61. L’Auberge Chez François ★★½
332 Springvale Rd., Great Falls; 703-759-3800
Cuisine: It’s all about nostalgia at this Alsatian institution, now in its sixth decade. Plates are still garnished with sprigs of parsley, and the cooking runs to standbys such as Châteaubriand and Dover sole meunière. Founder François Haeringer’s three sons usually run L’Auberge these days, but it’s still a place to rediscover what made classical French the favorite cuisine of the Mad Men era.
Mood: Country French dining rooms with dark wood beams, decorative copper pots, and windows framing the countryside seem made for proper celebrations, and the Old World–style pampering reinforces the sense of grand occasion.
Best dishes: A robust onion soup light on cheese and heavy on stock; a delicate crepe with chives, mushrooms, and Madeira-truffle sauce; grapefruit-mint palate-cleanser sorbet; the signature choucroute (a hearty lineup of pork, duck, and goose charcuterie and sausages; sauerkraut steeped in Crémant d’Alsace; red cabbage; and mustards); a marvelous chicken braised in Riesling with jus and haricots verts; whipped broccoli purée; hazelnut soufflé; plum tart with cinnamon ice cream.
Best for: A leisurely romantic dinner, family gathering, or special event.
Insider tips: In summer, the patio is the place to be—it feels as if you’re dining in a meadow. During winter, the coveted tables are fireside. Sunday lunch with light streaming in the walls of windows is also a hot ticket. The price of an entrée—from $59 to $75—includes appetizer, salad, sorbet, vegetable, dessert, and coffee or tea, plus lots of little extras from garlic bread to chocolate truffles. Sunday lunch is a deal at $39 to $49 for a similar meal but with some different menu items.
Open Sunday and Tuesday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday for dinner. Very expensive.
60. Eola ★★½
2020 P St., NW; 202-466-4441
Cuisine: How’s this for risk-taking? Sending out a tiny spoonful of offal as an amuse-bouche, then following that with plates of chicken-fried tongue. You might expect that kind of thing from Michel Richard, but from a newcomer with little track record and no corporate backing? Fortunately, in Daniel Singhofen’s case, the chef is a young talent who can make good on his promises. Sometimes he tries too hard, but he connects more often than he whiffs, producing imaginative, intensely flavored dishes that hint at big things to come.
Mood: The space—tasteful and softly lit—suggests a cross between Obelisk and Komi, restaurants that define the new aesthetic of townhouse dining and that stand as models for the sort of place the chef and owners aspire to.
Best for: Gastronomes who understand that supporting an interesting independent restaurant means enduring a misstep or two.
Best dishes: Pork croquettes with apple-mustard sauce; chicken-fried tongue with braised lentils; a sunchoke velouté, most recently embellished with raisins and toasted almonds; agnolotti filled with bitter greens and accompanied by buttery squash fondue; roasted pheasant with deviled quail eggs and olives; apple galette; mocha-chestnut roulade.
Insider tips: Eola boasts a fine, if smallish, roster of beers, a number of which match well with the dishes on the menu. And there are some surprisingly good deals on the well-chosen, 100-bottle wine list.
Open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner. Expensive.
59. Kotobuki ★★½
4822 MacArthur Blvd., NW, Second Floor; 202-281-6679
Cuisine: You’d have an easier time turning up a moderate Republican on the Hill than finding sushi that’s this fresh and this cheap. Equally uncommon is the rest of chef Hisao Abe’s menu, a roster of largely unfamiliar but traditional Japanese dishes—from the rice casseroles called kamameshi to oshizushi, a pressed-sushi preparation deriving from Osaka—that distinguish it from the conventionally minded raw-fish houses.
Mood: There’s barely space to breathe in this small second-floor dining room containing a sushi bar, a handful of tables, and nearly always a line out the door. Above the hum of the Beatles-only soundtrack, servers encourage diners—a mix of couples and families—to eat and run.
Best for: A first date; a good on-the-go dinner for up to four—the wait will lengthen if tables have to be put together.
Best dishes: Silky monkfish-liver pâté, known as ankimo—the foie gras of the sea; oshizushi, square blocks of saltier-than-normal rice pressed tightly and topped with thin slices of fish; eel kamameshi, a hot pot with charred rice, raw fish, and vegetables preceded by a parade of mezze-type appetizers; a smooth slab of fatty or white tuna atop a small bed of rice; green-tea mochi, a pouch of Japanese ice cream encased in a rice wrapper.
Insider tips: Check out the specials posted on the wall—fresh fish comes in daily (look for the uni) and is the only time Abe strays from his otherwise unchanging menu.
Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, Sunday for dinner. Inexpensive.