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Where should a new-to-town couple have a fabulous date-night dinner in DC?

Friends of mine are moving to DC. I'm not sure where exactly, but he will be working at 16th St. & M St. They recently did some volunteer photography at my wedding, so we'd like to give them a gift certificate for a wonderful dinner in their new city.

They are both adventurous eaters and love all kinds of food. I'm sure they'd love a farm-to-table type restaurant, but ethnic food would also be welcome, or a steakhouse if it's not too stuffy. I'd love to find a place that not only has delicious food and good cocktails, but also excellent service and an inviting ambiance.

I'm thinking of making the gift certificate around $200 for two people. Thanks so much for the advice!

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  1. In terms of a steak house I would give a certificate to J&G Steakhouse. My boyfriend and I were lucky enough to be treated to a free meal there about a year ago and it was a wonderful spot for a more upscale date night. The food is top-notch without having that stuffy steak house feel. The seafood is just as good as the steak and afterward they can head up to the roof top of the W for a nightcap.

    Another fun option would be Mintwood. Great date night spot because there are delicious cocktails, wonderful neighborhood bistro fare and fun desserts (I like the ice cream brownie sundae...makes you feel like a kid!).

    1. Eola. Palena. Ray's the Steaks -- not stuffy at all.

      1. Thanks for the posts so far! I've also been browsing around yelp (which I know is a different audience from here), and I noticed that DC has very few 4.5-5 star restaurants. Are people just harsher raters there (I'm in SF)?

        1 Reply
        1. re: biancani

          Do you mean 4.5/5 stars on Yelp? I honestly wouldn't go based on Yelp at all...especially their ratings. I'm not a huge Yelp fan and think the way that crowd sees dining and food very different than Chow.

          If you are looking for a source with real ratings I would maybe check out some of food critic's Tom Sietsema's reviews. He also does a dining guide each Spring and Fall.

          We don't "rate" in the same way on Chowhound. But so far every restaurant mentioned on this thread is a good suggestion and a top-rated restaurant.

        2. Central Michel Richard. Hard to go wrong there. French and American bistro classics with an inventive twist.

          1. Blue duck could fit your criteria. It has a new chef and early word has been great

            1. I think Ris fits all those criteria. I love that place.

              1. BLT Steak is new your friends work and is a power dining spot that they may enjoy.

                1. I would second Blue Duck and also recommend Little Serow. Northern and northeastern Thai in a dark, cool setting. It's a prix fixe of $45/person (not including booze), and substitutions to the menu are either prohibited or strongly discouraged. But if the are heat-seeking omnivores they'll love it. Walk-ins only, so getting a table can be a bit dicey. This set-up may not be ideal for your purposes, but the food was outstanding on the couple of occasions I've gone there.

                  1. DC Yelp is not to be used as a benchmark. in some cities yes and maybe for some categories in DC, but not restaurants.

                    1. The steakhouses here are very good, but I haven't been super impressed with the creativity. Meat, excellent, inventiveness, so-so.

                      I think the most creative, impressive, delicious meal I had in DC was at Plume, in the Jefferson hotel. Gorgeous space, too, and really great drinks bar for before and after the meal.

                      1. Obelisk, Al Tiramisu, and Eola are all in the same area around dupont and would fit the criteria. eola has the better drinks; i'd probably say obelisk is the most consistent of the three, but i enjoy them all. agree that little serow def. fits the bill but with potential long lines/no reservations is maybe not the best choice (here's a gift card! have fun getting in! .. nothing wrong with it, i do love little serow)

                        oh for ethnic- rasika would be the obvious choice. consistently one of dc's top rated restaurants, and a great way to experience some high end indian from different regions (if not always authentic? but i wouldn't know enough to tell you). also some great cocktails here as well.

                        1. Bistro Lepic in Georgetown. It is truly European, and they will do a bang up job for a couple. They have a huge wine list with 1/2 bottles, so you can share a different wine with each course. Only place in DC that serves veal kidneys, so you know it is authentic.