Fes­tive Feasts

Where Washington - - CONTENTS - BY OLGA BOIKESS

As one of the coun­try’s top din­ing cities, D.C. serves up plenty of places to cel­e­brate spe­cial oc­ca­sions. Top chefs tell us where they like to go.

In a city with a blaz­ing res­tau­rant scene, some of the best chefs in town tell us where they go for a cel­e­bra­tory meal.

As Bon Ap­pétit’s Res­tau­rant City of the Year and one of Miche­lin’s new­est sub­jects (the guide pub­lishes Oct. 13), D.C. is a ma­jor league din­ing des­ti­na­tion. In­deed, there are so many ex­cit­ing op­tions that it can be hard to choose a spot to cel­e­brate with friends or loved ones. For guid­ance, we asked some top toques where they go for a spe­cial meal. Word to the wise—heed their ad­vice. For de­tails, see the res­tau­rant list­ings start­ing on page 24.


Trabocchi, whose posh Fi­ola in Chi­na­town and Fi­ola Mare in Ge­orge­town are high on many spe­cial oc­ca­sion lists, en­thuses about a re­cent visit to Eric Ziebold’s con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can in Shaw, Kin­ship. Trabocchi says D.C.’s fine din­ing scene has got­ten a “facelift,” and that Ziebold’s cook­ing ex­em­pli­fies these ex­cit­ing changes. He adds that Ziebold, who con­stantly changes his menu, uses the “best in­gre­di­ents in re­fined” dishes; the “tech­nique of ex­e­cu­tion is per­fect”; and the “el­e­gant and com­fort­able, but not for­mal” am­biance feels like a “party at his house.”


The Kin­ship chef re­turns Trabocchi’s com­pli­ment by de­scrib­ing a din­ner at the “beau­ti­ful” wa­ter­side Fi­ola Mare as hav­ing just the “right air of for­mal­ity”—“el­e­gant enough, with a cer­tain level of com­fort and fa­mil­iar­ity for a great night out.” As for the food, Ziebold sin­gles out the fresh­ness of the seafood plateau; the “sim­ply grilled” black bass (“one sec­ond less, and it would be un­der­done; one sec­ond more, and it would be cooked too much”); and the smoked gnoc­chi’s “rich­ness of fla­vor.”


The ris­ing star chef/owner of the Asian-ac­cented Kyirisan in Shaw of­fers an­other per­spec­tive on Ziebold’s Kin­ship. Old friends from New York City who had heard good things about the res­tau­rant were in town. Check­ing it out with Ma, they rev­eled in an “el­e­gant” room with “ta­bles spread out” so they could talk. Ziebold’s cook­ing tech­nique, Ma ex­plains, is like “art”— the food is “done so prop­erly, sea­soned per­fectly and ev­ery plate is ex­actly where [Ziebold] wants it to be.” Ma re­mem­bers the “beau­ti­ful treat­ment” of a slowly cooked salmon that “bal­ances sweet, sour, salty and bit­ter” el­e­ments— a goal Ma says he strives for in his own cook­ing.


The former White House chef and cur­rent top toque of Ge­orge­town’s Grill Room ex­plains that for­mal din­ing need not be in­tim­i­dat­ing. When he took his sous chef to dine with former col­leagues at down­town’s Plume in the Jef­fer­son Ho­tel, he found that this “very el­e­vated” room, with its “so­phis­ti­cated at­ten­tion to de­tail” and re­fined level of ser­vice, felt “very cel­e­bra­tory” and “fun.” The am­biance, with its hand­painted French silk wall­pa­per, was warmed by “wel­com­ing” staff with a “youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance that loosens things up.” What with “cham­pagne pop­ping” and the “the­atri­cal flair” of dishes like crab con­sommé pre­pared ta­ble­side, where it is in­fused like tea with ed­i­ble flow­ers, spices and herbs, then poured over crabs, or­anges and veg­eta­bles, it was an “ex­hil­a­rat­ing” evening.


The “Top Chef” alum spent a re­cent evening at Masse­ria in North­east, where he and his wife re­laxed in the court­yard bar with “great” cocktails by a “tal­ented mixol­o­gist.” Af­ter, they moved into the “cozy” din­ing room for el­e­vated ver­sions of clas­sic Ital­ian fare. Is­abella says he “grew up with can­noli,” but they were noth­ing like Ni­cholas Ste­fanelli’s fois gras truf­fle can­noli, with its “cracker- like” tex­ture and “beau­ti­ful fla­vors taken to the next level” (avail­able by re­quest). Ditto the “per­fectly cooked,” “melt-in-the-mouth” pasta.


Pineap­ple and Pearls on Capi­tol Hill is one of the most talked­about venues for the “new” fine din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Nora Pouillon, whose epony­mous Dupont Cir­cle res­tau­rant pi­o­neered or­ganic Amer­i­can cui­sine and is also a pop­u­lar spe­cial oc­ca­sion choice, re­cently tried the buzzed-about nine- course tast­ing menu. Drinks, wine and ser­vice are in­cluded in the price that must be paid for in ad­vance. “Ev­ery plate is an ‘aha’ mo­ment,” and the “food, plates and pre­sen­ta­tion are unique for ev­ery course,” she re­ports. The ex­pe­ri­ence is “re­lax­ing and en­joy­able” with chefs (head chef Aaron Sil­ver­man, among them) as well as staff check­ing in on guests.


Spe­cial oc­ca­sion din­ing can also be low key. Maupillier’s in­ven­tive, yet de­li­ciously ap­proach­able, French/Amer­i­can sea­sonal fare at his hip Shaw spot, Con­vivial, re­flects his Gal­lic roots. When his fam­ily vis­ited last win­ter, Maupillier saw it as an op­por­tu­nity to learn about the “con­cepts of Mid-- At­lantic food” at The Dab­ney. At the Shaw spot, they en­joyed the “most beau­ti­ful oys­ters from Vir­ginia, with home­made hot sauce,” cel­ery root slowly roasted in the em­bers of a wood fire that “con­cen­trated the nat­u­ral fla­vor of the veg­etable,” and the “ur­ban rus­tic feel” of the open hearth- dom­i­nated din­ing room that Maupillier imag­ines is like an “old vil­lage in the Blue Ridge Moun­tains.”


Langhorne cel­e­brates at the min­i­mal­ist Mediter­ranean, Komi. What is “great” about the Dupont Cir­cle res­tau­rant is that “it’s re­ally sim­ple but pro­vides you with ev­ery lux­ury.” He says he loves the con­trast of a pa­rade of “re­fined small plates” of­fer­ing “ex­cit­ing play­ful twists,” with the roasted goat shoul­der, served whole at the end with a bunch of condi­ments. You “use your hands,” he says, for a com­mu­nal ex­pe­ri­ence.

Con­vivial’s “Cel­e­bra­tion Cake”

Plume’s el­e­gant din­ing room

The Dab­ney’s Jeremiah Langhorne

Masse­ria’s lin­guini with XO sauce

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