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Inn at Little Washington or Citronelle

If your mission were to try to convert someone (with little fine dining experience) into a "Foodie" and you could take them either to The Inn at Little Washington or Citronelle, which would be more effective?

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  1. I'd go to Citronelle. I haven't eaten at Citronelle in DC but ate at the original Citronelle in Santa Babara years ago when Michel Richard was still there a lot and we absolutely loved our meal there. Last year, my wife and I went to the Inn at Little Washington and were, frankly, dissapointed. Though the service was excellent (although we must have been asked about 25 times, no exaggeration, "are you still enjoying?"...they were very keen on clearing plates) we found it all somewhat confining and a bit suffocating. We also found the decor to be over the top, which is clearly something many like...so I'm not dissparaging, we simply didn't care for the setting. Our tastes do tend to run a bit more toward the modern, so ultimately, it wasn't surprising that we didn't love the atmosphere.

    The real issue was the food which, with some real standouts (a minted pea soup that I can still remember the exact taste of was one of the best things I've ever eaten) missed on several courses. I had a foie gras and tuna dish that I literally had to ask for salt and pepper mills for.

    In trying to introduce someone to finer dining and show them interesing and exciting food...I think Citronelle is going to be more effective. They're a bit more creative than at the Inn and I think their style will allow for more flexibility and exploration of the food than at the Inn.

    1. Unfortunately, never ate at Citronelle.
      I found the Inn a great experience, and the food as good as anything I've ever had. The only possible objections are the long drive (actually enjoyable) and the prices.

      1 Reply
      1. re: foodcheck

        This, obviously has absolutely nothing to do with the food or service at the Inn...but on our way back to Charlottesville after dinner, our car was run into by a deer (yep, we didn't hit it, it hit us right in the driver's door of the car). So, the long drive might be more objectionable in some cases... :)

      2. I have eaten at both. Either would suffice to introduce (and impress) anyone to haute cuisine. However, I would suggest Citronelle. The Inn is quite a trek and not easy for a meal unless you stay there. Also, Michele Richard's cooking has a playful nature that appeals to me; Patrick O'Connell's takes himself a bit too seriously. Both are superb but I'd take a newbie to the closer of the two.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Dakota Guy

          The Inn is an all-around delightful experience. You need not stay at the Inn itself, which is tres cher, but at any of a number of reasonably-priced B&Bs and inns nearby--dont plan on driving back to DC.

          I have not eaten at Citronelle, DC, but there was one in Baltimore for a few yrs that was wonderful. I have also eaten in the one in santa Barbara twice. The first time was fabulous; the second time 2 yrs ago, was close to ordinary. On the other hand, the chatter on this site really makes me want to to the one in DC.

        2. I guess Citronelle.

          I think that CityZen and Maestro are better restaurants than either of them, though. Maestro might be a bit "too much" for attempting to convert someone. 2941 or Charlie Palmers would work as well.

          1. Citronelle. I remember my parents trying to drag me to IaLW for years, and the very thought of that long drive was enough to make me say no way. And I'm a pretty big foodie. Then again, I'm also a big fan of not having to take long drives. The ease of getting to Citronelle (I'm guessing you're within the DC area) will help in making your friend feel comfortable. And Citronelle IS incredible.

            1. I have eaten at both. I think TIALW was one of the experiences that helped turn me over to the dark side as it were, but, even given that, I think I would give the nod to Citronelle. But I also agree with the other poster who suggested Maestro or CityZen. I haven't been to CityZen, but I have been to Maestro three times and all times were great experiences. CityZen is run by a Thomas Keller alum, so it's almost gotta be good in my mind without ever having been there. And not having been there is something I hope to rectify soon enough.


              2 Replies
              1. re: Pool Boy

                Pool Boy,

                Are you TJ?

                Anyway, yes, go to Maestro. (Or Palena) Actually, take that out of parentheses. The back room at Palena is a perfect place to convert someone into a foodie given how many options there are. Order 5 courses each, there are 30 things to chose from...

              2. Since you used the religious word "convert," if you were going to do that in the real religious sense, would you take your friend to Westminster Abbey or the Vatican for his first time out? Or maybe the more comfortable and accessible neighborhood parish?
                If he has little experience as you say, he may not have any way to know what in the world he's experiencing at the top of the heap at IALW or Citronelle. Maybe he'll feel intimidated by your knowledge, even a little put off.
                He may need to work up to this gently. Sorry to switch metaphors, but he may benefit by some fine dining training wheels at a really nice place with two or three stars. Lots of ways to get religion short of the top of the mountain.

                2 Replies
                1. re: MakingSense

                  Hmm, does that imply that my disappoint with my visit to Citronelle is because I don't have properly developed taste?

                  1. re: Hal Laurent

                    Nope. Just means that Citronelle might not be your style. Michel Richard has a point of view that some people enjoy. Others don't.
                    There are many restaurants that I've been to where I can objectively appreciate competence of the chef, the quality of the ingredients, the design elements of the space, the service, etc. yet I still don't enjoy spending my evenings dining there. That's subjective.There's not a thing wrong with those places. For others.
                    That's what makes the world go round.

                2. I'd take them to Citronelle (if I had to chose between the two) since the Inn is more of a total experience and the sticker shock may be too much. Besides, I find Michael Richard's food to be more whimsical.

                  1. The Inn is definitely more of an destination restaurant where you experience the tea time/dinner/breakfast (which is still the most tasty breakfast I've ever had). Its worth the money, but does require the overnight stay to really experience what the Inn is all about. As a suggestion, I would even recommend Restaurant Eve. I would say the food there is just as good and interesting as Citronelle. My only drawback for Citronelle is that the decor looks a little dated. I liked the food at Maestro, but the other diners there seemed a little to "stuffy" for me and CitiZen is a great restaurant, but I still felt like people were there more to be seen. But the setting there is beautiful.

                    1 Reply
                    1. Looks like the postings are evenly split. I've eaten at both and found The Inn to be a unique dining experience (more of a special event place - with every table celebrating a nuptual, anniversary, etc). You will find the ambiance, food and service excellent - creating a lasting experience in my mind. Citronelle is a bit overhyped and very similar to any fine dining experience in DC.