Rupperts and TenPenh (long)
I just returned to NYC from a weekend at my old stomping grounds in DC. I had two interesting meals there -- one at my favorite DC restaurant, Rupperts, and one at the highly hyped TenPenh.
Rupperts continues to impress (I confess that it was my favorite restaurant in DC when I lived there), though I probably had not been there in a year or so. The food remains incredibly fresh (my bison was great, as was my dinner companion's rabbit, but the accompanying vegetables are always what really makes the meal), the homemade breads are fantastic, and the wait staff is friendly, knowlegable and unpretentious. Most of the staff appears to be unchanged from 3-5 years ago, which means (a) they know their job; (b) they like their job; and (c) they are treated well. It shows. I can't rave enough about this place, but one caveat -- they tend to have only three or four app. choices and three to four entree choices on any given night (the menu apparently changes daily, depending on what's fresh and available at market). Usually there is at least one meat option and one fish option. I think (but am not certain) that there also is usually a vegetarian option.
TenPenh was ok, but not great. My salmon (in a curry sauce) was a fine piece of fish but nothing special -- I had a similar but much, much better dish recently at Lotus of Siam in Vegas for about half the price. My dinner companion felt the same way about her bass (the waiter told us the bass was named by USA Today as one of the 20 best dishes in the country, which we frankly found hard to believe). I don't mind hyped places, or even high priced places, when the food justifies the buzz, but there is a real problem when the TenPenhs of the world are jammed on the same weekend that the Rupperts of the world are three-quarters empty.