Cafe 15 (Sofitel Lafayette Square Hotel)

A plush and gracious French dining room.

From January 2006 100 Very Best Restaurants

THE SCENE. Moneyed Continentals and girl groups out on the town gather at this swanky restaurant in the Hotel Sofitel–with its aubergine walls, raw silk drapes, and abstract art–for updated French classics. In the high-decibel lounge across the lobby, the crowd skews slightly younger than in one of the most serene dining rooms in the city.

WHAT YOU'LL LOVE. Gracious, unflappable service in a space that manages to be of the moment yet also warm and welcoming.

WHAT YOU WON'T. The schizophrenic quality of the cooking–some dishes soar, others belly-flop.

BEST DISHES. Perfectly cooked fresh prawns with lemon confit and buttery white tarbais beans from the foothills of the Pyrenees, a reminder of what shrimp ought to taste like; succulent lobster with the airiest of curry-shot cream sauces, ribbons of zucchini, and pumpkin gnocchi; a dense dark-chocolate mousse cone with praline ice cream; the signature beer brioche with beer ice cream and caramelized pear.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.