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January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants
Comments () | Published January 24, 2007
100 Best Restaurants 2012 100 Best Restaurants (2011) 100 Best Restaurants (2010)

Equinox
Address: 818 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20006
Phone: 202-331-8118
Neighborhood: Downtown
Cuisines: Modern, American
Opening Hours: Open for lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 to 2. Open for dinner Monday through Thursday 5:30 to 10, Friday and Saturday 5:30 to 10:30, and Sunday 5:30 to 9.
Nearby Metro Stops: Farragut North, Farragut West
Price Range: Very expensive
Dress: Business Attire
Noise Level: Intimate
Reservations: Recommended
Best Dishes Sweet-corn veloute; soft-shell crab in any preparation; crab springrolls; shrimp and grits; gnocchi with trumpet mushrooms; Arctic char; scallops with artichokes; macaroni and cheese.
Price Details: Starters $12 to $15, entrées $28 to $34.

No. 60: Equinox

Can an expense-account restaurant be a neighborhood restaurant? Just blocks from the White House, chef Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff-Gray’s upscale mom-and-pop has long been a go-to restaurant for the ruling class, a quiet refuge where pols and pundits come to stash the BlackBerries and relax (briefly) over bottles of Bordeaux and elegant plates of food that seldom require explanation from the waitstaff—and seldom inspire long analysis at the table.

At its best, Gray’s cooking, which looks to showcase first-rate Mid-Atlantic ingredients in a style informed by French rigor and Italian simplicity, is clear, focused, and sometimes brilliant (his pan-fried gnocchi is tops in a suddenly gnocchi-mad city). As often as not, though, his plates, while always the epitome of tastefulness, are as subdued as the earth-toned dining room. Most of the culinary energy these days seems focused on amusés and starters: a crisp little risotto fritter; a tiny cup of brilliant red-pepper soup; a plate of supremely creamy Virginia grits spritzed with black-truffle jus and crowned with royal-trumpet and honey-cap mushrooms; open-face ravioli with a pristine array of roasted corn, green beans, and cherry tomatoes, a perfectly fried soft-shell crab perched jauntily on top.

The drop-off between smaller and bigger courses can be steep. A West Coast sturgeon is oddly textured and gelatinous. A Carolina trout with parsnip chowder is lackluster. Likewise, a rack of pork reads more luscious than it tastes. If not for the grilled Amish-chicken breast with slow-cooked leg and the balsamic-glazed quail, you might wonder if the power is beginning to flicker in this power-dining bastion. Perhaps dividing kitchen duties is the culprit—chef Gray has recently brought Ethan McKee aboard as chef de cuisine. Or maybe the kitchen needs to refocus and rejigger.

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Posted at 01:28 PM/ET, 01/24/2007 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Restaurant Reviews