January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

A thrilling 30-plus course carnival of culinary surprises.

No. 5: Minibar at Café Atlántico

A culinary high-wire act plays out twice nightly at this restaurant within a restaurant on the second floor of Café Atlántico. Seatings are at 6 and 8:30, on six stools at a sushi-style bar. Two chefs create some 30 morsels on a preset menu while you watch, smell, taste, and revel in food that is by turns witty, bizarre, playful, and sublime.

The presentation owes much to José Andrés’s old mentor, Ferran Adrià of El Bulli in Spain, but the format is Andrés’s own. Working with Minibar chefs Katsuya Fukushima and Ruben Garcia, he has crafted a dazzling science lab of a meal intended to wow at every turn.

By now such standbys as cotton-candy foie gras—a cube of foie on a stick crusted with corn nuts and swiped in cotton candy—and the deconstructed glass of white wine highlighting flavor notes from slivers of green apple to dabs of grape gelée have become classics. But there are always surprises: a fully cooked soft-boiled egg with sturgeon caviar; crunchy pork rinds sweet with maple syrup; confit of boneless chicken wing with tamarind, cilantro, and coconut; New New England Clam Chowder; and a beet meringue with pistachio sauce.

The one-bite format can leave some vaguely unsatisfied. But usually the show has the desired effect, and you walk out feeling that you’ve been part of a rare type of performance art.

Don’t Miss Another New Restaurant—Get Our Food Newsletter

The latest in Washington’s food and drink scene.

Or, see all of our newsletters. By signing up, you agree to our terms.
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 Logan Circle.