Best Restaurants in the Mid-Atlantic
Citronelle, Washington, D.C.
With his Santa Claus build, his amiable nature, and his obvious passion for his métier, Michel Richard sometimes looks like the happiest chef alive as he leans over a plate at Citronelle holding one of his imaginative, brilliantly executed specialties, smiling, putting on the finishing touches — a sight you can witness through the glass wall that encloses his sparkling kitchen at this D.C. classic. There are those who think Richard is the best contemporary French chef in America.
The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Va.
Patrick O'Connell, self-taught as a chef, opened this restaurant in 1978 in what was originally a garage in a little town about an hour's drive from D.C. He formed alliances with local farmers and artisanal producers long before it was fashionable, and developed into a sophisticated modern American chef of the highest order. His partnership with Inn co-founder Reinhardt Lynch ended in 2007, but praise for The Inn at Little Washington has continued.
minibar, Washington, D.C.
At José Andres' D.C. restaurant Café Atlantico, the best seat in the house is at an entirely different eatery — the counter he has christened Minibar. With only six bar seats, this restaurant within a restaurant is arguably the country's toughest reservation to score. Because it functions as a kind of test kitchen for his L.A. restaurant, Bazaar, expect a dining experience here filled with culinary hat tricks — cotton candy eel, popcorn that smokes in your mouth, a study of zucchini seeds. Even with a price tag of $120 for 30 (mini) courses, it's a steal of a deal. (Watch for Andres' large-scale "Minibar 2.0" later this year.)
CityZen, Washington, D.C.
A Five-Diamond AAA Award-winning restaurant in both 2008 and 2009, CityZen, in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and is the place to go to celebrate or to see and be seen in D.C. Whether sitting with a view of the open kitchen or next to floor-to-ceiling windows dressed in rich, warm fabrics, diners will marvel at James Beard Award-winning chef Eric Ziebold’s talent as he serves up modern American cuisine with a sophisticated and creative touch.
Le Bec-Fin, Philadelphia
For several years now, there have been rumors that French chef Georges Perrier was going to close this Philadelphia classic, but so far it keeps going strong. The food is full of modern American touches (and top-quality regional ingredients) but the finesse of the cooking and the overall feeling of the place remain attractively French.
A little jewel box of a place, where chef Marc Vetri offers diners sophisticated, hand-crafted Italian and Italianate specialties (foie gras pastrami with strawberry mostarda, almond ravioli with truffle fonduta, crisp-skinned roast baby goat), served with precision and grace.
The more casual, trattoria-like offshoot of Vetri, Osteria is a big, lively place where the pizzas are terrific (try the octopus and smoked mozzarella) and the cooking is homey but first-rate, from veal liver ravioli with figs to rabbit stewed with pancetta over intensely flavored polenta.
Restaurant Eve, Alexandria, Va.
Behind the critical acclaim he has earned for the modern French cuisine at Restaurant Eve, chef/owner Cathal (pronounced CA-hull) Armstrong, a native Dubliner, has a simple philosophy: “Nature is perfect. Extract the flavor. Enhance it. Don’t take away from it.” In addition to the upscale cuisine in what Armstrong calls his Tasting Room, there's excellent but less formal fare, with multi-cultural influences, in the Bistro.