A plush stage for Michel Richard's witty, theatrical brand of Cali-French cooking.

From January 2006 100 Very Best Restaurants

Citronelle’s dazzling mosaic of tuna, beef, salmon, eel, venison, peppers, scallops, and daikon radish. Photograph by Renee Comet.

THE SCENE. Celebrities, political dignitaries, jet-setters, and foodies descend nightly on the cool yet cozy dining room of renowned chef Michel Richard's restaurant in Georgetown–one of the few spots in town with the culinary magic to make people forget about politics, if only for the night.

WHAT YOU'LL LOVE. The sense of theater that every meal brings, from the relentless whimsicality of the cooking (which transplants the French countryside to anything-goes California) to the puckish chef's forays into the dining room to implore diners to attack their food, not stand back in awe. All of this mischief is undergirded by knowledgeable, efficient service and a world-class wine list assembled by sommelier Mark Slater.

WHAT YOU WON'T. The whimsicality sometimes results in food that's more eye-catching than delicious. And the tab may force you to scrimp on groceries for the rest of the month.

BEST DISHES. The "almost-famous pied de cochon," a sausage of pig's foot, foie gras, and sweetbreads topped off with a lacquered sheet of crispy pig skin; a cappuccino of wild-mushroom soup, served with a straw; the dessert tour de force called Breakfast, a witty, Rauschenberg-meets-Escoffier riff on room-service delivery in which a trayful of sweets impersonates eggs, bacon, toast, hash browns, and coffee; house-made cocoa flakes with minted milk.

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.