In a town best known for its monuments and museums, Washington, DC’s restaurant scene is often given secondary consideration by first-time visitors. But tourists and newcomers alike do themselves a huge disservice by writing off the culinary scene in this vibrant city. Whether you’re in the mood for an intimate dinner, a power lunch with world leaders, or grabbing a beer, there’s something new in DC to sample. Clear room in your schedule for dining out in the nation’s capital; here are our picks for DC’s hottest new restaurants.
This French bistro’s high-profile opening in the DC neighborhood of Petworth was followed by local food critics and bloggers as closely as election results -- and for good reason. Christening the area with its first fine dining establishment, Chez Billy cemented Petworth’s reputation as one of DC’s trendiest emerging neighborhoods. Way off the National Mall, and therefore off the radar of many tourists, Chez Billy attracts a seductive mix of laid-back locals and trendsetters. You’ll find that the food is just as rich as the ambience, with dishes such as Rillettes de Porc and L’os a Moelle Roti (roasted bone marrow) as must-try starters. For mains the Moules-Frites and the Confit de Canard reign supreme. The lavishness doesn’t stop at the food, either. Whimsical cocktails like Le Bijou De Bijou (“Old Tom” gin, blanc vermouth, Bonal Gentiane-Quina and orange bitters) are served up from the second-floor balcony. In a place this intoxicating it’s best to leave your inhibitions -- and your dietary restrictions -- at the door.
A 14,000-square-foot ode to culinary delights, Range would be an overwhelming mix of cafe, bakery, raw bar, chocolate shop and restaurant if not for the fact that it’s executed so damn well. Designed by former Top Chef Bryan Voltaggio to feel unobtrusive and welcoming, the restaurant’s light and breezy space allows patrons to try everything from the far corners of the room. Diners are encouraged to order and share 2 to 3 dishes per person from the menu, which is organized into categories like Raw Bar, Salumeria, Pasta, Wood Oven, Wood Grill and Roasted. Among the favorites are cheddar-chive biscuits with pepper jelly, and the cornbread with bacon marmalade. Diners are further whisked into a food-induced delirium by inventive mains like the kimchi linguini with uni and bay scallops, and perfectly executed classics like a 36-day-aged bone in New York strip. At the end of the meal a chocolate cart is presented, displaying concoctions so tempting even the fullest of diners can’t help but indulge. With food this good (if somewhat pricey, with small portion sizes), expect sharing to be a difficult endeavor.
It’s easy to miss this place if you’re not looking for it. Tucked a block behind the teeming U Street area, the only sign that this 40-seat restaurant is open is the akachochin (red paper lantern) hanging outside during service hours. Named for traditional Japanese drinking establishments that also serve food to accompany the drinks, Izakaya Seki showcases a vast and impressive sake menu that will likely occupy the first portion of your evening. Don’t neglect the food for too long, however. Divided into raw, grilled, fried and noodles/rice dishes, the menu offers authentic versions of standard izakaya fare. Can’t-miss items include the house-made shime saba (vinegar-pickled mackerel) and the deep-fried cream croquettes, a Japanese take on a French favorite that explodes with velvety béchamel sauce, crab and corn. The menu also routinely includes exotic specials like whole-fried fugu (pufferfish). Deciding what to order may prove harder than finding this place after all.
It’s hard to believe Fiola is new to Washington, DC; it already feels like an institution in the city. Fiola is a “trattoria moderna” run by chef Fabio Trabocchi, who hails from Italy’s Le Marche region. With an emphasis on progressive twists and the use of the freshest ingredients possible, menu favorites include the Ahi Tuna Carpaccio, as well as antipasti items such as delicate prosciutto laced with medjool dates and foie gras. But the real star here is the pasta. Pappardelle, agnolotti, bucatini, marubini: Fiola’s pasta menu reads like an introduction to Italian. Luckily, the waitstaff is eager to explain all the intricate details of every dish, the highlights of which include a rich Venetian-style baccala made with salted cod, and a risotto that includes spice-braised Kurobuta pork belly. With food this distracting, it’s a wonder any conversations happen at all here.
When chef Michel Richard’s right-hand man, Cedric Maupillier, announced he would be opening Mintwood Place in the DC neighborhood of Adams Morgan, people’s interest was piqued; before then, the most adventurous culinary item in the area was the jumbo slice pizza. With a menu that emphasizes the classics and inventive comfort-food twists, Maupillier has introduced a new breed of restaurant deliciously hard to categorize. Suggested starters include the pickled deviled eggs and the now-famous escargot hush puppies -- a decadent French take on a classic Southern American staple. Providing a safe-haven for the jean-clad foodies of DC, Maupillier sees your jumbo slice, and raises you a snail.