on pastry—but what is the deal with those prices?

Here’s a rundown: Our table wasn’t ready when we arrived, so we started off in the bar with two whiskeys, we each had a three-course meal, split a bottle of wine, and had a glass of dessert wine: $403, without tip, without coffee, without sparkling water. Granted, we probably drank more than respectable diners should and my husband ordered the Kobe beef, which added $55 to the $95 prix-fixe three courses. And granted, our nice friends covered most of our tab, but Christ. I almost lost my wonderful dinner when I saw the bill.

But speaking of the wondeful dinner: Before Saturday, the last time I had venison, I was probably 12 and eating a deer my dad shot, cooked to the consistency of liver by my mother and slathered in ketchup to help it go down. Venison at Citronelle was not that. Witness:

Grilled to a perfect medium rare, crusted in peppercorns, sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds, and laid out on a bed of pureed butternut squash with a fig-wine jus… When I see a deer in the woods now, I will admire its beauty and critterness, but what I will really be thinking is: Mmmmm. Citronelle.