Cuisine: Local-eating pioneer Todd Gray crafts carefully chosen ingredients into dishes that honor Italy and France and sometimes the Chesapeake. When the kitchen is on, it can be very good, but basic mistakes (gritty scallops, cold entrées) can get in the way of Gray’s vision. Former Maestro pastry chef Tom Wellings recently joined the kitchen, and his desserts are a highlight.
Mood: There are plenty of big-spending regulars schmoozing away—often with Gray, who makes the dining-room rounds—at this serene power haunt near the White House. (The Obamas dined there just before the inauguration.) The front dining room is a see-and-be-seen fishbowl; the taupe-painted back room is more date-friendly and low-key.
Best for: Lunchtime dealmaking; expense-account dinners.
Best dishes: A potted spread of rich foie gras slicked with quince gelée; cobia, a meaty white fish, with creamy grits and spinach; grilled beef strip loin in sweet Cabernet jus with a day-braised short rib; a cast-iron pot of truffled mac and cheese; ultra-light ricotta fritters; a layered panna cotta with foamed cider and sautéed apples.
Insider tips: Gray was trained at DC’s Galileo, and he excels at dishes bearing an Italian bent. He’s also skilled at regional classics—nobody does summer soft-shells as well as he does.
Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday and Sunday for dinner. Very expensive.