100 Best Restaurants 2011: Zentan

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

This East-meets-West concept from Toronto-based chef Susur Lee seems bent on disproving the old saw that hotel dining is generic—occasionally to its detriment. The low-lit space looks like a private club, glammed-up high-rollers arrive ready for their close-ups, and dishes look as if they were designed to elicit more “oohs” than sighs of satisfaction.

But the food has surprising depth. A dish described as garlic chicken—conjuring images of Chinese takeout—turns out to be a cleverly contrived loin sporting a dark, Peking-duck-crisp skin. Black cod is sliced into nuggets, glazed, and roasted to a melting richness. A 19-ingredient salad known as Singapore Slaw, tossed tableside, is an intricate interplay of flavor and texture.

Best of all is the sushi bar, where young chef Jason Zheng works his craft. His combinations can be clever, particularly his rolls, but Zheng is anchored in tradition—he knows that style must be balanced by substance. Sushi doesn’t get much better than this.

Also good: Salmon crudo; sashimi plate; roast duck with pancakes and hoisin; rack of lamb; pear and caramel sorbets.

Open Monday through Friday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Saturday and Sunday for breakfast and dinner. 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.