100 Best Restaurants 2011: Volt

No. 40

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

Before he was runner-up on Top Chef, Bryan Voltaggio was best known as a disciple of Charlie Palmer, the Michelin-starred chef who made sturdy American cuisine elegant at his restaurants in New York and California and at Charlie Palmer Steak in DC. At his own restaurant now, Voltaggio seems more like an acolyte of José Andrés, accenting the painterly plates he sends into the white-on-white dining room with the likes of cinnamon gel and caper powder.

A glistening slice of smoked Scottish salmon is set off with quenelles of crème fraîche and “flavors of everything bagel”—bread crumbs flecked with poppy seeds, dehydrated red onion, and fennel. Poached coils of lobster tail are garnished with tarragon-carrot vinaigrette and a puff of fried lobster purée. Some of it can seem over the top—fennel “plaque,” a bland slip of fennel cooked in garlic and set with agar-agar, accompanies otherwise appealing sweetbreads. Voltaggio’s cooking sometimes seems more about showing off new tricks than about flavor. But seekers of the newest new thing will find it here, especially at Table 21, a spot in the kitchen where diners can watch Voltaggio whip up a 21-course menu. Tom and Padma not included.

Also good: Carnival-squash soup with smoked scallop; goat-cheese-and-ricotta ravioli with sage “air”; lamb strip loin with merguez sausage and figs; goat-cheese cake with pear; the Sidepocket, a cocktail of bourbon, Lillet Rouge, and ginger liqueur.

Open Wednesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, Sunday for brunch and dinner. Table 21 open Wednesday through Sunday for dinner. Expensive to 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 Logan Circle.