THE SCENE. Robert Wiedmaier's place harkens back to the Washington of old, when haute cuisine was king, every man showed up for dinner in jacket and tie, and a stately formality governed relations between waiter and customer. The exquisite tastefulness and the sure-handed, often luxurious cooking have ensured a steady procession of patrons, from the crowds of older, affluent Washingtonians who used to worship at the Watergate during the heyday of Jean-Louis to titans of the military-entertainment complex such as Donald Rumsfeld and Michael Eisner.

WHAT YOU'LL LOVE. Each year chef Wiedmaier's Belgian-influenced French cooking seems to get better and his restaurant more comfortable. Thanks to a recent renovation, the dining room is warmer, quieter, and more beautiful than ever. And unlike some chefs who play the part of prima donna artistes, Wiedmaier takes his role as proprietor seriously–ferrying pretheater guests, gratis, by Mercedes to the Kennedy Center and providing reading glasses for customers who've forgotten their own.

WHAT YOU WON'T. A bill that easily can reach $150 a person. And at that level, you might hope for a little more innovation on the plate or more change in the menu from season to season.

BEST DISHES. The chef's signature boudin blanc, a sausage of gravity-defying lightness; beef tartare, an exemplary version of the bistro classic; roast chicken as juicy as you could hope for; a gratin of mussels; terrific preparations of game in season; a pear wrapped in puff pastry and drenched with caramel sauce.

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.