17 Marcel’s ★★★
2401 Pennsylvania Ave., NW | 202-296-1166
Cuisine: Classical French cooking with intense sauces and labor-intensive dishes that no one else makes anymore. Chef Robert Wiedmaier presents a mix-and-match tasting menu of $52 for three courses (called pretheater but available all evening), $75 for four, $90 for five, and $125 for seven.
Mood: Glittering mirrors, black-suited waiters, and silver domes lend a retro-luxe feel to the dining room. Of late, service has been a bit scattered and the pacing slightly off.
Best for: A grown-up meal in a grown-up dining room.
Best dishes: Mussels au gratin; boudin blanc with chestnut purée and lardons; turbot with crisped artichoke leaves and truffle essence; breast of pheasant with pheasant-and-thyme cream; lamb tenderloins in phyllo with cumin Madeira sauce; apple with a beggar’s purse, bread pudding, and apple-butter ice cream.
Insider tips: Book early to take advantage of the restaurant’s free car service to the Kennedy Center—slots fill up. The inviting bar has a wallet-friendly menu and a jazz pianist Tuesday through Saturday nights.
Open daily for dinner. Very expensive.
16 Bourbon Steak ★★★
Four Seasons Hotel, 2800 Pennsylvania Ave., NW | 202-944-2026
Cuisine: Michael Mina, Washington’s latest celebrity chef, turns the old-style steakhouse on its ear at the Four Seasons—most memorably with his signature butter-poached slabs of charred beef. His love of culinary arcana—aloe in a hamachi-sashimi appetizer, a swipe of evaporated carrot juice on a plate of steak—pumps life into familiar combinations and arrangements.
Mood: The wood-heavy decor is out of sync with the creativity of the kitchen. But the service is gracious, and some of DC’s most recognizable faces already have made the place their roost.
Best for: A splurge. The price tag is steep, but the wines—some produced solely for Mina—and the playful desserts will take the edge off.
Best dishes: Hamachi sashimi with white soy, coconut, and aloe; pork loin, cheek, and belly with parsnip purée and matchsticks of caramelized pear; 14-ounce New York strip; roasted “magical” mushrooms; deconstruction of Brussels sprouts with apple and bacon; Comice-pear tart with cinnamon ice cream; coconut candy bar with salted-caramel ice cream.
Insider tips: If you’re watching your wallet, the complimentary truffle rolls and trio of fries and sauces that inaugurate each meal can serve in lieu of appetizers. Leave room for dessert.
Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, Sunday for dinner. Very expensive.
15 Volt ★★★
228 N. Market St., Frederick | 301-696-8658
Cuisine: Returning to his hometown of Frederick to open a restaurant in a renovated mansion, former Charlie Palmer Steak chef Bryan Voltaggio exchanged a beefhouse aesthetic for modish plates full of artful detail and savor.
Mood: Locals gather in the swanky bar with caramel-leather couches, while the gallerylike dining room fills up with couples and foursomes. The spacious chef’s dining room, where tasting menus—five courses $69, seven courses $89—are served, is high-energy, with Voltaggio and his busy staff on view in the open kitchen.
Best for: A celebratory meal; an important date; drinks and nibbles with friends in the lounge; lunch or dinner after shopping in downtown Frederick.
Best dishes: Sweetbreads with caper powder; yellowfin-tuna tartare with drizzles of chili oil; oysters on wheat-beer sorbet; an old fashioned with house-made bitters and muddled cherries; butter-poached Maine lobster; lamb loin with merguez sausage, lentils, and mustard greens; chocolate-hazelnut pavé with frozen hazelnut custard; “local fall apples,” a multipart dessert including apple butter with cinnamon doughnuts and caramel frozen custard.
Insider tips: The $14 bar lunch gets you three picks from a menu that includes an Absolut martini and a grilled lamb burger with bleu cheese. Parking is free in the lot next door on weekends and after 5 weekdays.