Central Michel Richard
Handpicked by Michel Richard to execute the master’s precise, inventive takes on French and American food, chef Cedric Maupillier is proving himself a hit maker: duck rillettes and “faux gras,” a silky pâté of chicken livers that mimics foie gras; baby Brussels sprouts that taste like they’ve been braised in butter; a brilliant cassoulet with garlicky house-made sausage and duck confit; and 72-hour short ribs that melt on the tongue. (1001 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-626-0015)
There may be more-luxurious settings, and chef Cathal Armstrong is no innovator, but no area restaurant satisfies on so many levels. Looking to unwind? The roster of cocktails is the best around. Crave pampering? The effortless-seeming service will make you feel like a king. For foodies, the tasting room is an extravaganza, while the bistro makes good on its promise of a relaxed meal of earthy yet refined cooking. Need a lighter bite? The cheeses, some made in-house, are terrific, and so is the charcuterie board—all made in-house. (110 S. Pitt St., Alexandria; 703-706-0450)
The menu of this Palisades seafood emporium gets a summertime lift from the seasonal bounty of its fish market. A special of South Carolina royal-red shrimp, sweet as lobster, shone in a spicy rémoulade with lightly toasted brioche. The flavors are just as bright and true in a tartare of Hawaiian bigeye tuna atop a soy-glazed rice cake. Though a fabulous bread basket filled with country bread, focaccia, and dinner rolls might seem a harbinger of good things to come from the pastry kitchen, desserts—such as an overly boozy and sweet butterscotch pot de crème and a hulking slice of dry-crusted banana-coconut cream pie—appear to be coasting. (4883 MacArthur Blvd., NW; 202-342-9101)This article appeared in the July, 2008 issue of The Washingtonian.