No. 8: The Inn at Little Washington
Cuisine: Caviar, lobster, and foie gras still luxe up the menu at Patrick O’Connell’s Modern American inn, an hour-plus drive through the Virginia countryside from DC. O’Connell sources lavishly, and many of his sumptuous creations, such as Tuna Pretending to Be Filet Mignon, are destined to be canonized.
Mood: Even this place may be feeling a bit squeezed: Last year’s amuse-bouche of 12 one-bite morsels in porcelain spoons has dwindled to four to eight. Still, the plush and over-the-top dining rooms are an Anglophile’s dream.
Best for: A landmark birthday or anniversary or popping the question—the staff is well versed in pomp and pampering.
Best dishes: Spicy bigeye tuna with sake-and-yuzu sorbet; porcini-dusted Maine diver scallop with cauliflower purée; elegant mac and cheese with country ham and shaved truffle; mustard-crusted rack of lamb with mint-artichoke ravioli; veal sweetbreads with port over pappardelle.
Insider tips: Main courses have traditionally been the least interesting part of the meal. Table 12 allows you and your love to sit side by side, while the tables overlooking the garden are the most intimate.
Service: ***½ (three and a half stars)
Open daily for dinner; closed some Tuesdays.