Cuisine: Washington’s best restaurant is home to 30-year-old chef Johnny Monis, a wunderkind who disdains the trappings of culinary fame, preferring to expend his creativity and passion on his interpretation of Mediterranean cooking. Exquisitely fresh fish and seafood—in most cases presented raw and imaginatively accented—predominate at the start of the two set menus, giving way as the long, leisurely night unfolds to family-style preparations of luscious roast goat and suckling pig. In between, diners revel in a variety of tastes and textures, including one of the best pasta courses in the area—each noodle is accorded a separate dough, then rolled gently by hand and exuberantly sauced.
Mood: The most unpretentious big-ticket destination around: simply appointed, softly lit, with an air of quiet sophistication and a hint of something special in the offing. The staff—young, energetic, knowledgeable, and proud—is nearly a match for the cooking. You don’t feel looked after; you feel taken care of.
Best for: Gastronomic thrill seekers and all those willing to submit to a very particular idea of what constitutes dinner: an unhurried, sensual, and communal night out.
Best dishes: Roasted, mascarpone-stuffed dates drizzled with olive oil and anointed with coarse sea salt; a decadent, deceptively simple dish of sliced scallop with truffle emulsion and black truffles; a chewy tangle of handmade spaghetti tossed in a creamy, bright sea-urchin sauce and capped with lobes of sea urchin; roast suckling pig and baby goat with warm, house-made pita and a quintet of customizing condiments.
Insider tips: The degustazione menu puts dinner in the hands of the chef, but that doesn’t mean you can’t request that certain dishes on the menu make an appearance.
Open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner. Very expensive.