Michelin has released its highly-anticipated 2022 stars for DC restaurants. Four places have been added to the exclusive list—and three* big names have been removed—bringing the total number of Michelin-starred DC dining rooms to 24.
All of the new additions are one-star winners. Michelin’s anonymous inspectors raved about Albi, chef Michael Rafidi’s wood-fired Levantine restaurant in Navy Yard; Enrique Limardo’s Chef’s Table at Imperfecto, which they deemed “a far cry from the main, more casual menu” at the Latin-Mediterranean restaurant in West End; plant-centric darling Oyster Oyster in Shaw, which serves a hyper-seasonal prix-fixe; and Johnny Spero’s contemporary Georgetown tasting room, Reverie.
Though all are relative newcomers to the dining scene, both Albi and Reverie were previously listed in the 2021 guide as unranked “plate” recommendations—the least-prestigious category given to restaurants that haven’t earned stars or wallet-friendly Bib Gourmand awards.
This year, the most competitive two-star and three-star tiers remain unchanged. The Inn at Little Washington in Rappahannock County reigns as the area’s sole three-star recipient (and Michelin’s only exception outside the District). In the two-star category, modernist Logan Circle tasting counter Jônt is rejoined by José Andrés’s newly reopened Minibar in Penn Quarter. Also retaining its two stars: Pineapple and Pearls on Capitol Hill, which has been closed since March 2020, but is currently taking reservations for its relaunch in May. Sister restaurants Rose’s Luxury and Little Pearl are ranked with one star.
“Given our solid history with the restaurant and communication with the chef, we’ve kept it in the guide with its current distinction,” says Michelin’s anonymous chief inspector for North America. “It’s a way to show support, and our inspectors will review as soon as possible.”
In 2021, with the restaurant industry still hobbled by the pandemic, Michelin did not revoke any stars—even though several dining rooms remained closed or in flux. This year, Michelin removed Dupont fine dining stalwart Komi. Chef Johnny Monis’s Greek tasting room has been operating as casual, takeout-only Happy Gyro throughout the pandemic—though it’s worth noting that Monis and wife/co-owner Anne Marler have never officially announced Komi’s permanent shutter. (“Our understanding is that Komi has closed,” says the Michelin inspector). Also off the star list: Plume, the Jefferson Hotel’s luxe European dining room which is being replaced by another concept.
The only restaurant to lose its star is beloved, 35 year-old Japanese restaurant and omakase room Sushi Taro, lead by Nobu Yamazaki and Masaya Kitayama. The Dupont Circle restaurant briefly closed in the pandemic and moved to carryout, but is now fully open for dining. Says the anonymous chief inspector: “We look forward to revisiting this restaurant and ascertaining any evolution.”
While many food critics hit pause on reviews during the pandemic, Michelin remained steadfast in publishing guides—and unwavering on their criteria and methods for reviewing.
“We are speaking always to the same methodology, so that one star in New York is the same as one star in Chicago,” says Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of the Michelin Guides. “For us, it was the best way to support the industry, keeping the link between the gourmand and the restaurants. The interest for good food has never been so high.”
Reviews are always based on in-person dining (no takeout), but have never officially factored in service—perhaps a boon to Michelin’s procedures in the pandemic with its many disruptions and labor shortages.
“We’re looking quality product, mastery of technique, harmony of flavors, value for money, and consistency between visits. In essence it hasn’t changed” says the anonymous US Michelin inspector. “What chefs are offering has evolved and new trends have emerged. Maybe the menus are more concise, some restaurants have time constraints, but what we’re looking for remains the same.”
In addition to the new stars, Michelin announced two new “special awards” and winners. Sommelier of the Year goes to Nicole Ramée and Alisa Watts of one-star Spanish spot Xiquet. Meanwhile, the Exceptional Cocktails Award is granted to Will Patton, beverage director at Bresca and Jônt.
There tends to be more fluctuation on the list of Bib Gourmand awards—bestowed to a longer, more eclectic list of restaurants that offer “good food at a moderate price.” This year, Michelin began announcing new inclusions on a rolling basis, and last week, they named four newcomers to the list: Daru, the H Street Corridor’s Indian hotspot; New Orleans-inspired Dauphine’s in Downtown DC; and Petworth ramen joint Menya Hosaki and neighboring fried-chicken place Honeymoon Chicken. But several restaurants lost the designation this year, including Navy Yard dining room Chloe, Brookland wine bar Primrose, José Andrés’s Zaytinya, Shaw Ethiopian place Chercher, and the Southern/Korean Succotash. Others, such as Hazel, Napoli Pasta Bar, and American Son, were removed from the list because of their closures. None of the Bib removals from the previous year—including Millie’s in Spring Valley, Ambar on Capitol Hill, and the Royal in LeDroit Park—were reinstated to the list.
The District’s Michelin guide launched in 2016 with 12 starred rankings, and has since doubled in size. Poullennec says the 2022 guide is a mark of culinary progress and resiliency—both in DC and globally.
“We haven’t changed their criteria, the restaurants have changed their games,” Poullennec says. “You really feel how strong the culinary scene is becoming, and despite the crisis, the trend continues.”
Here’s the full list of DC star rankings:
The Inn at Little Washington
Pineapple and Pearls
Imperfecto: the Chef’s Table (NEW)
Oyster Oyster (NEW)
Rooster & Owl
Tail Up Goat
And here are the 2022 Bib Gourmands:
Honeymoon Chicken (NEW)
Ivy City Smokehouse
Karma Modern Indian
Laos in Town
Menya Hosaki (NEW)
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace
The Red Hen
Timber Pizza Co.
*Correction: Three restaurants were omitted from the list. Sushi Taro was not mentioned in the original article.