100 Best Restaurants 2010: Marcel’s

No. 17: Marcel's

Cuisine: When is the last time you encountered Madeira sauce on a menu? Chef Robert Wiedmaier turns out the kind of beurre-heavy French cooking that once dominated the local restaurant scene and has all but disappeared. But his kitchen is by no means stuck in the past—hamachi crudo and cilantro aïoli are in the mix, too.

Mood: The honey-lit dining room, which lies beyond a pair of heavy burgundy drapes, feels elegantly plush and civilized. It takes you back to a time when the only blackberries at the table were on a tart.

Best for: A dinner to dress up for; those nostalgic for the days of Rive Gauche and Sans Souci.

Best dishes: Sweet Alaskan crab legs sided with a brightly flavored crab salad; filet of turbotin (a small, flaky relative of turbot) in a delicate beurre blanc; rosy medallions of lamb wrapped in phyllo with spinach and duxelles; boudin blanc (Wiedmaier’s signature), an elegant, mousse-filled sausage; venison with a rich reduction of Carmenère wine; grape clafoutis; soufflé specials; cheese plate with honeycomb and raisins on the vine.

Insider tips: The menu offers a four-, five-, or seven-course menu, but a three-course pre-theater menu ($52) is a good deal—and when you consider the amuse-bouche, the mignardise, and the take-home madeleines, it amounts to a pretty sumptuous meal. If you’re headed to the nearby Kennedy Center, you can valet-park your car for the evening and the restaurant will arrange to have you driven to and from the theater via Mercedes; you can also opt to have your dessert after the show.

Service: •••

Open daily 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.