100 Best Restaurants 2011: Citronelle

No. 6

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

Perhaps no Washington chef has a better sense of humor—or an ability to express it through the kitchen—than Michel Richard. In the boisterous Frenchman’s craft, black pearls of squid-ink pasta are served atop lobster in a caviar tin, salmon mousse plays the role of icing on a miniature savory cupcake, and lemon curd and meringue are made to look like sunny-side-up eggs.

The menu is dotted with these Richard standards. But some of the best dishes lately have forgone his trompe l’oeil signature. A thin tart, black with squid ink, is spread with luscious hollandaise and peekytoe crab and dotted with hackleback caviar. Rack of lamb is livened up with a bright-green, jalapeño-spiked sauce. And silken, sweet sablefish is turned a stunning red by beet juice and wine.

Service can be on the officious side, and the subterranean dining room is comfortable but boring—unless you get a table in front of the glassed-in kitchen, where you can marvel at the frenetic choreography of executive chef David Deshaies and his toqued cooks. Chances are, though, your attention will keep going back to the plate in front of you.

Also good: Chestnut soup; a mosaic of thinly sliced venison, beef, tuna, eel, and salmon; roast duck with boudin blanc; sous-vide short ribs for two; caramel apple with dulce de leche ice cream; brûléed napoleon.

Open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner. Very expensive.

>> See all of 2011's Best Restaurants

 

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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.