Central Michel Richard
1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Downtown
This French-American bistro comes from one of DC's most celebrated chefs. Here, you'll find a more casual experience than MIchel Richard's formal flagship without compromising craft or quality. Central serves everything from French classics like frog’s legs, to playful takes on American comfort foods, to whimsical creations like the “faux gras,” made of chicken livers. The upscale bistro features lots of wood, pale leather, and exposed wine racks, and is almost always bustling. It's perfect for a fun lunch or celebratory dinner.
480 Seventh St. NW, Downtown
José Andrés laid the foundation for the Chinatown/Penn Quarter dining scene, with a number of unique restaurants within just a few blocks. (Mediterranean Zaytinya and Mexican-inspired Oyamel have also become neighborhood favorites.) Jaleo introduced authentic Spanish tapas to the city when it originally opened in 1993. The impressive menu remains, with a slight revamp including additions like black-footed Spanish pig’s feet and six new types of gin and tonics (one of Andrés’ favorite drinks). Barcelona-based designer and architect Juli Capella’s goal was to express the meaning of Jaleo (translation: merrymaking and revelry) and she succeeds. From the bright pops of color to copious beaded curtains, all that’s missing is Almodóvar.
Kaz Sushi Bistro
1915 I St. NW, Downtown
It’s all about the incredible sushi here, a fact that the business-heavy lunch crowd appreciates. The best seat in the house is the sushi bar, where you can watch the chefs preparing the excellent and inventive nigiri like the outrageously good seared salmon belly with sweet soy lemon or tuna with foie gras miso, and many more. They even blend their own low-sodium soy sauce, mixing in mirin and dashi. For what you get, the prices are great, and it manages keep a pretty low profile.
405 8th St. NW, Downtown
As a study in avant-garde cooking and molecular gastronomy, Minibar highlights Andrés’ time with Ferran Adrià of famed (and now former) El Bulli in Spain. Meals here are a delightful combination of imagination, science, and technique (and perhaps a bit of magic). Over the 27 courses you may try anything from cotton candy eel to popcorn blasted with liquid nitrogen. As weird as the dishes may sound, the inventiveness does not compromise taste. It’s not easy reservation to get and is pricey, but it’s more than a meal here—it’s one of the most exciting dining experiences around.
Old Ebbitt Grill
675 15th St. NW, Downtown
122 Blagden Alley NW, Shaw
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