100 Best Restaurants 2010: Minibar

No. 2: Minibar

Cuisine: Thirty miniature courses—some a spoonful or a spritz—of celebrity chef José Andrés’s gastronomic alchemy. Olive oil is transformed into a bonbon; a beet is spun into tumbleweeds. Andrés turns familiar dishes inside out and upside down—you’ll never look at chicken wings or cheesesteaks the same way again.

Mood: There are only six seats at this counter on the second floor of Café Atlántico, and diners are served by two or three chefs. You’ll likely have questions—what’s the secret behind those edible gumdrop wrappers?—and the chefs encourage a spirited back-and-forth. Imagine two hours of culinary thrills mixed with the coolest science class around.

Best for: Curious eaters, lovers of theater, foodies in search of something new. Note: This isn’t volume eating, although we’ve always left sated.

Best dishes: The menu is set each night (tell the restaurant about allergies in advance), but a core of hit dishes, including foie gras swabbed in cotton candy and the fabulously drippy “cheesesteak,” often appear.

Insider tips: This may be Washington’s toughest seat to come by. Reservations for the two nightly seatings are taken one month to the day in advance beginning at 10 am. If you have your heart set on a certain date, treat it like getting Springsteen tickets and have several friends try to get through at once. Sometimes reservations are gone in minutes.

Service: •••½

Two dinner seatings Tuesday through Saturday. 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.