Cuisine: With 15 Michelin stars, Alain Ducasse is a brand. His sprawling empire—which includes restaurants in New York, Paris, Monaco, Tokyo, and Las Vegas—spares no expense to scour the globe for luxury ingredients, which it transforms into deft updatings of French haute cuisine. The DC outpost, though, is an oddly restrained affair: Dishes are cautiously conceived and sometimes blandly executed. But the luxury is unmistakable, and it’s hard not to think that the performance will improve. The wines are terrific—and more consistently rewarding.
Mood: The David Rockwell–designed room is a slyly modern evocation of a wine cellar, and the room is bathed in a buttery light that flatters faces. No need to be self-conscious of wrinkles or crow's feet here.
Best for: A lavish, expense-account dinner.
Best dishes: Corn “cappuccino” soup; oversize ricotta gnocchi as light and soft as a poached egg; pressed foie gras and organic chicken with black-truffle condiment; succulent sweetbreads; seared squab breast with foie gras ringed by a rich, offal-fortified salmis sauce; raspberry custard with rose-blossom ice cream and grapefruit; light-as-air Gala-apple soufflé; baba au rhum doused tableside with Armagnac and dolloped with light whipped cream; buttermilk panna cotta with rhubarb and strawberry (in season).
Insider tips: Come dessert, the staff exhales and the enormous sense of expectation is lifted. This is the time to splurge for a cognac or Armagnac. Instead of petit fours, the meal is brought to a close with a small tray of raspberry and chocolate macarons—every bit the equal of those at the famed Ladurée in Paris. Ask for an extra order to take home.
Open Monday for breakfast and lunch, Tuesday through Friday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Saturday for breakfast and dinner. Very expensive.