43. Siroc ★★½
915 15th St., NW; 202-628-2220
Cuisine: This modest newcomer stands out more for what it’s not than for what it is. It’s not, for one thing, an exercise in over-the-top richness, larding on the cream, the butter, and the prosciutto, as so many high-end Italian restaurants do. Nor is it the budget buster that the setting and level of execution would lead you to believe. It minds the middle—a place of quiet refinement and moderation. Martin Lackovic’s pastas are among the best in town, all of them imaginatively but judiciously sauced, and he manages to imbue common-sounding dishes with bites of luxury.
Mood: The former occupant of the space was Gerard’s Place, a serious destination for haute French cooking, and an air of formality lingers in this more casual (but still tasteful) setting, which retains its popularity as a spot for wooing potential partners (financial and romantic). But there’s also a new energy, and the staff goes about its rounds with cheer and professionalism.
Best for: A grand night at a good price.
Best dishes: Pan-seared shrimp with roasted peppers, anchovies, and fried capers; black-pepper pappardelle with scallops and chili flakes; capellaci, tiny squares of thinly rolled pasta filled with lobster and sweet corn; a lusty trio of coarse-grained house-made sausages with white beans; pan-roasted duck breast.
Insider tips: You can order any of the pastas as a half portion—a way to save but also to sample more of them.
Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday and Sunday for dinner. Moderate to expensive.
2. Sushi-Ko and Sushi-Ko Chevy Chase ★★½
2309 Wisconsin Ave., NW, 202-333-4187; 5455 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase, 301-961-1644
Cuisine: For raw-fish fanciers, there are few better places to appreciate the subtleties of the genre than these restaurants, which trade on smart sourcing and eschew style points and overambitious menus in favor of careful execution. The nigiri in particular are models of purity and balance: small, well-seasoned pads of rice, atop which sit thin, delicately carved slices of fresh fish.
Mood: The original in Glover Park is the city’s oldest sushi bar and remains a template for the sort of unstuffy dining rooms cropping up around the area (though some might find it austere); the sumptuous spinoff in Friendship Heights manages to ride the line between glamorous and accessible.
Best for: Sushi purists.
Best dishes: Spot-prawn nigiri; a presentation of scallop sashimi, alternately rich and clean; sashimi or nigiri of salmon, yellowtail, yellowtail belly, and mackerel; a light and crisp deep-fried soft-shell crab with ponzu sauce; salmon teriyaki.
Insider tips: Sushi, particularly sashimi, makes a surprisingly rewarding take-out dinner (unlike pizza, there’s no chance of steaming), and both locations are attentive to the needs of diners looking to duck in and out.
DC location open Tuesday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday through Monday for dinner. Chevy Chase location open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday and Sunday for brunch and dinner. Moderate to expensive.
41. 701 ★★½
701 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-393-0701
Cuisine: Twenty-eight-year-old Adam Longworth, an alum of New York’s Modern American pioneer Gotham Bar and Grill, has steadied this kitchen with surehanded American cooking that shows off an atlas of influences.
Mood: With its shimmery wall of silk threads and baby-blue leather chairs, the renovated dining room—so big it’s usually easy to get a table—has a freshly swank look. A pianist who plays Thursday through Saturday adds to the charm.
Best for: Pre- and post-theater dining; business lunches; dinner with the parents.
Best dishes: Clam chowder with gnocchi and prosciutto; classic steak tartare topped with a chilled hollandaise “yolk”; spinach salad with bacon and goat cheese; seared halibut with lovely jasmine rice and coconut sauce; a Spain-inspired branzino with Serrano ham and olives; custardy banana ice cream.
Insider tips: Don’t overlook the cocktails. The bar features the talents of Mo Taheri, the charismatic bartender who’s been mixing Negronis in Washington for 20 years. He makes a mean Manhattan and passionfruit mojito.
Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday and Sunday for dinner. Expensive.