100 Best Restaurants 2010: Charlie Palmer Steak

No. 23: Charlie Palmer Steak

Cuisine: Charlie Palmer was the first of the celebrity chefs to come to DC with the idea of reinventing the steakhouse, and his Capitol Hill restaurant, with its winning blend of convention (big portions, big flavors) and innovation (modern accents such as fava-bean purée), created the template for the expensive experiments that have followed—BLT Steak, Bourbon Steak, J&G Steakhouse.

Mood: There’s nothing dark or clubby about the high-ceilinged space, which dispenses with conventional steakhouse trappings. From the pools of water lined with stones and the warm tones of blue and brown, this might be an upmarket sushi bar. Despite its proximity to—and views of—the Capitol and a regular clientele of power players, it offers a relaxed dining experience.

Best for: Wining and dining clients; dinner for out-of-town guests who like to geek out watching Meet the Press.

Best dishes: A buttery duo of foie gras; coriander-crusted Kona kampachi; head-on prawns; roasted rack of lamb; porterhouse for two; Alaskan halibut with crab-and-asparagus risotto; side dishes of Parmesan gnocchi and potato purée; a tasting of six sorbets and frozen custards; a trio of crèmes brûlées, including a knockout espresso version with cinnamon foam.

Insider tips: There’s free corkage for up to two bottles of American wine—the restaurant stocks only American wines, with at least one from each state. The sommelier might offer to bring your wine to the proper temperature, compliment you on it while pouring, and expertly steer you toward other excellent choices from the list.

Service: •••½

Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday for dinner. Very expensive.

See all of 2010's 100 Best Restaurants

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 Petworth.