100 Best Restaurants 2011: Sou’Wester

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

Take a boutique-hotel restaurant with modern furniture and over-the-top light fixtures. Add such folksy touches as jars of colorful pickled veggies and rocking chairs This is what resulted when the Mandarin Oriental hotel converted its Asian-fusion dining room into an upscale Southern restaurant.

The menu, overseen by CityZen chef Eric Ziebold and executed by Rachael Harriman, offers precise versions of down-home Southern dishes, such as expertly fried hushpuppies and dark-meat chicken. Chicken and dumplings, on the other hand, lacks enough gravy or dumplings to satisfy.

There’s a lineup of gleefully decadent desserts—banana cream pie, fried apple pie—and inspired cocktails such as a root-beer float made with Jack Daniel’s. If only the battalion of servers felt less stiff. Formality and fried okra don’t quite mix.

Also good: Fried oysters with smoky aïoli; sweetbreads on a bed of grits; corn soup with bacon; the brunch-only crabcake Benedict and doughnuts with maple dip; vanilla cheesecake; a warm, creamy cocktail of vanilla-infused rum and Earl Grey tea.

Open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Moderate to 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.