It took three years, but our area finally has its first Michelin three-star restaurant: The Inn at Little Washington.
According to Michael Ellis, the guide’s international director, Michelin inspectors have long been impressed with Patrick O’Connell’s haute-bucolic hotel and dining room in Rappahannock County (it garnered a still very respectable two stars the last two years). In previous years, inspectors encountered some three-star worthy dishes, while others “weren’t up to that,” Ellis says. How has the chef upped his game? “Over the past couple years he’s refined techniques and was really able to bring his sauces up to a new level.” Ellis even brought in a few French inspectors just to make sure.
“It was clear he’d been influenced by some of the great French dining and lodging establishments in the Relais & Chateaux,” says Ellis.
It’s a potentially seismic designation for the 40 year-old restaurant, which will push the Inn into global-destination territory as it joins the ranks of Napa Valley’s French Laundry and New York’s Eleven Madison Park. The Inn also remains Michelin’s only exception for coverage outside the District.
So that’s the big news. The rest of the list is a little less dramatic.
You’ll find the same two-star picks as last year—Aaron Silverman’s playful tasting room Pineapple and Pearls, and José Andrés’ futurist Minibar. And there are just two new one-star additions: Robert Wiedmaier’s seafood-focused hotel restaurant Siren in Logan Circle, and Ryan Ratino’s whimsical 14th Street dining room Bresca. Ellis says inspectors were especially blown away by Ratino’s mastery of different styles of cuisine—whether a lamb ragu that tasted straight out of Emilia-Romagna, or a more forward-thinking surf-and-turf of squab and lobster tail. No previous winners were dropped from the one-star category.
As for Wiedmaier’s higher-end, more established Marcel’s, Ellis says they’d hoped to give it a star, “but we couldn’t do that this year.”
The starred list is by far the biggest deal in Michelin-land. Why only three changes? Ellis counters that per capita, DC might have the highest concentration of starred restaurants. He also notes that there are 19 new honorees on the more value-minded Bib Gourmand list, which he thinks is a record for any city.
Of course, we see several notable absences. Where is Little Serow, Johnny Monis‘s beloved Northern Thai spot in Dupont Circle? Or Del Mar, Fabio and Maria Trabocchi‘s glittering Spanish dining room at the Wharf? No love for Himitsu, the Japanese-accented gem in Petworth, or Rasika, one of the country’s top Indian restaurants, either. With the exception of Sushi Taro, the starred list is made up entirely of American or European places.
The print guide drops September 17, and the full list of starred restaurants is below: