The most beautiful dining experience in Washington right now begins on an ivory loveseat in a firelit salon. After a few minutes, a Champagne cocktail, and a trio of canapés (oh, that short-rib financier), stresses big and small start to fade away. That’s Eric Ziebold and Célia Laurent’s point—that nobody should be twitching about traffic jams when sitting down to a restaurant meal—and it’s one of the grace notes that make an evening here so special. Laurent and Ziebold (she’s the host, he’s the chef) are both veterans of the French Laundry in Northern California, so it’s no sur-prise they’ve thought through every aspect of the experience, from the stunning ceramic plates to the soothing Coltrane soundtrack. What is a revelation is Ziebold’s cooking these days. He’s more quietly daring than showy—incongruous as they sound, banana and sea urchin feel harmonious in his hands—and his current seven-course tasting menu has inspired so many “best we’ve ever had” comments (about the orange-scented mackerel or the butter-like kuroge beef) that we stopped counting. At the very end, our server showed up not with the check but with shot glasses of milk granita and three pitchers holding the makings of milkshakes. “Chocolate, vanilla, or cherry?” he asked with a smile. Turns out there was one more best to add to the list. Very expensive.
Also great: Pan-seared duck with cabbage fondue and foie gras emulsion; lobster cassoulet with adzuki beans and dashi broth; molasses cake with mulled raisins.