January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

Heavy-hitters flock to Jeff Buben's French-style bistro.

No. 29: Bistro Bis

If your vision of a bistro is a raucous room jammed with creaky tables and Medoc drinkers whiling away the hours, well, put that aside. Magnums of Pol Roger and Veuve Clicquot line this smart Hill dining room, and there are more BlackBerries on the banquettes than tarte Tatines. Hillary Clinton loves the place. And though Anthony Bourdain might scoff at the notion of a bistro filled with expense-accounting lobbyists and politicos, you shouldn’t: The place delivers.

At his other restaurant, Vidalia, chef/owner Jeff Buben gussies up the cuisine of the old South with modern techniques and zippy presentation. Here he does the same with dishes both Parisian and Provençal. A beet salad with chèvre and citrus vinaigrette sounds simple, but what arrives is a lovely surprise—you’ll notice the walnuts and wonderful olive oil as much as the sweet roasted red, yellow, and candy-stripe beets. With some classics, he leaves well enough alone. A Les Halles–style onion soup, capped with Gruyère and full of robust richness—Buben’s an onion guy, after all—isn’t fancier than it needs to be. Côte de porc —a hulking roasted rib chop—gets a simple slather of Dijon mustard.

Come dessert, opt for the cheese trolley: The eclectic spread pulls good products from wherever—Dallas and Montreal, Puglia and the Pyrenees.

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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.