January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants
Buttermilk biscuits and Champagne cocktails meet at Jeff Buben's flagship restaurant, which pays tribute to both modern and classic Southern cooking.
Reviewed By Todd Kliman, Ann Limpert, Cynthia Hacinli
Comments () | Published January 11, 2007
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Address: 1990 M St., NW, Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202-659-1990
Neighborhood: Dupont Circle, Downtown
Cuisines: An example of a traditional Southern meal is deep fried chicken, field peas, turnip greens, cornbread, sweet tea and a dessert that could be a pie (sweet potato, pecan and peach are traditional southern pies), or a cobbler (peach, blackberry or mixed berry are traditional cobblers)., Modern, American
Opening Hours: Open for lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 to 2:30. Open for dinner Monday through Thursday 5:30 to 9:30, Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 10. Closed on Sundays during the summer, but after Labor Day dinner will be served Sundays 5 to 9.
Nearby Metro Stops: Farragut North, Dupont Circle
Price Range: Very expensive
Dress: Business Attire
Noise Level: Chatty
Reservations: Recommended
Best Dishes Shrimp ā€™nā€™ grits; lemon chess pie; Reuben with pork belly; burger; sweet wreckfish; Dover sole.

No. 11: Vidalia

There’s something quintessentially Washington about a businessman in a gray suit devouring a gravy-smothered chicken-fried steak. The Southern roadside diner staple is done just right—pounded thin, battered lightly, and gussied up with a poached egg, braised collards, and mashed potatoes so buttery they’re yellow.

The dining room, all frosted glass and shades of coffee and sage, might be one of the buzziest power-lunch spots in town, filled with diners who find refuge from experimental cooking in a soothing plate of shrimp ’n’ grits. But there’s more to Jeff Buben’s Vidalia than upscale Southern comfort. Talented chef de cuisine R.J. Cooper cures his yellowtail in molasses, and the mildly sweet squares are a lovely departure from the richness elsewhere on the menu. Carolina brook trout with fingerling hash and frothy brown butter sounds heavy, but the slender filet tastes as if it just leapt out of the water. He’s even updated the five-onion soup with onion “glass”—a purée of onions and sherry vinegar baked into a sheet.

Lemon chess pie made from an old Junior League recipe remains the sweetest finish, modernity and lightness be damned.

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Posted at 01:38 PM/ET, 01/11/2007 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Restaurant Reviews