100 Best Restaurants 2009: Grapeseed

No. 73: Grapeseed

Cuisine: In one of the area’s oldest wine-centric bistros, chef/owner Jeff Heineman says his recipes are inspired by the wines, and the two menus are intelligently paired. The fare is richer than at some other wine bars: First courses of cheese-stuffed meatballs, fried clams or oysters, or even chicken livers set the stage for a filling experience.

Mood: There are booths down the hallway, small wine-cellarish rooms, a half dozen seats at the chef’s table and in front of the kitchen, and a front room with sidewalk views.

Best for: Diners interested in less-familiar varietals and slow, deliberate dinners. Recently, dishes have been scant on salt and acid that would compete with wines but not on fats—an otherwise perfect lobster was cloaked in a butter sauce.

Best dishes: Smoked trout with pears and crème fraîche; grilled quail; braised short ribs; roasted filet mignon with oxtail ragoût; wild Alaskan halibut with green-tomato marmalade and hazelnuts; grilled monkfish with bacon-rich spoonbread, morels, and sweet-corn relish.

Insider tips: Skip the orecchiette, which has been too heavy. “Tempura” here is closer to deep-fried than traditional. Some changes of sides may bring a surcharge.

Service: •••

Open Monday for dinner, Tuesday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday for dinner. Expensive.

See all of 2009's 100 Best Restaurant 

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.