How the Inn at Little Washington Beat Out Komi On Our 2013 100 Very Best List

Think of this as a 400-meter race, says critic Todd Kliman.

A reader wrote into Kliman Online Tuesday to ask Washingtonian critic Todd Kliman how it happened that Komi—the number one restaurant on our 100 Very Best Restaurants list in 2012—fell to the number two slot this year, and the Inn at Little Washington (last year’s number two) rose to the top slot. Here was his reply.

What we’re talking about here is something like what you typically see in a 400-meter race—the winner edges out the second-place finisher by four-tenths of a second.

Both are excellent restaurants, and both are performing at a very high level.

So a decision like this comes down to little things. Little things that, in the final analysis, aren’t so little.

Let me share with you some of the final report card for Komi—the final meal report for the year—which contained more dings than in any of the previous four years. Service was more rushed than usual—in and out in two hours, a striking departure from the leisurely, beautifully paced meals of the past; the pasta course was uneven; the dessert course was weak, incommensurate with the excitement of all that preceded it.

The final report card for the Inn, by contrast, was startling in its cleanness. Flawless service—warm, funny, smart, and just the right amount of attentive. And nearly every dish, from a cold lobster with citrus and sake gelée to a butter pecan ice cream sandwich, was not only terrific but also memorable.