NY Hound coming to D.C. in 2 weeks
I assumed you'd get enough responses without my two sense but after reading them I feel compelled to say a few things.
First of all, I'd consider Palena as an addition to your list. It's one of the finest restaurants I've been to anywhere in the world. What should you get? Everything.
I'd also consider Komi. Don't know what the latest Chowhound buzz is on this restaurant but I am a fan and recommend it without hesitation.
Now. As for IALW I need to say a few things here. I have only been there once but it remains one of my top restaurant experiences ever. Be sure to go early and take advantage of tea time. It's a lovely treat. They make absolutely everything from scratch and use milk and cheese from local dairy farmers with whom they are on a first name basis. The wine list is fun and extensive. The food is delicious. No, they are not trying to reinvent themselves every week with a flashy new dish just for the sake of showing you that they know how to execute a specific application or whatever, but they are far from dated. Personally, keeping a favorite dish on a menu for close to twenty years doesn't automatically tell me that they are crusty, dusty and running on autopilot. It may mean that it is certainly one of their most successful and popular dishes but it also may have changed tremendously since the 1980's or even since last week. And besides, since I don't visit IALW on a weekly or even monthly basis, I don't really care if a dish has been on the menu for a long time since it's the first time that I'm seeing it there for myself.
The attention to detail in service is old world, not trendy. It's warm but professional. The staff are patient, knowledgeable, and anticipatory without being intrusive.
The atttention to detail in food is just as obvious. Other posters on this board may disagree with me it seems, but I say, don't miss this lovely treat if you have the inclination for the drive out. I went last year for my one year anniversary and had an amazing experience.
My favorite restaurant in NYC is Grammercy Tavern, my favorite in San Francisco is Boulevard, in case you are doubting my Houndish tastes. While I like enginuity in the food I eat, I also appreciate just plain old, well executed good ingredients and good service.
So there. I'll step off of my soapbox and let you make your own decision about the Inn but I thought you could use an alternative opinion.
Good luck, and good eating!
At Citronelle, there are very few things I would pass up. It's very easy to go on and on about which are wonderfully creative and delicious.
So the easier thing is to tick off a couple of things that I think are over-rated and not worth the hype... There are two longstanding things I would pass up in favor of other choices:
> Lobster Burger: I thought this was only on the menu in the lounge/bar, but it looks like it might be on the full chef's menu... not nearly as good as the tuna burger (which is only on the lounge menu)
> Chocolate Three Ways: This is a "classic" but the other desserts are far more creative and tasty
Personally, I agree with the disappointment of the Inn. Having eaten there a few times over the last year I can honestly say that I was a little disappointed for what you get for the $, especially being a NYC transplant.
We moved to NoVa two years ago after living and working in NYC for 10 years and quite honestly I would take Daniel or French Laundry over IALW. If you want to make a trip out from DC, I would suggest Foti's in Culpeper (about 25 mins closer to DC than the Inn). As Fotis is only been open just shy of 2 years and the chef was the Executive Sous at IALW for 8 years. Quite frankly I would proably suggest Fotis along with any of the others in your list.
Actually, if I was you I would consider revamping your list entirely and stay away from the big names and try the up and comers, namely Restaurant Eve and 2941. Now Foti's, IALW (for the experiece as I am sure they will be closing within the next few years), Restaurant Eve and 2941.... now thats what I call a GREAT few days of eating.
At Citronelle, the "Breakfast for Dessert" course is quite creative.
As for the Inn: yes the menu may be a little stale but it's still an experience. The Gregorian-chant-filled deluxe kitchen is an eye-opener. I've eaten there about a half dozen times, and if it's in your budget I would recommend staying overnight. That way you can fully experience the sumptuous privacy and service, and enjoy one of the best breakfasts you've ever had.
I seriously hope I don't sound discouraging but it is my opinion the Inn likely reached it's peak twenty years ago. The cuisine while good and cooked with excellent products is a bit stagnant now and has not evolved much. Example: The Pan Roasted Maine Lobster with Grapefruit, Orzo and Citrus Butter Sauce has been on the menu close to twenty years. Along with a few other items on their website.
If you have never been I'm sure it will be a memorable experience. A wonderful and welcome escape even if a bit lost in time. Which sometimes in todays world is a attraction in itself!
I'm going to warn you in advance that we have eaten at IALW twice now and both times the food was good, but we were underwhelmed. It's an experience for sure, but we never found the food to be that spectacular.
One thing you might add if you're going to have a car is 2941 out in Falls Church. Gorgeous space doing some very unique things.