2 Citronelle ★★★★
Latham Hotel, 3000 M St., NW | 202-625-2150
Cuisine: Michel Richard’s dazzling reinterpretation of French cooking puts the hoot in haute cuisine. Elevating fun over formality, and with a masterly command of technique, he creates a gastronomic experience unrivaled in the area: dinner as theater, from sleights of hand—an “egg symphony” of four tastes that includes not a single egg—to stunning trompe l’oeil, as in a “stained glass” of raw fish. Amid all the play, though, lies a sturdy classicism.
Mood: An open kitchen is the centerpiece of the multitiered space. A seat at Richard’s long chef’s table provides an up-close view of the brigade of toque-wearing chefs circling about. The subterranean dining room is somewhat dated, as are the dark-suited waiters.
Best for: Foodies who think they’ve eaten everything.
Best dishes: Abalone served sashimi style with a rich shallot emulsion; reconstructed oyster-and-clam chowder; sablefish with miso glaze; short ribs for two, the meat deboned and cooked sous-vide for 72 hours, then finished in a searing-hot pan and presented medium rare; loup de mer with black-truffle emulsion; candied apple with caramel ice cream; blueberry cheesecake; chocolate dégustation, a variation on a theme with four different desserts.
Insider tips: Citronelle Lounge—really just a table around the upstairs bar—is a less costly alternative to four-star dining, with some of Richard’s greatest hits on the menu, including his take on Chicken McNuggets and the justly famous 72-hour short ribs.
Open daily for dinner. Very expensive.
1 Komi ★★★★
1509 17th St., NW | 202-332-9200
Cuisine: Wunderkind chef Johnny Monis’s passionate explorations of his Greek roots have transformed a small Dupont Circle rowhouse into the area’s most intimate and personal experience. Dinner is a leisurely affair, commencing with a generous sampler course called mezzethakia—small, jewellike presentations that showcase the restaurant’s stellar shopping, particularly for raw fish—and ending with lusty plates of rustic meats and fishes that evoke the seaside trattorias of the Aegean.
Mood: The dimly lit room represents the best of Spartan simplicity—though some may find it bare-bones for four-star cuisine. It conveys a solidity that many more lavishly appointed rooms miss—without detracting from the excitement on the plate.
Best for: People for whom a night out means dinner, period—the more interesting and exciting, the better.
Best dishes: A mascarpone-stuffed date doused with olive oil and sea salt that couldn’t be simpler or more exquisite; fresh scallop with dill and black truffle; a miniature cold-cut sandwich with house-made meats and house-baked bread; roasted baby pig or goat for two, the meats meant for layering into fresh triangles of pita and scattered with condiments; Greek doughnuts with mascarpone-enriched chocolate.
Insider tips: The tasting menu is nearly as inventive and interesting as that at José Andrés’s Minibar, and the pacing and attention from the staff make it a gastronomic blowout.
Open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner. Very expensive.