100 Best Restaurants 2010: CityZen

No. 10: CityZen

Cuisine: In figure-skating terms, Eric Ziebold attempts the equivalent of a triple axel every night, producing high-concept, often exquisite dishes at breakneck speed. One minute, he’s evoking Escoffier with a perfect terrine; another, he’s channeling his Iowa mom, preparing tongue with her corned-beef recipe. And he can’t resist upscaling humble ethnic dishes, such as a Russian koulibiac crafted with asparagus and a Japanese shabu shabu made with foie gras.

Mood: A soaring room in the luxe Mandarin Oriental hotel. It might look imposing, but many of the sharply suited servers exude warmth and humor, and the soundtrack has been known to include Radiohead and Jimi Hendrix.

Best for: Diners willing to place their trust in a chef and his vision and to enjoy the ride.

Best dishes: The menu changes monthly, but look for dishes with a Midwestern or Americana bent (Pilsner popovers, grasshopper pie, a riff on Maryland stuffed ham); anything with pasta, all house-made and excellent; preparations of beef or shoat (baby pig); dessert soufflés; cheeses from the cart.

Insider tips: A $50 three-course bar menu, with two or three choices per category, is geared to more casual walk-ins—in the dining room it’s $75 for three courses or $110 for the tasting menu.

Service: •••½

Open Tuesday through 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 Logan Circle.