100 Best Restaurants 2010: Oval Room

No. 7: Oval Room

Cuisine: In chef Tony Conte’s hands, slices of raw kampachi morph into a riff on a pastrami sandwich, Parmesan gets paired with pineapple, and gingerbread turns into a sauce. Recipes for disaster? Maybe for a lesser cook, but Conte—a protégé of Jean-Georges Vongerichten—consistently pulls off such surprises with stunning results.

Mood: The restaurant’s proximity to the White House means there’s usually a politico power scene (“Hey there, Rahm”) at lunch. At night the pretty, pale-green dining room feels warmer and more serene.

Best for: A quiet date; an easier-on-the-budget meal that still feels like a splurge (entrées hover in the $20s); a spur-of-the-moment dinner, for which reservations are usually more plentiful than at lunch.

Best dishes: Foamy, light, lavishly rich Parmesan custard; decadent foie gras brûlée over a circle of brioche; the area’s best beet salad, with horseradish and cubes of passionfruit gelée; cucumber soup; creamy burrata cheese with apple; butter-poached lobster over curried rice; striped bass with heirloom peppers and littleneck clams; braised short ribs.

Insider tips: Request a table in the main dining room—the area off to the side feels far from the action.

Service: •••

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