100 Best Restaurants 2009: Vermilion

No. 28: Vermilion

Cuisine: Tony Chittum is as dedicated a craftsman as chefs come. The cod in his parsnip chowder? Smoked in-house. Pastas and sausages? He makes those, too. Influences range from Greece and Italy to the Eastern Shore, but the common denominator is a hearty simplicity that lets every ingredient shine.

Mood: A bordellolike brick-and-velvet space done up with flickering gaslights. The excellent cocktails—a gin fizz with port/pear reduction, old-school hot buttered rum—keep the mood around the bar high.

Best for: Dates you want to lean closer to (it can get loud); dinner with parents; cocktails and a few nibbles; weekend brunch, one of the best around.

Best dishes: Parsnip chowder; butternut-squash soup sprinkled with crushed almond cookies; lamb sausage with chestnut; charcuterie board with both rustic, spicy lonza (cured smoked pork loin) and Armagnac-slicked duck pâté; seafood salad topped with a stone-crab claw; rockfish with crispy oysters.

Insider tips: The lounge menu is less expensive and full of big plates designed to be split, such as the charcuterie and cheese board, hush puppies with sweet pickles, and a light fritto misto.

Service: •••

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

See all of 2009's 100 Best Restaurants

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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.