3529 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20008
Neighborhood: Upper Northwest, Cleveland Park
Cuisines: Modern, American
Open Tuesday through Saturday 5:30 PM to 10 PM.
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes
Nearby Metro Stops: Cleveland Park
Price Range: Very expensive
Noise Level: Intimate
Roast chicken; truffled cheeseburger; any of the soups; any pâté, terrine, or sausage; pastas; cookie plate.
Three-course menu, $57; four-course menu, $66; five-course menu, $75.
Special Features: Wheelchair Accessible
Only the top 40 restaurants were ranked in 2011's Best Restaurants list.
Good news for anyone who’s spent an hour waiting his or her turn for a truffled cheeseburger at the no-reservations cafe that fronts Frank Ruta’s Cleveland Park dining room: Expansion into a space next door means 100 extra seats devoted to his more casual—and less expensive—menu. Although not much in the cafe tops $20, Ruta makes his cooking there feel just as important as the five-course meals offered in the chandeliered back room.
Terrines, such as a silky rabbit version with sweet mostarda, are as well crafted as you’ll find. His freshly made gnocchi and other pastas are always excellent. And his soups, whether a rustic minestrone or foie gras pot-au-feu, emerge complex and comforting.
The same principles apply in the dining room, where the ever-changing menu offers three choices for each course. There, the gnocchi get more refined, made with sweet potatoes and served in a skillet with Calasparra rice and Parmesan. Ruta’s fish dishes tend to be restrained—meats, such as a cut of tender young pig over sunchokes, and pheasant with foie gras are often better bets.
Accordingly, there’s a new feature in the cafe: a $50-a-person nose-to-tail dinner, which requires a day’s notice and is served family style for six or more.
Also good: Fritto misto with oysters, lemons, and rockfish; deviled eggs; aromatically seasoned roast chicken; monkfish persillade; tagliatelle with shrimp, chilies, and bread crumbs; cookie plate with caramels; pear-custard tart.
Dining room open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner. Cafe open Monday for dinner, Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Moderate to expensive.