100 Best Restaurants 2011: 2941

No. 18

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

Amid the explosion of small-plates cafes, ethnic enclaves, and midlevel destination restaurants where the cooking is as serious as the setting isn’t, this high-toned oasis, opened in 2002, begins to seem old-fashioned. Everything about it—dark-suited waiters, a 5,000-bottle wine list, house-made baguettes to bid you goodbye—says statement dining.

The cathedral-like space stands as a monument to the dot-com era. The food is suitably grand—luxury ingredients subjected to classical French and creative modern preparations and dramatically (if stintingly) presented on gorgeous china. The chef, Bertrand Chemel, apprenticed under Daniel Boulud at his venerated New York flagship, and the influence is most obvious in Chemel’s saucing, which can elevate a simple cut of beef or an underseasoned breast of duck or lend a rustic depth to the pristinely fresh clams, mussels, and lobster that make up his interpretation of zarzuela, a Spanish seafood stew.

This rich, layered cooking calls for wine—perhaps a well-aged bottle of Burgundy or Bordeaux, which you can count on to be decanted and served at the proper temperature. We’d expect nothing less of a bastion of the old guard.

Also good: Hamachi crudo with Meyer lemon and cucumber; seared foie gras with duck confit and brioche; duck trio of sausage, leg, and roasted breast; beef two ways with potato purée; chocolate chiboust with a cream-filled pastry; mont blanc, a thin cake of puréed chesnuts and cream, with Calvados ice cream.

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

>> 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.