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High Tier Birthday Dinner


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#1 DanCole42

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 03:26 PM

Every year for my birthday, I try to go to one restaurant that Don has bolded in the Dining Guide.

Where should I go this year?

Currently, the bolded restaurants I haven't been to are:

Restaurant Eve Bistro
Restaurant Eve Tasting Room
The Inn at Little Washington*
The Oval Room
Adour
Marcel's
Fiola
Sushi Bar with Koji

*I will pay lots of money for amazing food, but will not pay a surcharge for being pampered (hence why I did not like The French Laundry).

Bold birthday dinners from years past:

Vidalia
Komi
Cityzen
Citronelle
Palena
Corduroy
The Ashby Inn (technically anniversary, best meal ever)

Or maybe I'll say fuck it and head to The Ashby Inn in Paris, VA, where I know my mind is going to be blown for less than the cost of a plane ticket to actual Paris, France.
-Dan

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#2 Tweaked

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 04:05 PM

If given that list I would go with:

Restaurant Eve Tasting Room or Sushi Bar with Koji


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#3 ktmoomau

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 04:10 PM

Wow, what an awfully delicious decision to have to make. I have only been to four of those restaurants (Oval Room, RE Bistro, Fiola and Marcel's), but here is my take:

Marcel's has truly fantastic food. The best dishes are rich with well executed classical French old school technique. The food will not disappoint you. But the food will be classic preparations done the way they have been done forever. It is a great place for a romantic or relaxing dinner with not a whole lot of noise. The service can be a little pampering though.

Oval Room is good, but not where I would go. It just isn't.

RE Bistro has really well executed food with excellent ingredients. They have some interesting dishes, but it is still comforting. They do vegetables in a way that gives them justice that other places don't. But I have heard so many people rave about the tasting room I think I would go there instead if I had the choice and liked the menu in the bistro. I like the atmosphere here, it isn't stuffy, but it is kind of warm and comforting inside. And the people are good people. I don't think the service is stuffy, but I do think it is thoughtful. The tasting room may be a little more upity in service though, I don't know since I haven't been.

Fiola is a big favorite of mine. The pasta is stellar, the meat is stellar, the service is really good. If you look in the Best of 2011 thread Fiola is there over and over again for good reason. However, as a note, the dining room can be really really loud if you are there for peak hours. We normally sit in the bar where it isn't anywhere as close to as noisy as it can be in the dining room. But it isn't stuffy at all, no pampering, but good service. But Fiola is a feel good place for me, there is just something there that I like.

Sooo based on the places I have been I would choose RE Tasting Room or Fiola. I love, love Marcel's, but I don't know it's the atmosphere you want. And I think it comes down to how fancy you want to be. If you are in the mood just to eat some good food, drink some good drinks, and have it be a bit more chill then perhaps Fiola. If you want something a bit more special in terms of atmosphere RE Tasting Room. That's my two cents, luckily all are good choices.

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#4 KMango

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 05:01 PM

Restaurant Eve Tasting Room, and if it's not too crazy chilly, a walk over to PX for a natal nightcap.

MyWhyTM: Each time I've been to the Tasting Room, it's been a mini-training course in all things culinary. Servers spoke passionately about the ingredients and prep techniques, and seemed overjoyed to share their insights and favorites. At this price point, you expect exceptional flavors and focused execution, and you'll find both here. But, especially with my sociable tendencies, I find the knowledgable wait staff, personable service, and cozy environment place Eve's Tasting Room in a special occassion realm of its own.

P.S. Happy early birthday! What a smart dining tradition.
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#5 bookluvingbabe

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 06:15 PM

I like Eve but I have found the service futzy in the past. A little much at times. And while the food is technically perfect, it doesn't sing for me. Neither did Marcel's.

If I had to chose from your list, I'd pick Fiola. I haven't been but I want to try it.

And if I wanted to throw a wild card in that isn't on the list, but I think should be, I'd argue that the best meal I had last year was at Proof.

(And if Mr. BLB wants a hint about my upcoming birthday dinner--CityZen is high on my list of places I daydream about...)

#6 Joe H

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 07:18 PM

I would go to Fiola and ask Fabio "to cook for you." Whatever he wants. He is truly capable of delivering the meal of a lifetime.

#7 Ilaine

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 08:43 PM

Only place on your list I have been to is Eve, which I think is top notch, but Tasting Room over Bistro.

i got to Alexandria a lot for business so Eve is not a stretch for me.

On your list, of the rest, I am most interested in trying Fiola. Best buzz.

BTW, my expectations in life are perhaps not so elevated. I am perfectly happy with Dino and Ray.

I'm just here for the chow.


#8 darkstar965

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 09:09 PM

Love it! I have this tradition also but for my SO's birthday. I'd argue for either the Inn* or Eve Tasting Room.

All the other spots would be super too; especially Fiola but Fiola's newer so maybe not as deserving for such an honor (tongue firmly in cheek with that thought but there you have it).

I'd focus on the Inn* or Eve because I think they're foundational.

By that I mean anyone who lives in this area, cares about food and can afford to dine at those two places simply should do it. They should do it because the food is fantastic at both. That's the main reason. They should do it because the proprietors/chefs are both pioneers in an increasingly competitive food scene; in a way that many other seriously talented chefs putting out amazing food are not. But they should do it also because they're just key parts of the experiential eater's repertoire in the same way as Komi, CityZen, Palena and, maybe or possibly, Citronelle and Marcels**.

No smaller font for the asterisks since they're important:

* Not sure what you mean by pampered but, yes, the Inn probably runs some risk of that. Personally, I talk about French Laundry as a place I'm glad I went but to which I wouldn't go again. But I wouldn't cite pampering as supporting rationale. You probably mean service? If so, the service at the Inn, while extremely professional isn't to the level of French Laundry. Close but not quite. If pampering could refer to the venue itself, then definitely stay away from the Inn since few spots in America have as much luxe textiles and ornate everything surrounding diners than the Inn. Then again, a cheese table that comes on a rolling cow is pretty cool...if that's your kind of thing as it was ours. There's also the whole trip out there and walkaround the village stuff which makes for a bigger-than-just-dinner fun outing. We liked it enough when we first did as the birthday tradition several years ago, we did it again a few years later and stayed a night. Over the top indulgence but no regrets.

** I know many/most on the Board think very, very highly of Marcels and Citronelle. I only went once to the former (twice to the latter) and it was years ago so not entirely fair to say this but I didn't love them. And, worse, given the time since that visit, I can't support that view very well. Think I simply missed the heyday for Citronelle, going for the first time within the past 4 years. In both cases for me, not worth the money. But, I want to give Marcels another shot since so highly regarded here in ways I didn't know about when I went years ago.

Eve Tasting Room feels like Right Answer. Cathal Armstrong is maybe tied for best among just 3 or 4 in the region on talent and technique. Maybe top 2 or best on seriously obsessive focus on ingredient sourcing (love that). And one might argue he's a bit more interesting than the others given his focus, the key substantive role his wife plays and the overall experience you can count on. I took my +1 here for her birthday 4 or 5 years ago. From the time the menus were dropped with her name and occasion printed at top, she and I both loved it.

Save the Eve Bistro for a weekday lunch. No better, more amazing value anywhere 'round these parts.

FWIW

#9 Ilaine

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 10:29 PM

Hmmm. Well, maybe one reason you should go to the Inn at Little Washington is that you have never been there, and there is less reason to believe you can ever go there in the future than reason to believe you can go to Eve in the future.

For me, the desire to go to the Inn at Little Washington was quenched by reading Patrick O'Connell's cookbooks. At this point in life I am very, very adept at reading cookbooks and imagining what the recipes would taste like. They just did not do it for me. Not because there was anything lacking, but because I grew up in New Orleans and have tasted the ambrosia served there.

Over many years in exile in the Greater Washington environs I have grown to love cooks who focus on ingredients rather than technique, although of course both are essential.

Truth be told, if you never eat at the Inn at Little Washington, will you regret it forever? I would not, but if you would, go there. Go to Eve, go to all of them, but the odds are that the Inn at Little Washington will not be there forever.

I'm just here for the chow.


#10 Keithstg

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Posted 04 January 2012 - 08:03 AM

Every year for my birthday, I try to go to one restaurant that Don has bolded in the Dining Guide.

Where should I go this year?

Currently, the bolded restaurants I haven't been to are:

Restaurant Eve Bistro
Restaurant Eve Tasting Room
The Inn at Little Washington*
The Oval Room
Adour
Marcel's
Fiola
Sushi Bar with Koji

*I will pay lots of money for amazing food, but will not pay a surcharge for being pampered (hence why I did not like The French Laundry).

Bold birthday dinners from years past:

Vidalia
Komi
Cityzen
Citronelle
Palena
Corduroy
The Ashby Inn (technically anniversary, best meal ever)

Or maybe I'll say fuck it and head to The Ashby Inn in Paris, VA, where I know my mind is going to be blown for less than the cost of a plane ticket to actual Paris, France.

Having been to all of the above, I'd say either Fiola or Adour. Given the objection to a surcharge for being "pampered", I'm guessing that some of the Inn may fall flat for you. I think that Adour is extremely underrated. Fiola will be louder and busier than all of the above, but is an incredible restaurant. One caveat - on our last visit we asked Fabio to cook for us, and received that night's tasting menu - which was excellent, but if you want Fabio to go off menu as Joe H describes, best to call ahead I think.

Also, I'd add that while the Inn is not guaranteed to be "there forever", it's been what, 20+ years? Seems like a pretty solid run, especially making it through the internal changes in the past few years. No restaurant on this list is likely to be "there forever", so I'd head to the place that most excites you.

Finally, I'm unabashed in my desire to leave the district only when absolutely necessary (Eve and the Inn making that list), which may color my recs somewhat. Happy Birthday!

#11 genericeric

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 01:55 PM

I go through a similar birthday ritual, and for me this year, it was my first trip to the Inn.

When I initially got the Inn as a gift, I'll be honest that I wasn't pee-my-pants excited like I was for Komi. I'm not much for bucolic settings, would rather have a smart server than a formal server, and want to experience my food in a new way. I suppose you can't change that the Inn is, in fact, a country Inn, but on the other points, it exceeded my expecations. Service was formal but quite friendly, even to two younger diners (well, not as young as I used to be, but its still an occasional issue with service). And certain dishes were quite memorable - the ceasar salad along with the macaroni were two standouts. I would highly recommend the cheese course instead of the pastries for dessert - my fiancee's checkerboard ice cream was whimsical and delicious, but... it was ice cream. The cheese cart guy (there is probably a much more technical term for him) was entertaining, extremely knowledgeable, and I tried cheese I rarely have the chance to. It was also, I'm guessing, a much bigger value for the buck (s). Except for one errant wine pairing that I had a hand in, it was a wonderful evening.

I don't regret the Inn at all, and would happily go back if someone else was paying. I'm glad I got to experience such an iconic restaurant. But if I find $600 tonight on the street corner and am hungry, I'd go to Komi or go all out at Marcels. Happy Birthday wherever you decide.

#12 Marks

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 02:33 PM

Volt. He was a top chef runner up for a reason. Food and service were both great. And I brought my own wine which they treated well.

#13 SeanMike

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 12:08 AM

I hear there's no corkage charge at Taco Bell! I know it's not bolded, but obviously that's just an oversight.

(Personally dying to get to Fiola, but keep waiting for someone else (i.e. the cute girl) to go with. And I'd also say, though it's not bolded, maybe a Voltaggio session at Rogue 24?)
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#14 DanCole42

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 09:14 AM

Thanks, everyone.

I'm booked at Fiola. :)
-Dan

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MORBO: The challenger's ugly food has shown us that even hideous things can be sweet on the inside.




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