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Citronelle

From January 2005 100 Very Best Restaurants.

BLUE RIBBON AWARD WINNER

Michel Richard's decision six years ago to move his base of operations from Los Angeles to Washington was the culinary equivalent of DC's acquisition of a Major-League Baseball team. Richard's combination of classic technique and witty innovation makes any meal at Citronelle a memorable experience.

It will not be an inexpensive one, particularly now that Citronelle is no longer open for lunch. Only in the upstairs bar can diners order à la carte. In the dining room there is a choice of two menus—three courses for $85 or a tasting menu of nine courses for $150. The choices change frequently, but recent menus have included Michel Richard's pig's foot—a thin sheet of crisp pork skin atop a stuffing of sweetbreads, foie gras, and the meat from the foot; Virtual Fettuccini, not fettuccine at all but thin strands of cuttlefish sauced with fresh corn and trout caviar; and a squab "minute steak," the flattened breast served with a potato-crusted confit of the leg in a cinnamon-cabernet sauce.

Richard was trained as a pastry chef, and his unusual desserts are delicious. Try Breakfast at Citronelle, a sweet that looks like fried eggs with toast, bacon, and hash browns but tastes like nothing of the sort. Sommelier Mark Slater presides over the extensive and well-chosen wine list with impressive knowledge that he is eager to share.

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