100 Best Restaurants 2011: The Inn at Little Washington

No. 2

Only the top 40 restaurants were ranked in 2011's Best Restaurants list.

Patrick O’Connell’s 33-year-old country hideaway has long been saddled with an adjective that does it no favors: perfect. In recent years, the restaurant hasn’t always lived up to its reputation—there have been service hiccups, and the menu seemed stuck in the ’90s (red-pepper-coulis alert). But customers’ high expectations never waned. And with tasting menus that range from $148 (Sunday through Thursday) to $178 (Saturday), why should they?

O’Connell has ironed out any issues, and dining here is glorious once again. Dinner starts with a movie carton of truffled popcorn and an array of excellent canapés, such as a caviar-topped potato or a square of glazed pork belly. The updated menu includes delicate Nantucket bay scallops with tiny tomato gnocchi, a quartet of oysters topped with spicy and tangy sorbets, and a lovely lamb carpaccio with Caesar-salad ice cream, which the server describes as “like the salad without the crunch but wrapped in a mink coat.” It was delicious—thick and intensely flavored with Parmesan. Some classics remain, such as peppered tuna “pretending to be filet mignon,” topped with foie gras, and a delicate lobster fricassee with walnuts and grapes.

The rococo dining room, with hand-painted ceilings and Fortuny-silk-shaded lamps, isn’t for everyone, and not everything is 100 percent perfect (gratis Champagne is the house remedy for any slips). But once again the inn is coming pretty close.

Also good: Macaroni and cheese with truffles and country ham; duo of hot and cold foie gras; sweetbreads with pappardelle; silky black cod with lemon-vodka sauce; apple tart with puff pastry; mint ice cream with chocolate streamers.

Open daily for dinner. Very ex-pensive.

>> See all of 2011's 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.