55. Inox ★★½
1800 Tysons Blvd., McLean; 703-790-4669
Cuisine: When it first opened, it seemed that chef/owners Jonathan Krinn and Jon Mathieson—who had brought moments of playfulness to the white tablecloths at 2941—forgot how to have fun at their hotly anticipated Tysons Corner showpiece. A menu of esoteric ingredients felt forced. Krinn is now working the dining room, and Mathieson’s French-inflected American food is more relaxed. One thing hasn’t changed: The owners throw recession caution to the wind; hardly a dish exits the kitchen without being anointed by some little luxury, be it foie gras, truffles, or caviar.
Mood: The office-park dining room is about as exciting as a Ford Taurus. Browns and grays dominate—on the walls and on the suited-up diners, some of whom choose to be seated in the DVD-equipped private rooms. The lounge is livelier, with its conversation-piece bar and tables made from tree trunks.
Best for: A client lunch or dinner.
Best dishes: Most meats, including seared foie gras piggybacking on a gamey venison filet and a duo of duck with breast and leg confit; a generous slice of foie gras with caramelized apples; a pair of bass filets in a Vietnamese-pho-like ginger broth with cilantro and jalapeños; a decadent surf and turf of lobster poached in butter with a short-rib raviolo; a rich chocolate bread pudding, its denseness and intensity leavened by savory kalamata olives in the batter and a dollop of olive-oil ice cream; grapefruit custard tempered by intensely vanilla ice cream.
Insider tips: If you see a dish you like on the tasting menu, you can almost always order it à la carte in an appetizer- or entrée-size portion. While sommelier John Wabeck’s wine list is hearty and excellent, don’t ignore the creative cocktail list.
Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday and Sunday for dinner. Very expensive.
54. Trummer’s on Main ★★½
7134 Main St., Clifton; 703-266-1623
Cuisine: This ambitious newcomer, taking up residence in an old inn in off-the-beaten-track Clifton, has emerged as a home of elegant rusticity. The secret’s in the sauces—ethereal reductions, froths, and marmalades drizzled or dolloped so judiciously that they never overwhelm. Even braised veal with root vegetables and vermouth cream isn’t as weighty as it sounds—its tiny pool of cream is almost like a condiment. The lineup of talent is formidable: Chef Clayton Miller came to Clifton after stints at the French Laundry in Napa Valley and Daniel in Manhattan; co-owner Stefan Trummer, who has shaken and stirred at New York’s Bouley, doubles as cocktail master; Tyler Packwood, late of the Inn at Little Washington, is sommelier; Chris Ford, from ChikaLicious Dessert Bar in New York, is pastry chef.
Mood: Few traces of the old Hermitage Inn remain in the airy main dining room, where French windows overlook a flagstone waterfall and garden and palm-frond fans twirl from the high ceiling. Service is formal enough that a table of four, six, or eight will all get its plates at precisely the same moment.
Best for: A convivial meal with friends, a romantic repast, or a celebratory dinner for a group (there’s a big communal table in the center of the main dining room). A mostly over-30 crowd gathers in the first floor bar/lounge on weekends.
Best dishes: The house Titanic 13 cocktail, with grape vodka, muddled grapes, and Champagne sorbet floating on top; flour-dusted ciabatta; a fresh take on pumpkin soup with sweet lump crab, salty bay-leaf crumble, and frothy pumpkin foam; frisée with mild curry vinaigrette and celery three ways (puréed, shaved, and steamed); vermouth-braised veal with rutabaga and vermouth cream; flaky Nantucket flounder with Yukon Gold purée; chocolate cream, a painterly swipe of lush chocolate pudding with hazelnut sorbet and crunchy cocoa nibs.
Insider tips: The wait between starters and main courses can be long. Request a table in the Winter Garden; the third-floor dining rooms aren’t as charming.
Open Monday through Saturday for dinner, Sunday for brunch; bar/lounge open until midnight. Expensive.
53. Cashion’s Eat Place ★★½
1819 Columbia Rd., NW; 202-797-1819
Cuisine: Ann Cashion may no longer be here, but chef John Manolatos has maintained her standards, serving a consistently satisfying lineup of elegantly homey dishes. His Greek-inspired—and family-derived—fare particularly stands out.
Mood: A low-key charmer with the soul of a neighborhood restaurant, serving regulars from Adams Morgan and beyond in a warmly lit dining room brimming with good-time seekers.
Best for: Dates and double dates; brunch; late-night eating—sous chef Sam Thresher takes over the kitchen at midnight on weekends, putting out a likable menu of chili dogs, shaved-beef sandwiches, and grilled veal.
Best dishes: Pork souvlaki with tzatziki and chilies on grilled flatbread; a buttery skillet of Alaskan crab, Parmesan, and prosciutto with Parker House rolls; turbot with grapefruit beurre blanc; duck breast with foie gras; a juicy bison burger (brunch); pear clafoutis.
Insider tips: Sunday through Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30, wines by the glass are half price.
Open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner, Sunday for brunch and dinner. Expensive.