100 Best Restaurants 2010: Proof

No. 27: Proof

Cuisine: Of all the wine bars that have opened here, this one has the most ambitious and interesting kitchen. Still, it has often seemed better for grazing on the cheese and charcuterie boards than for splurging on a full dinner. But chef Haidar Karoum is better than ever. He’s always had an Asian bent, and you’ll still find his signature miso sablefish. He’s branching into newer territories, turning out perfectly seared sweetbreads and delicate gnocchi, too.

Mood: A leather-and-brick room carved into the middle of Verizon Center territory. Unlike its neighbors, it’s refreshingly small—sometimes frustratingly so. Stop by the bar on a weeknight and it’s likely to be jammed five deep, and forget dropping in without a reservation. It’s also loud with conversational din and so darkly lit that servers hand out flashlit magnifying glasses with the menus.

Best for: Dates or small groups; late-night dining (Thursday through Saturday, the kitchen serves cheesesteaks and meatball subs until 1 am); busting out of a Sancerre rut—enlist one of the smart servers to navigate the wine list of 1,000-plus bottles.

Best dishes: Pork confit that tastes like a mix of pork belly and Peking duck, its richness cut with cilantro and vinegary slaw; creamy sweetbreads over a sauté of charred corn; meatballs with goat-cheese agnolotti; miso-glazed sablefish; perfectly pink duck breast with pomegranate vinaigrette; shrimp burger (lunch only).

Insider tips: At the bar during lunch, $12 buys you an entrée or sandwich and a glass of wine. Desserts have been generally disappointing—consider one of Adam Bernbach’s retro cocktails instead, such as the Mirrorball, a cool, faintly sweet mix of Riesling and eau de vie.

Service: ••½

Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday and Sunday for dinner (open late Friday and Saturday). 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.