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Jan 5, 2008 11:33 AM

West Coast Visitor--best meal in D.C?

My sister and I are visiting D.C in a few weeks and are looking forward to sampling some delicious cuisine. We had planned on making reservations at Michel Richard but why take Gourmet's word for it when I can ask my fellow Chowhounds? What would you recommend for the best meal in town? Any and all recs appreciated!

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  1. if you mean Citronelle i wouldn't do it...wasn't worth the $. If you want a high end really nice experience, classic DC, try 1789 in Georgetown. Great food, service & atmosphere & free valet which is really a plus in G'town. JAckets required for men. If you want something a little more casual & laid back but wonderful consider Obelisk in Dupont Circle; it's a prix fixe 5 course italian meal (not the red sauce kind tho) for 65 pp. It's small and homey but the food is top notch. Great italian wine bargains too. i think you would all be happy and then you can take in any number of great bars & things in that hood; it's one of the more lively in DC. In fact right down teh street at the Hotel Palomar is Urbana which is a great wine bar w/ a high cool quotient.

    12 Replies
    1. re: DCDOLL

      I could not disagree more. If you have a group of four the Chef's Table at Citronelle is D. C.'s best overall dining experience with Maestro now gone. Please note that Citronelle won the Beard Award for the best in the United States this past year. Whether you have the Chef's Table or not you will have an outstanding experience. You should specifically ask for one of the two tables that are in the front of the dining room, immediately facing the kitchen. You should also be aware that Citronelle is enormously popular and you are looking at a wait of a month or so for a decent time on Friday or Saturday night.

      Alternatively, CityZen and many on here will recommend either the Tasting Room at Eve (in Old Town Alexandria which is well worth a trip of its own) or Komi for its prix fixe menu. Komi has not received national recognition but it will or at least its chef will in time. He is extremely talented and a gift to this area. Possibly a short step down, if at all, would be Vidalia and Palena (who shared the Mid Atlantic Beard award this year) with The Source (far superior to ANY other Wolfgang Puck restaurant including Chinois in Santa Monica which I was just at) another consideration. Obelisk and 1789 are both excellent but, for me, a step below the ones mentioned above. Especially Citronelle which is a Great restaurant on par with Danko. (The sommelier, Malia, at The Source is from Danko's, by the way.) The Prime Rib on K street would be a dining experience that you are not going to find in San Francisco. It is dressy and stocked with congressmen who occasionally bring their wives; more often staffers that they otherwise should have no business with! Still a show with some excellent dishes you won't find in Northern CA. including excellent lump crab cakes along with the namesake prime rib. Also, Kinkead's (pepita crusted salmon, authentic lobster roll, excellent soups and stews), Black Salt (arguably our best seafood restaurant-competes with Kinkead's), Marcel's and Equinox-all of which are a short step-if at all- below Vidalia and Palena. Ray's the Steaks, literally a hole in the wall just up from Rosslyn is easily among the best steak houses in the U. S. A definitive experience that you'll find nowhere else. If you go wear jeans-you'll understand when you walk in the door. And, plan to wait.

      1. re: Joe H

        I have not yet been to Citronelle but will echo the sentiments from Joe on Restaurant Eve. If you cannot get into the tasting room the bistro is also very good. I would highly recommend cocktails at the PX. CityZen is very nicely designed restaurant. My experience was not the greatest but I would go back and it is consistently rated up there with Citronelle and Eve.
        The chef from Komi was one of Food and Wine's best chefs last year and Cathal Armstrong of Eve was a couple years ago. I have had all wonderful experiences - food and service - at Marcel's.
        Were you looking for any specific cuisine? Atmosphere? There really are a lot of choices.

        1. re: Joe H

          Not to be a parrot but Joe H is right on the money. The only thing I would add is that I would put The Source a step above Vidalia and Palena. That said, Vidalia is still one of my favorites.

        2. re: DCDOLL

          I totally disagree...Citronelle is 100% worth it! Certaintly one of the best meals I've had in DC.

          That being said I would also look into heading out to Old Town Alexandria and eating at Restaurant Eve. I ate in the bistro (they also have a tasting room which is suppose to be excellent) and from start to finish it was one of the best meals I've had in DC...or anywhere.

          I also really, really love Equinox for it's seasonal, local sourcing. Although I believe Equinox is closed for the next few weeks, so it depends when you will be coming.

          The back room of Palena is also incredibly memorable and delicious.

          Finally on the top of my list to try is Komi. While I've never been I feel like I can recommend it based on reputation alone. I can't wait to try it--hopefully in coming months, it's one of the hottest tickets in town and from what I hear a true foodie paradise.

          1. re: DCDOLL

            In DCDOLL's defense, I also have had a disappointing meal at Citronelle. Maybe we hit them on a bad day.

            The best meal I've had in DC so far was at Marcel's, but I haven't yet been to many of the upscale restaurants in DC (I live in Baltimore).

            1. re: Hal Laurent

              Thanks for the recs guys. What good ethnic cuisine is available?

              1. re: prettypithy

                Queen Makeda or Etete for Ethiopian cuisine. They are located across the street from each other in a section now called Little Ethiopia. QM is more a family-run joint, Etete is harder to get into.

                1. re: prettypithy

                  Minh's and Nam Viet in Arlington are close to DC and are excellent Vietnamese restuarants.



                  Nam Viet has some other locations, which I assume are just as good.

                  Rasika for Indian food is a good bet and may be unlike anything you will find at home. Be sure to sample a cocktail or two before dinner as they are quite good.


                  This thread also has some good ethnic food ideas:


                  1. re: prettypithy

                    I agree on going to Rasika for Indian. It is one thing I don't think you would get, as well on the West Coast. Or Ethiopian.

                    1. re: ktmoomau

                      As long as you realize that, for someone who really digs Indian food, it is a European version of what Indian food tastes like, not straight up Indian. I like the place, but not as much as the street hawker menu at Heritage India near Dupont Circle where items like papri chaat, patra, and gobi masallam really showcase a deep understanding of the spices involved.

                      Of course, my favorite places are out in the suburbs, where the Indian communities are, but you may not want to travel that far.

                      Anyway, my top five suggestions are listed in my profile, if you'd like to check them out.

                2. re: DCDOLL

                  Stay away from 1789 for a top choice. It is not that it is bad, but it is far from the best in the city. Citronelle is the best I have been to in the city and my experiences there are on par with any of the best of New York or Philly (including Daniel, Bouley, Le Bec Fin, and Lacroix)

                  1. re: rappel75

                    Four of us ate dinner last night at 1789 and we had the best meal we've had there in a long time. I'd rank our experience right on par with the glory days of Ris Lacoste.

                    Two of us began with the cured Arctic char/creme fraiche/caviar appetizer. One began with the mussels and one began with a modern version of a waldorf salad (julienned celery root, greens, and wedges of baked apples). All were stunning.

                    The duck, rack of lamb, Wagyu filet, and bronzino filet over a bed of wild mushrooms were equally delish.

                    My husband had a phenomenal rum baba which is finished at the table. (The pastry is split oven, and dark rum is poured over the two halves. The whole thing is topped with a whipped cream. He didn't share, so I can't be more specific about the exact details of the whipped cream.) Lemon tarts combined with warm lemon souffle in a lemon half rounded out the other dessert selections. Superb.

                    The service was up to the old standards. (We had a young server on our last visit who was not helpful about the menu even if his actual serving skills were acceptable.)

                    As we left, we spotted a manager and took the time to compliment him. He said that it has taken Nathan Beauchamp some time to develop a menu that satisfies him and to hire a group of sous chefs that meet his standards.

                    This said, do I think that 1789 is the best restaurant in DC? No. It's food is more predictable than the cuisine at the top places. Nevertheless, it's lovely that 1789 is back in top form. It has long been my go-to choice when there's a special occasion for a multi-generational group or a special occasion involving someone whose taste in food I either don't know or know it to be quite conservative.

                3. I'd skip Citronelle, unless you like gimmicky food, out-dated decor, snobby staff, a stuffy environment and an over-rated chef at the helm.

                  Try Komi instead. It's unpretentious, relaxed and features a chef who is on his way to the top. The other alternatives, as mentioned, are also good. Restaurant Eve, CityZen, and Obelisk, in that order.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: biscuit

                    Wow, biscuit, your Citronelle assessment strikes me as 100% wrong on all counts. Citronelle's food is often wonderfully inventive (even whimsical, like the Breakfast at Citronelle dessert), the decor is comfortable and subdued, the staff is impeccable -- both professional and inviting. As noted above, Richard is a very recent Beard award winner -- and deservedly so -- a case where highly rated is not over-rated.

                    Komi is very good, I will grant you that. Not as good as before they moved to their fixed-price format, but still very good. City Zen is even better, but still not quite up to the Citronelle peak. (Eve is not in DC, so not what OP was asking for.)

                    Obelisk, on the other hand, is an old favorite of mine that has now fallen out of favor with me. My last meal there had horrible service, terrible pacing, and the food was not well cooked. It was especially disappointing because I had long favored it as a special place.

                    1. re: biscuit

                      Gimmicky? It might seem gimmicky now because Chef Richard's style has been so copied over the past few years. He really is a true artist, magician of the eye and inventive chef. I'm not one to idolize Michel Richard. But my meal at Citronelle was a lot of fun and I was really blown away by the thought that goes into the presentaiton of the food and that the taste didn't suffer....hard to find these days.

                      The decor bore me more or less but there was so much going on on the plate that it didn't really matter. My waiters would probably fall under the category of snobby...but not necassarily in a bad way. One guy in particular was French and incredibly entertaining. A bit pushy yes, but I'm glad I took his recommendations.

                    2. Restaurant Eve. Tasting room. Twenty minutes from downtown and worth it.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: monkeyrotica

                        I personally think CityZen is the best spot in DC. It has its critics like every other place, but I have had great meals there every time I have gone. You certianly can't go wrong with Citronelle, Komi or Eve, enjoy.

                        1. re: Annapolis07

                          the last time i went to 1789 it was not very good at all. i would never reccomend it as a top dining destination in DC.