From January 2006 100 Very Best Restaurants
THE SCENE. Proximity to the White House ensures the restaurant's status as a favorite of Bush-administration staffers, lobbyists, and downtown lawyers, but the quietly plush dining room and glassed-in atrium feel refreshingly ego-free.
WHAT YOU'LL LOVE. Chef Todd Gray stays faithful to the seasons and local farms, dispensing with gimmickry and experimentation in favor of simple explorations of historic Maryland and Virginia cookery. A long-forgotten Chesapeake fish dish will turn up on the menu, and the bread pudding derives from a recipe from Thomas Jefferson. Wife Ellen, an effervescent hippie in a suit, oversees an earnest, eager-to-please staff.
WHAT YOU WON'T. When it works, the simplicity undergirding Gray's approach--the goal of dishes uncluttered by too many competing effects--can feel liberating and confident. When it doesn't, you may be left feeling as though something is missing, including, perhaps, inspiration.
BEST DISHES. Cream-of-chestnut soup; pistachio-crusted fresh-mozzarella salad with sour cherries; duo of chicken, a flavorful stewed leg and grilled breast scattered with roasted pearl onions; Armagnac bread pudding.