anniversary with serious foodie beloved
Hey folks -- we're newish to dc and still finding our way. So we need recommendations of places that are both romancey and top-notch food-wise (anything less will put us both in a funk -- not good for an anniversary!) for our October anniversary dinner. Don't mind spending for a very rewarding experience! We were thinking about Gerard's?
Thanks in advance!
Hubby and I (also fairly new to DC) just celebrated our 30th anniversary at The Inn at Little Washington. it was our first visit, and everything about the experience was highly satisfying and memorable. The ambience is luxurious and romantic. The food was fabulous: there are little tidbits served while the menu is studied, a swallow or two of delicious cream of english pea soup in a demitasse cup once one has ordered. I had risotto with grilled shrimp and hub had the hot and cold fois gras as first courses--both were exquisite. Main courses change frequently--I had sweetbreads in port wine sauce, hub had lobster with grapefruit. The Seven Deadly Sins is the dessert to go for-- a mindblowing tasting plate of miniatures of their various cakes, tarts and ice creams. The service is extraordinary-- they manage to pamper you without hovering. We mentioned to the waiter that we were celebrating a special event. Within minutes the captain was there to inquire about specifics. He later brought us a personalized copy of the menu, printed out with anniversary wishes above the day's date. And our dessert plates arrived with "Happy Anniversary" piped across the top of the plate. We felt the experience was definitely worth the money.
We'd spent the day tooling around Rappahannock County (visited Rucker Farm and bought some awesome freshly made goat cheeses) before dinner. October is a beautiful time of year in that area, and there are many places to stop and buy unusual varieties of apples, fresh cider, pumpkins, etc.
IMHO, having eaten at Citronelle (and I'm a big fan of Michel Richard's--I took a pastry class from him in L.A. in 1978, when he had a little patisserie in Beverly Hills), to celebrate a big event, Citronelle doesn't come close to the total experience of The Inn.
Did you sit at one of their two chef's tables which have a $300 "table charge" on top of the $139 prix fixe (Saturday night) in addition to 300-400% markups on wine?
We agree to disagree but I believe this is the most overrated and overpriced restaurant in America. A weeknight at $89 prix fixe and I will rave about it as you are. But their weekend price gouging whch continually pushes the limits on what they can charge has reached the point where either:
A. Those who sit at the Chef's tables and those who go on Saturday SUBSIDIZE those who visit on weeknights
B. They are merely trying to get richer faster than anyone thought possible.
We went on a mid-week night and paid $109 each. We skimped a bit by getting a half-bottle of wonderful wine (Landmark Overlook Chardonnay) instead of a full bottle, but we were driving home and a full bottle would have raised the blood alcohol level too high. For a very special occasion, the whole gestalt of the locale, the ambience, the service and the food were what made it so memorable. If I were just in search of great food, I wouldn't drive so far or spend so much. And I don't foresee and major milestones coming up for a while, so it may be five years before we go back.
We are Washingtonians (parents and grandparents on both sides) and used to go to The Inn for EVERY special occasion "back in the day." Back in the day was when my mother found an article in The Post when they first opened (in the 70's) raving about the place. We happened to be spending a few days hiking with the dogs at Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge mountains and she brought along the article. We made a reservation (couldn't even get seated on the weekend back then) for a Wednesday night and had the dining experience of a lifetime. I'll never forget my first meal at the The Inn and we returned at least twice a year for the next 20 years. We eventually moved within ten miles of the place, but alas, it was too pricey for even special occasions. What a shame because it is an unbelievable experience! If you've never been, you ought to try it at least once if you don't mind spending a fortune for food! Nothing comes close!
First I have done my absolute best to get fat in the D. C. area for many years. Fifty of them to be exact. I have also tried my best elsewhere in the United States and Europe being fortunate/unfortunate to travel over 125 days a year for twenty plus years on business through both continents. I have also done the research before the caloric investments wherever I have gone. (Financial investments in a meal are secondary-it is only whether or not the calories were worth it.)
Having said all this there are several choices you should consider:
1. Citronelle. Zagat a 28 food but arguably as good as "The Inn" (at Little Washington), D. C. $139 prix fixe version of a Michelin three star which would have one in Europe. Unfortunately Citronelle is not cheap but if Michel Richard is there-and you meet him-the overall experience is the best in D. C. and one of the best in America. This, at its best, is one of the five or six best restaurants in America. The ambience is nice but not over the top.
2. About over the top: The Prime Rib on K Street. This IS the best prime rib in D. C. and the best crab cakes (the original is in Ballmer dating to the '50's). Steaks are good but not as good as Morton's and six or seven others. Sides are good but, again, nothing extraordinary. But the ambience! Chrome, glass, black leather, leopard prints, gold, the piano, this is the BIG DEAL power restaurant where 40 to 70 year olds go to celebrate an anniversary or a marriage or a big deal. It is also where congressman take their younger mistresses. (They meet them at the bar!)
If you order correctly (prime rib, crab cakes, you will have an outstanding meal. Dress up. This is truly SWANKY and that is not an understatement. Overall this might be my first choice because of the atmosphere.
3. L'Auberge Chez Francois. It has reopened after a fire a year ago. For ten plus years this was the most popular restaurant year after year after year here. ALWAYS rated ahead of "The Inn." Always. Much less expensive too. Probably $200 with wine versus $400 plus. In the country but only seven or eight miles from the Beltway. Romantic, comfortable, legendary for celebrations and anniversaries. The food is very good. Not great but very good. For many people this would be their first choice.
Palena is good but not in the league of Citronelle. Obelisk is the best Italian in D. C. and one of the best in America but this is NOT a restaurant for a celebration or an anniversary. Frankly it is not "fancy" enough-32 seats in a converted townhouse where most everyone dresses casual. (Prime Rib has a jacket requirement.) 1789 is a real possibility but I prefer the others. Kinkead's is excellent but has a factory atmosphere with its 200 plus seats and repulsive requirements of seatings at either 6:00 or 9:00 with little or no flexibility. Where they not so greedy to turnover so many tables this could be, along with Citronelle, one of D. C. two best restaurants.
Last, if you;re doing this in October reserve a month in advance and go to Four and Twenty Blackbirds, six miles from "The Inn." Stay near there, too. Tour some wineries. Tour "The Inn."
This last may be the best suggestion of all depending on when you are going. This part of Virginia in October is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Loathe as I am to recommend any other place but Kinkead's, I will suggest--for the romantic part--to check out 1789 in Georgetown. Also I haven't heard anything about it recently, but the Angler's Inn up towards Potomac always showed up on romantic dining lists.
re: Marty L.
I did not think Palena lived up to its reputation at all. I thought the food was just satisfactory and was certainly not worth what they charge. The restaurant is located beneath a gym and at numerous times during the course of our dinner, the chandeliers began to shake from the aerobics class that was taking place. I think there are far better restaurants to go to and certainly would not suggest it for an anniversary dinner. I thought L'auberge chez francois is a fantastic place - the food is aboslutely amazing and the atmosphere is romantic. You need to make a reservation far in advance and request a table near the fireplace if possible. I have not been to Old Angler's Inn but have heard it's a romantic spot, especially in the winter. I recently ate at Obelisk and thought that food was incredible.
Gerard's is outstanding. The "Place" is my favorite French restaurant in the city. (BTW, it's also about the only French restaurant in the city, not counting bistro fare and Capitol Hill). The decor is not impressive, but the food, service and wine list certainly are. Alternatives include Marcel's, a bigger, louder French-Belgian restaurant. (Frankly, an embarrassment the last time I was there, but I still hear good things from others.) Obviously Kinkade's for seafood. Obelisk for Italian. Citronelle for California-chic. Willard Hotel Dining room for physical splendor. Prime Rib for civilized beef. Or you can always make the big trip to Inn at Little Washington...