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The Inn At Little Washington - With 2001 National James Beard Award Winner Patrick O'Connell


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Wow... A true sign of the times. This posting was on our local message board called rappnet.

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[Rappnet] The Inn at Little Washington Invites Rappahannock Residents to Dinner for $98 per person

Thursday, January 1, 2009 10:39 PM

From:

"Chris Castle" <CCastle@theinnatlittlewashington.com>

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Cc:

"Andrew Welch" <awelch@theinnatlittlewashington.com>

The Inn at Little Washington has created our very own Stimulus Package for Rappahannock Residents. Enjoy Patrick O'Connell's 5 Star cuisine at a significantly discounted of $98 per person (excluding tax and gratuity) during the months of January, February and March. While we enjoy continued success, we want to say "thank you" to our neighbors who have supported us for more than 30 years!

Now, here's the fine print:

Our Special Rappahannock rate requires proof of residencey in Rapp. County. Only one person in the party needs to be a Rappahannock resident; so whether you bring one friend, or bring 20--all will be at the rate of $98/pp.

* The discounted rate is good for any week night except Saturdays and Holidays (including Valentines Day weekend).

* Does not include tax, gratuity or beverages other than coffee or tea.

* Reservations are required. Please mention that you are a Rappahannock resident when you make your reservation.

* You may come as many times as you like during this special incentive plan.

* We accept American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Cash and personal checks.

We look forward to seeing our friends and neighbors soon. If you have any questions, please feel free to call our Reservations Department at 675-3800 or email me at ccastle@theinnatlittlewashington.com. Let's stimulate our local economy and celebrate the New Year!

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OK, we just got back so here are my impressions. The Inn is, as you can imagine, breathtakingly beautiful. It's like you're walking onto the set of Downton Abbey. Some of the décor bordered on Liber

My wife surprised me with a trip to the Inn for dinner. Until we left, I wasn't completely sure where we were going. She rightfully decided to find a more affordable place to stay, since $800 a night

Well having just dined at the IaLW, I can absolutely see why people consider it special and noteworthy after all these years.  The service just blows away the best service anywhere else in the DC area

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Wow... A true sign of the times. This posting was on our local message board called rappnet.

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[Rappnet] The Inn at Little Washington Invites Rappahannock Residents to Dinner for $98 per person

This is stunning. A 33%-off sale, under the face-saving guise of stimulating the local economy. And yet, it allows them to collect full-fare from culinary voyagers, who wouldn't let $50 come between them and a trip to the Inn. Nor does it affect room rates. Brilliant, IMO. John, are you still living down there? Want to organize a $20 Tuesday? :P

I don't mean for this post to have a mocking tone. Times are indeed hard - for everyone - and if a restaurant such as this is going to offer a limited discount, why not target it to their neighbors? Good for them, I say.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Michael and I celebrated our 10th anniversary at the inn last night. I have posted pictures on flickr of our dinner if anyone's interested (look under ctay12254). Sadly I forgot to take pictures of our amuse bouches...we had 2 different ones consisting of a four spoon portion (beet mousse, shrimp, risotto and pear wrapped in proscuitto) served before the appetizer, one before the second course (rutabaga soup)and then cucumber sorbet before the main entree. We had a wonderful dinner and the service was outstanding.

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I remember the first time that I "dined" as opposed to simply going to a restaurant. I was 23 years old, I had a new girlfriend and I had my first job where my paychecks had a lot of zeroes on the end. It was not that I didn't love food, I always did, but back in 1999, when there was no Food Network and no blogs and since I didn't grow up "dining", I didn't know any better.

But then we went to Taberna del Alabardero for dinner. At the time, I couldn't imagine that it got better than that night. The food was great, but the setting beat it and the service was out of this world. I was so used to a teenager waiting on me that I didn't know what to do when several professional servers were waiting on us all at the same time, it was overwhelming.

Since then, I have been to A LOT of restaurants. Just like most people reading this, going out to eat is a hobby for us, for others, it is their life. While this is wonderful, it is also a pretty big burden. After all, there are only so many Saturday nights on the calendar. And, with restaurants opening at a rapid pace over the past ten years, it seems like my list of places to try gets longer, but the amount of free nights that I have gets shorter. In essence, too many great places to try and not enough time.

So, the Inn at Little Washington has just sat there on my list for ten years or so. At first, it was at the top, but as the years went on and newer/sexier places opened, it just slid right down. That was until my friend was incredulous when he found out that I had never been there, so he offered to bring me and my wife to dinner there this past Friday night. That is one way to move The Inn back to the top of the list!

My short take on going to dinner at The Inn...it brought me back to that night 11 years ago when I had dinner at Taberna del Alabardero. Was the food there the best that I ever had? No. Was the environment better than the French Laundry or La Tour d'Argent or others great restaurants that I have been to? No. Was the service as attentive or more knowledgable than even some restaurants that I have been to in the past year? No. But, when you add it all together, I left that place with a feeling that I haven't had in 11 years, a feeling that this is what dining is supposed to be all about.

Specifics? I couldn't do it justice. I liked everything, I didn't dislike anything. It was pricey, but I felt that we got our money's worth, at least we got my friend's money's worth. The service was great and you simply cannot beat the atmosphere.

I have been to better places, and some of them don't require a 60+ minute drive one way, but this is truly one place that everyone should experience once in their lives.

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So my wife and I are heading to the Inn this weekend. Very much looking forward to it, especially since it's still on Sietsema's top list in 2014. Looking for any tips on what to eat. I plan on sticking to their "classics" selection since I've never been before. One thing I was warned about however, was their wine list. A good friend who is very knowledgeable (has his own cellar and is also an importer) was shocked when I sent him the list asking for advice. Not that lack of quality, but at the absolutely, exorbitant prices. He said they were priced at 3 times plus the retail price (A Virginia wine for $100? No thanks..) He saw a Bleasedale Shiraz around $100 that you can get at Schneider's liquor store on the hill for less than $30.

That being said I plan on buying a lower end cuvee to start and for dinner just paying the corkage fee for a nice red of my own for dinner. The $35 corkage fee is OK, but jacking it up to $50 for the second bottle is insulting. either you think your list stands on its own, or you don't.

 Not a good omen to start, so the food really better blow us away"¦

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So my wife and I are heading to the Inn this weekend. Very much looking forward to it, especially since it's still on Sietsema's top list in 2014. Looking for any tips on what to eat. I plan on sticking to their "classics" selection since I've never been before. One thing I was warned about however, was their wine list. A good friend who is very knowledgeable (has his own cellar and is also an importer) was shocked when I sent him the list asking for advice. Not that lack of quality, but at the absolutely, exorbitant prices. He said they were priced at 3 times plus the retail price (A Virginia wine for $100? No thanks..) He saw a Bleasedale Shiraz around $100 that you can get at Schneider's liquor store on the hill for less than $30.

That being said I plan on buying a lower end cuvee to start and for dinner just paying the corkage fee for a nice red of my own for dinner. The $35 corkage fee is OK, but jacking it up to $50 for the second bottle is insulting. either you think your list stands on its own, or you don't.

 Not a good omen to start, so the food really better blow us away"¦

The Inn At Little Washington used to have some amazing bargains on their list. They had purchased Le Pavillon's entire inventory (that was Yannick Cam's restaurant), were sitting on mature red Burgundies, and didn't realize what they had - once I even bought a bottle of Henri Jayer to take home with me. I suspect those days are long gone, as enough savvy wine drinkers have by now visited the restaurant and picked them clean. Ten years ago, that $35 corkage fee could have found you a fantastic bottle of wine if you knew what you were doing.

Personally, I'd be grateful to pay $35 for corkage at the Inn these days - they don't have to have this policy, and if they didn't, things could get *really* expensive. Even $50 - painful though it may be - I'd pay happily if I was at a table that needed a second bottle.

Why don't you send me your copy of the list and I'll try and help you out.

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Looking for any tips on what to eat. I plan on sticking to their "classics" selection since never been before.

(A Virginia wine for $100? No thanks..) He saw a Bleasedale Shiraz around $100 that you can get at Schneider's liquor store on the hill for less than $30.

If I were you I'd do the Gastronauts Tasting menu and I'd get it with all the extras/supplements.  Yeah, it's expensive, but if you're making the trip and spend a lot of money already, don't skimp out at the last minute.  On of my favorite dishes was the "Tin Of Sin" which was a supplement to the regular menu.  I've forgotten a lot of the dishes we had, but that one is burned into my brain.  Worth every penny.

On the wine thing............Welcome to 2014.  Sure, it may qualify highway robbery, but damn near every place out there jacks up the wine prices like that.  Did you see Tom S's chat this week?  Someone paid $30 for a GLASS of wine at Fiola Mare.  Also, there are VA wineries (RdV) charging $95 per bottle at the vineyard!  All of it is enough to make you quit drinking or bring your own bottle and pound it down in the parking lot, but that's the way it is.

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We got a very generous gift certificate for our wedding we are eager to use (enough to cover two full dinners and a bit extra). Talked with my wife and we decided we have a few nice bottles we've been sitting on that we will bring and just pay the corkage fee. If we're going to eat their food, we're not going to skimp on wine, which is a part of the whole experience,  but we also don't want to pay $200 plus for a bottle. And DonRocks was right, a $85 corkage fee for two bottles is not that bad when you consider the setting, and the alternatives.

For those interested, this is the list from the website.

To be fair, they really do have a lot of reasonable price points, but when you compare them to  what those wines should be retail, it makes you shake your head.

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All of it is enough to make you quit drinking or bring your own bottle and pound it down in the parking lot, but that's the way it is.

Ah, I see you've learned that trick, too. B)

"Shoot! *Another* phone call. I'll take it outside."

<glug, glug, glug>

"The connection's really bad down here. I'll try a little later."

:)

Are you going to tell us about the "Tin of Sin?" Is this some sort of upscale version of Michel Richard's "Mock Caviar" (which was Israeli couscous in squid ink)?

For those interested, this is the list from the website.

To be fair, they really do have a lot of reasonable price points, but when you compare them to what those wines should be retail, it makes you shake your head.

Yes, in general, but not for everything - there are good wines to be found for under $40. Not great, but good - how well do you want to drink? I would only bring the second bottle if you're going to be pulling out some heavy lumber - not because it's "gauche," but because you don't need to - you can work with this list, and I'll be glad to help you if you need help (I have no idea about your comfort zone with wine lists, so please don't take this as patronizing). I would definitely want one white or rosé (dry), and one red if I were having two bottles, and if you buy the first, I'd strongly consider the palest, driest bottle of rosé they have (something with the word "Provence" in the region - they have several on the bottom of page 31 in the $30s), and it's precisely within the sommelier's purlieu to guide you here - you're not expected to have these memorized - just ask for the driest and palest of those three. If you're staying over, you may want to ask for an ice bucket and bring a bottle of Champagne to chill in your room for before and after dinner; if you're not, you'll save even more money by not having to buy cocktails - just dive right into the first wine. If you go this route, maybe you can splurge a little on some upcharges with the meal - you're really there for the food, service, and atmosphere more than the quality of the wine, unless you're really rich; personally, I can't bring myself to pay crazy money for something I could get at home for a fraction of the price, but you can't duplicate their food, service, or atmosphere at home - at any price. If the sommelier is good, palm him or her a ten on the way out. It's not much, but it says "thank you." I always say something like, "This is just for a drink after work" when I'm shaking hands, furtively passing along the cash - it doesn't make you a big spender, but it makes you a thoughtful diner. You may also want to mention to your server, during the cheese or dessert course, "Do you still let diners look in your kitchen? I've heard it's amazing," and you might get a little peek - it is impressive for sure. If you can't, definitely don't be insulted because it just means they're really busy. If this post didn't help you, I hope it helps others in the future.

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Are you going to tell us about the "Tin of Sin?" Is this some sort of upscale version of Michel Richard's "Mock Caviar" (which was Israeli couscous in squid ink)?

 

This is from a little write up I did for myself when we last ate there, exactly 3 years and 2 days ago:

<<< Next up was called A Tin Of Sin. The description from the menu reads, "American Osetra Caviar with Peekytoe Crab and Cucumber Rillette". It was a small metal tin covered with a layer of caviar which sat on top of a layer of cucumber which sat on top of a layer of crab. (I may have mixed up the order of the last two layers.) It was served on a layer of slate for the plate and came with two pieces of small, but thick and fluffy bread and a little mother of pearl spoon.

(See first photo below)

The idea was to use the spoon to scoop through all 3 layers and place it on the bread to eat. And the taste, WOW! This might have been the best dish all night!

(See second photo below)

I don't know how to describe it, but it was wonderful. We could have eaten a vat of caviar/cucumber/crab mixture and loaves of the bread. On the regular 3-course menu, the Tin Of Sin was a $24 supplement! >>>

As I said upthread, I don't have specific memories of everything we ate that night (though we loved every bit of it), but this dish was and still is burned into my brain and taste buds

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post-3390-0-89206900-1414677196_thumb.jp

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 (A Virginia wine for $100? No thanks..)

I would respectfully suggest that your impressions of VA wine might not be current. Maybe it's just me, but I have no issue adding to the VA wines in my cellar at around that price point and finding value. I'm not going to have an all VA cellar, but in the cab blend category the best of VA stands up to similarly priced wines in the new world.

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After that we were escorted into the main dining room and the night began. I chose the "classics menu" as I have never been here before,. My wife is a vegetarian so she chose their vegetarian menu. Before I blather on, I will simply give my final impression upfront. My food was fantastic, her's was good, but not amazing. And we both agreed that , hands down, the restaurant is simply overpriced. Two people, one bottle of wine (at 90 dollars, one of their "cheaper" selections), and 2 cocktails, for a total bill in the $750 range when you add in tip and tax. It was simply not justified, especially when you consider that the portions, while delicious, are quite small, and also because  we had a few hiccups: I had to ask for the butter with the bread service, which they forgot  and we waited too long for our bottle of wine, leading me to sit while my pheasant dish started to get cold. It wasn't a huge disaster, but if I'm paying these kind of prices, I expect near perfection, and I didn't get it.

Great review - thanks for writing with such detail!

I've always found it difficult, and very personal, to assign a value to these sorts of meals - when you wander that far into triple digits it becomes difficult to justify the indulgence when so many need so much.  Having said that, they are both, in their own way, revelatory experiences.  Komi, which typically runs about $600 for two by the time all is said and done with wine pairings, etc is more valuable to me than the Inn, even if the Inn were the same price.  The more relaxed service model (while being nearly perfect) at Komi combined with cooking that has a bit more edge to it than the Inn is just more my preferred style of dining.  Is that worth the shockingly high sticker price?  That's the very personal part - I still remember vivid details about my first experiences at both of these restaurants, so for me, both are.

Of course I do agree wholeheartedly that with that price point, the service should be flawless, and unfortunately it sounds like that wasn't the case for you.

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The pheasant was nice, but was actually outshined by the champagne braised cabbage.  I was also annoyed at this point as I had to wait a while for our bottle of wine to appear so I sat there looking at it for almost 8 minutes before eating it. Two of the wait staff came by and asked me what was wrong as I wasn't eating it, and I had to tell both of them that I was still waiting on my wine. Like I said before, normally I don't sweat this kind of thing, but for 200 plus a person, this is unacceptable.  I will say this though, the wine was at the perfect cellar temperature of about 55 degrees. So many times at restaurants the red wine comes too warm.

I am certain that Chef O'Connell would be the first to tell you that at this price point and at the Inn's standards, there is no room for error when it comes to something like this. You're not passing judgment on anyone's character; you're merely paying *big bucks* for the highest possible standards of luxury and service, and having a pheasant course served without a glass of wine in front of you is a situation where you can almost hear the clock ticking, and each second feels like a minute. This should *never* happen here.

This was one of the best restaurant reviews (or meal reviews) I've read in a long time - I felt like I was right there with you during both good times and bad, and I suspect a *lot* of people appreciate your having taken the time to compose this.

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A very informative review, but I need to comment on one sentence: "We were then asked if we wanted to tour the kitchen, which the chef offers to everyone."

I've been to the Inn three times over the years and never was asked if my party wanted to tour the kitchen, so I don't think the phrase "offers to everyone" is accurate. The last time I was there was several years ago, however, so the policy may have changed.

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I've been going back and forth on whether to try the inn, and found this review extremely helpful. do you have any additional comments on your wife's meal? As a vegetarian i was interested to read that you weren't as impressed by her meal.

I had bites of everything she ate, but only bites, so its hard to really give an in depth take.

She started with the Blistered Baby Brussels Sprouts with Honey Crisp Apple, Spiced Pecans and Madeira Soaked Raisins. It was lovely, but like all dishes there, small. 

The Carpaccio of Marinated Matsutake Mushrooms Accented with Local Asian Pears was next and was the one she was most disappointed in. She felt the mushrooms, thinly sliced and laid out like a bed of beef carpaccio, lacked a depth of flavor that she was looking for.

The Three Cheese Cannelloni with Sicilian Eggplant and Tomato Sauce was great, and very rich, and then she had a bean dish with a topping of panko bread crumbs that really shined. Rich deep flavor, and the panko bread crumbs contrasted the creaminess of the beans nicely.

Her biggest dish was the Cauliflower "Steak" with Yellow Indian Curry, Green Grapes and Candied Walnuts. She liked it but she has never been a big fan of cauliflower, so she wasn't blown away. I liked it, because I love cauliflower, and it was ingeniously prepared, by cutting the clailflwoer down the center into almost a large "steak cut" and then seared like a steak. And the curry sauce was ruich and buttery.  

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Great review - thanks for writing with such detail!

I've always found it difficult, and very personal, to assign a value to these sorts of meals - when you wander that far into triple digits it becomes difficult to justify the indulgence when so many need so much.  Having said that, they are both, in their own way, revelatory experiences.  Komi, which typically runs about $600 for two by the time all is said and done with wine pairings, etc is more valuable to me than the Inn, even if the Inn were the same price.  The more relaxed service model (while being nearly perfect) at Komi combined with cooking that has a bit more edge to it than the Inn is just more my preferred style of dining.  Is that worth the shockingly high sticker price?  That's the very personal part - I still remember vivid details about my first experiences at both of these restaurants, so for me, both are.

Of course I do agree wholeheartedly that with that price point, the service should be flawless, and unfortunately it sounds like that wasn't the case for you.

I agree. IN looking this over again and thinking about it some more, the only real "beef" i had with the place was the price, or more specifically, the price to value ratio. TO me though, the cost of a meal and the meal itself are both important parts of a "review". neither exist in a  vacuum, so it has to be a part of your overall impression of a place.   I Love' Rose's Luxury for many reasons, one of which is the insanely reasonable price points that go with his ingenious food. Would I be on here complaining if Roses luxury was 8 minutes late in delivering me a bottle of wine? Of course not. That's because i'm not paying 700 dollars for a meal at their place.

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Like Eddiebosox, wine service was not up to snuff.  I did the wine pairings while my wife picked a couple of glasses.  As an initial matter, the wine pairing is $125.  If someone else could confirm this, it appears that this is more than a full bottle of all four wines would cost at retail.  The Santa Duc, for example, appears to retail for under $20.  While value, particularly at a fine dining restaurant, is relative, service is not.  Twice, we received dishes before receiving our wine.  The first time, we actually had to flag down someone to help.  The second time our server notice us looking around, but it took three trips to the table before I received my wine.  The first trip, he brought the wrong wine, the second trip, he brought the wrong glass.  In each case, our food sat in front of us for at least five minutes, before we received our wine.  Again, this happened twice.

I couldn't find the exact vintages for all wines, but your assumption is correct: the bottle prices for all four wines are under $125 at retail (and they purchase at wholesale, not retail).

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Unfortunately, you paid $31.25 per glass (plus tax and tip, which works out to about $40 per glass) for wines that I wouldn't pay $10 a glass for - these are wines that I wouldn't even give a second glance to in a retail store (a possible exception being the Linden).

The wines need to be poured *before* the course is served so you can adjust your palate before taking the first bite, and at these prices, if you finish your glass (especially since you're staying at the Inn, they should keep topping you off until you don't want any more - if you got one glass of each wine, this is simply inexcusable.

The Inn, at one time, had a *stupendous* wine list because they bought the entirety of Le Pavilion's wine cellar - it was up for auction, bottle-for-bottle, but the auction was canceled because the Inn cut a deal for the entire cellar. There were some amazing wines in there, too, but this was about twenty years ago. As recently as ten years ago, they still had a tremendous wine list by the bottle (and they may still have), but these pairings are just a rip-off.

I'm afraid that in the restaurant world, people believe what they're told to believe, and they're being told by "experts" who don't know what the hell they're doing. I hate to be so cynical, but it's true (I'm not talking about you here; I'm talking about the dread I feel in having to possibly return to a restaurant to review it).

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Great review, thanks!

I've been in those "waiting for the wine while I stare at my food" pairings too (not here, other places) and it is excruciating and inexcusable. Especially here.

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Ben Jones, former Georgia Rep and Cooter on Dukes of Hazzard, has a store in Sperryville.  I got a signed mug and a picture with the General Lee.


This has to be the greatest username/celebrity sighting combo in the history of this site and maybe the entire internet! Nicely done!

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I'm not sure if it's because it was Easter Weekend or what, but we had dinner at IALW last Friday and experienced similar issues as Eddiebosox that simply aren't acceptable at this price point.

You should have said hello!  My wife and I were also there Friday night, celebrating my 60th birthday (arrgghhh!).  Your review is spot on and matches our experience in several ways (except we stayed in the main building and had no problems with the bill).

We've been to the Inn numerous times in the past 30 or so years.  For a while it was near dining perfection (I remember a waitress joking as she adjusted a fork she hadn't placed exactly right, "break a rule, break a finger").  It then had a steep decline around the time of the divorce and we stopped going for a while.  It had picked up on more recent visits, but still was not performing up to past standards.

We thought the food this time was excellent.  I had the Menu of the Moment and my wife had the Classics.  For me, the seabass was one of those wow moments you want in a restaurant like this.  Unlike Cooter and Eddiebosox, my wife thought the lamb had that same wow factor.  We had similar questions about the amount of the brioche toast and a couple of other minor things like that (I'm blanking on specifics now), though, that detracted slightly from the meal.

We didn't do the wine pairings - I have never been to a restaurant at which they are a good or even reasonable value - see Lettie Teague's article in the WSJ a week or two back.  We brought a bottle from our cellar (a '90 Lafite, if anyone cares) and bought a bottle of Champagne off the list.  The Champagne was just over 3x retail, but they knock off the $35 corkage if you buy one of theirs.  The Champagne took way too long to arrive and it was the wrong bottle when it did.  We put off eating the first amuse until we got the wine and had to send back the second until we were ready.  Our waiter, kind of clueless in general, offered to slow down the pacing of the meal and didn't understand the issue even though we had mentioned it to the person who brought the second amuse (who must have spoken to him).  Once we explained it, pacing was fine, although the meal took so long I was very glad I didn't have to drive home that night.  While the glasses were generally kept filled, we had to fill ourselves on a few occasions and they didn't seem to understand why we were switching between the two periodically (pairings were not necessarily best just going white first then red).

We also did not get truffled popcorn but that was minor.  I honestly didn't look at the menus they gave us, so now I have to go home and check to see if I have the right one.

Bottom line, the Inn is still very good but not totally up to the level to which it strives.  We go to enough restaurants at that price/status level to have a frame of reference for comparison, and it is definitely better than some (I'm looking at you, Taillevent) but well below others.  It's unfair to compare it to Komi (my current favorite), because it's a different type of experience, but CityZen had it beat at the same game.

Will we be back?  Probably, but it's not a rush.

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Unfortunately, you paid $31.25 per glass (plus tax and tip, which works out to about $40 per glass) for wines that I wouldn't pay $10 a glass for - these are wines that I wouldn't even give a second glance to in a retail store (a possible exception being the Linden).

The Santa Duc is a decent daily drinker, but I still can't believe how utterly pedestrian that wine pairing is.

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You should have said hello!  My wife and I were also there Friday night, celebrating my 60th birthday (arrgghhh!).  Your review is spot on and matches our experience in several ways (except we stayed in the main building and had no problems with the bill).

We've been to the Inn numerous times in the past 30 or so years.  For a while it was near dining perfection (I remember a waitress joking as she adjusted a fork she hadn't placed exactly right, "break a rule, break a finger").  It then had a steep decline around the time of the divorce and we stopped going for a while.  It had picked up on more recent visits, but still was not performing up to past standards.

We thought the food this time was excellent.  I had the Menu of the Moment and my wife had the Classics.  For me, the seabass was one of those wow moments you want in a restaurant like this.  Unlike Cooter and Eddiebosox, my wife thought the lamb had that same wow factor.  We had similar questions about the amount of the brioche toast and a couple of other minor things like that (I'm blanking on specifics now), though, that detracted slightly from the meal.

We didn't do the wine pairings - I have never been to a restaurant at which they are a good or even reasonable value - see Lettie Teague's article in the WSJ a week or two back.  We brought a bottle from our cellar (a '90 Lafite, if anyone cares) and bought a bottle of Champagne off the list.  The Champagne was just over 3x retail, but they knock off the $35 corkage if you buy one of theirs.  The Champagne took way too long to arrive and it was the wrong bottle when it did.  We put off eating the first amuse until we got the wine and had to send back the second until we were ready.  Our waiter, kind of clueless in general, offered to slow down the pacing of the meal and didn't understand the issue even though we had mentioned it to the person who brought the second amuse (who must have spoken to him).  Once we explained it, pacing was fine, although the meal took so long I was very glad I didn't have to drive home that night.  While the glasses were generally kept filled, we had to fill ourselves on a few occasions and they didn't seem to understand why we were switching between the two periodically (pairings were not necessarily best just going white first then red).

We also did not get truffled popcorn but that was minor.  I honestly didn't look at the menus they gave us, so now I have to go home and check to see if I have the right one.

Bottom line, the Inn is still very good but not totally up to the level to which it strives.  We go to enough restaurants at that price/status level to have a frame of reference for comparison, and it is definitely better than some (I'm looking at you, Taillevent) but well below others.  It's unfair to compare it to Komi (my current favorite), because it's a different type of experience, but CityZen had it beat at the same game.

Will we be back?  Probably, but it's not a rush.

Really enjoyed your thoughts.  I wrote this on Chowhound thirteen years ago which was our third and last visit to The Inn. My first visit was in 1980 a couple of weeks apart from Jean Banchet's Le Francais west of Chicago which, at the time, was considered by many to be the best restaurant in America.  I am also deeply appreciative to have had a number of significant dinners elsewhere as I and my business matured.

Patrick O'Connell is capable of incredible food:  there was a James Beard dinner at the old Maestro at Tyson's which then included every James Beard award winning chef for the Mid Atlantic. (I bought Michel Richard's Chef's Jacket at auction which is signed by all of them.) O'Connell had an incredible dish that at the time absolutely starred, eliciting an incredible silence when it was served-everyone in the room was speechless anticipating the first taste.

Our earlier experience at The Inn (where I had to literally move my chair a number of times for the "Cow" cheesecart to pass by in the narrow Siberian like hall we were seated in) was a memory that had nothing in common with what he prepared that night at Maestro.  I know what he is capable of-I have been truly fortunate to taste some of his best dishes over the last thirty five plus years.  However, I unfortunately also remember less than celebratory experiences that marked milestones in our life.

FWIW I believe the world benchmark for service is in Baiersbronn, Germany at either of their three stars, Bareiss or the legendary Schwarzwaldstube which define the experience that the Inn strives for.  For the latter there is a year's wait for a reservation at one of their eight tables. We have built trips around confirming a table.

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For Pooch's 50th I gave him a 50 states Travel journal 
that I had entered the best restaurant in each state a combined the list by Travelstoke  and Business Insider
And we started the list with Virginia's entry Inn at Little washington

The trip was a surprise, all he knew was travel by car, dinner jacket no tie, bed & breakfast.  
Our friend Terry and Emily picked us up about 1 and did the driving and we kept Pooch in the dark until there was a info sign pointing to the restaurant

We checked into our B&B Gay Street Inn - very nice  and got ready for dinner and then walked over to the Inn.
The fount entry hall reminded us of the portrait room at the Haunted Mansion, luckily the mirror did not expand on us.

We were seated in the back of the sun room, an nice quite table away from the main room.
We started with cocktails and then the three rounds of amuse bouche started.  
first was a crispy cannoli filled with pimento cheese
then the tequila lime pork belly wrapped in kimch
and finally a cheese brioche with a tomato orange soup.
(I Saw other tables with what I guess was the truffle oil popcorn but we missed out on that)

I had the Enduring Classics menu and Pooch had the Here and Now
Mine started with the Tin of Sin - Royal osetra caviar with Sweet Crab and Cucumber Rillette (Pooch's was a Foie Gras)  I had only had black caviar so this was a treat and the combination was stunning.
Next was a Baby Lamb Carpaccio with Ceasar Salad ice Cream -  (Pooch's was Lobster and Corn) - I want more of this
Macadamia crusted soft shell crab tempura was so amazingly good (tough Pooch's Wagyu Beef was pretty tasty)
and finally a Duck Breast with sour cherries (Pooch's was Lamb chop with an amazing minted bearnaise which I was tempted to just drink)

We had the wine pairing and the L'Arco Valpolicella Ripasso from Veneto italy (2010) is now on my list.

The cheese course served from a traveling cow (Farina and her friend Cameron) was superb
I finished up with the Klein Constantia, Vinde Constance, Muscat de Frontignan, South Africa (2012) and the Coconut Bavarian - Pooch had the Southern Butter Pecan Ice cream Sandwich

We did ask for the kitchen tour and got to meet Patrick O'Connell (Should have had a cookbook with me)
Total about a three hour meal

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15 hours ago, ktmoomau said:

Well having just dined at the IaLW, I can absolutely see why people consider it special and noteworthy after all these years.  The service just blows away the best service anywhere else in the DC area. 

Sorry to quibble with one sentence in what was otherwise a great review -- we've been here only once and certainly enjoyed the service.  IMO it didn't blow away the service at Komi, Little Serow, Rose's Luxury, P&P, Tail Up Goat, or Red Hen though.  Admittedly, the comparison is a bit apples and oranges for some places on my list.

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7 minutes ago, silentbob said:

Sorry to quibble with one sentence in what was otherwise a great review -- we've been here only once and certainly enjoyed the service.  IMO it didn't blow away the service at Komi, Little Serow, Rose's Luxury, P&P, Tail Up Goat, or Red Hen though.  Admittedly, the comparison is a bit apples and oranges for some places on my list.

You are absolutely entitled to your opinion!  I haven't been to all the places on your list, but we certainly felt much more special and well cared for here than at Komi, Rose's Luxury or Little Serow.  Minibar was closer, but still not this good.  But again just my opinon, we went on a slow night at not the top time, so we could have gotten a little more attention than on a busy night.  The service was just a lot more caring to me, and personal.  They knew our names, called us by our proper names all night.  We had two primary servers, one who was just really warm and nice.  They asked us about our anniversary and where we were from, interests, made small talk, but not too much. Chef came out to wish us Happy Anniversary and speak to us. They were really helpful with menu recommendations, with the wine book, we never wanted for anything to be refilled or replenished.  Wine was poured, chilled (at our decision, we could have kept it on the table, we were offered) and served appropriately, not too much, not too little.  Water always refilled timely, but at times when it didn't interfere.  When I was mopping up egg and sweet onion sauce with baguette they held on taking our plates for a moment, although they cleared other courses much more quickly so we could enjoy the sauce, no snearing at wanting to enjoy the sauce.  We weren't rushed at all, they made sure we liked every course, if I commented about an item they would sometimes have something interesting to say about it.  But talking with us never felt inappropriate or forced, our server was just really nice.  They didn't interrupt us when we were talking.  Things were done so well that they never interfered with our meal, they timed dinner perfectly, so when we were taking our time between our first two amuses, they slowed things down a bit for us without us having to ask (but the one other table who was seated right after us was on a faster pace, but they were eating faster). Down to the phrases they used, "this spoon might be helpful to eat the foie gras" and "do you want to enjoy your popcorn all through the meal?" When we went to the kitchen they nicely made sure we knew we could leave anything and they would have it for us when we came out, so we didn't have to take our box of desserts, nor my jacket.  We got to talk with Chef in the kitchen for a bit.  They offered to take some pictures for us for our anniversary not just in the kitchen, but the front staff and the bellman, when I went to take pictures of things.  The manager talked to us about design and expansions, and the cow cart which I wanted to know the story behind.  Not a demand or an order or a we know more than you, always open to what you preferred, even in the phrases.  Every service member I passed (housekeeping in the bathroom, bar staff) had a smile and was helpful if need be.  Just very well thought out from start to finish.  And all the things they did never felt like they were doing them as a routine or what was expected, but because they genuinely cared.  It just felt different to me.  I haven't had those experiences at any place in DC, but again I haven't been to all the places you have been to, I hope to do so though!  

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7 hours ago, DaveO said:

Labor Day Innstock Food and Music Festival at Inn at Little Washington

From Washingtonian:  A Labor Day Festival at Inn at Little Washington featuring their friends and numerous sous chefs who had worked there in the past.

That looks cooler than cool.  I'm jealous.  Would have loved to have been there.

It was very fun. We are in the background of one of the Washingtonian pics.

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Here is a little tidbit, more relevant to our bartending school in Arlington, then my recent dining experiences.  The Inn at Little Washington now has two grads of our bar school bartending;  one for the last 1/2 year or so and one new.

In one sense I'm surprised;  the longer term bartender travels a very long distance to get there on her shifts.  She loves it.  Her wine and fine dining experience prior to her taking our course is ideal for the restaurant.  She also has the vitality and smarts to provide the appropriate level of customer service.   The second grad is less experienced but has the appropriate attitude and personality to combine her drinks knowledge with their demands and level of in house training.  Good luck to the newest hire.  I'm proud of them.

I enjoy dining or more appropriately dining and drinking at the bars where grads work.  Can't hit all of them.   Hmmm.  The Inn at Little Washington.   Oi.  I haven't dined there in years.  I never enjoyed overindulging in the finest restaurants for obvious cost reasons, but more seriously in that it was "too much" for me.  I've done it in little periods and after a while it turns me off.

I used to dine there during its earliest years of operation.  What a drive.  Dinners were spectacular.  More importantly we always went there with the same couple, possibly the couple with whom I most enjoyed fine dining.   It was always a special occasion and a lot of fun.   We always did an early seating so we could head back to "civilization".   We always had a sober driver so I could indulge.  Meals were spectacular.  The other place we went to more frequently was L'auberge Chez Francois;  also great, but the dining at Inn at Little Washington was even then at a level that was far superior.

So if you are at the Inn...order a cocktail.  I'd be interested to hear how it went.

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On 2/9/2019 at 4:14 PM, reedm said:

I chose the "Out of the Blue" seafood menu, while my wife opted for "The Good Earth" vegetarian selection, substituting a couple of vegetarian dishes for selections from the other menus. Each menu is $238.

Reedm : thank you for the super detailed post!   One question about the above - how many different menus did they have available?  On their website they show the "classics", gastronauts, and good earth menus but this is the first I've heard of the seafood menu.  *I'm headed here in two weeks and trying to get a lay of the menu situation since the online ones aren't updated regularly.

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1 hour ago, FranklinDubya said:

Reedm : thank you for the super detailed post!   One question about the above - how many different menus did they have available?  On their website they show the "classics", gastronauts, and good earth menus but this is the first I've heard of the seafood menu.  *I'm headed here in two weeks and trying to get a lay of the menu situation since the online ones aren't updated regularly.

My pleasure. Three menus were available the night of our visit. I assume you can always mix and match as you like. Glad to answer additional questions. Cheers!IMG_7530.jpg.52b8c73dfabb73216d81278d82c62fcb.jpgIMG_7531.jpg.bee8a21e0293f24c2a580ac484eeaa29.jpgIMG_7532.jpg.c2e63778284f7c33b6f20c745c5d92be.jpg

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On 2/9/2019 at 4:14 PM, reedm said:

Much more relaxed, we settled in, looking forward to a wonderful experience. We indicated we would like to enjoy cocktails before we started, and quickly found out our primary server was less than engaging. We asked for recommendations, and our server replied simply with "it depends what you like", and nothing more. Again, very unexpected. My wife had read about the truffled popcorn, and we asked if that was available. A bit later, two boxes appeared. It wasn't revolutionary, but it was quite good. I believe the popcorn is normally topped with black truffle shavings, but that wasn't the case with ours. Both of our cocktails were exceptionally well-prepared and delicious. (One was a riff on a gin cocktail, the other a play on a manhattan.)

.  (OBTW, two small containers of the truffled popcorn were $12. Each. 

That's strange....the truffled popcorn has been included in the tasting menus for as long as I can remember. Wonder if charging for it is a new thing, or if someone screwed up. 

Bad either way. 

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7 hours ago, mtureck said:

That's strange....the truffled popcorn has been included in the tasting menus for as long as I can remember. Wonder if charging for it is a new thing, or if someone screwed up. 

Bad either way. 

The one time I had it, it was covered with summer truffles which are notoriously underwhelming.

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We made a trip to the Inn last weekend, as two friends were visiting from out of town and had never been. Due to a last-minute babysitter snafu we were three rather than four, but the staff handled the situation with aplomb and quickly re-set our table prior to us sitting down.

One member of our table had the "Good Earth" menu and the rest of us did the "Gastronaut" menu, with some substitutions. The menu was largely, if not exactly, the same as ReedM noted above. I subbed in the scallop with calvados dish, and one of my dining companions subbed in the lobster dish. We didn't take pictures (obviously), but the highlight from the Good Earth menu was the Turnip Tarte Tatin/ Highlights from the two Gastronaut menus were the Bison dish (again, identical to ReedM's) and the lobster. The chocolate hazelnut napoleon fell a bit short for me as there was some unannounced white chocolate in there. Should have gotten the cheese cart. Everyone enjoyed their meal, and this kind of tasting menu (unabashed fine dining, traditional coursing, etc) is becoming harder and harder to find. In that way, the Inn is a bit of an anachronism, albeit in the best possible way.

Wines were:

Chapoutier: Le Meal (Hermitage) '02

Michel Gaunoux: Corton Renardes '90

RLdH: Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva '80

Wine service was slow and uneven. We waited for several minutes once we sat for a consultation with the somm, and she was fairly concise in her discussion. Once the wine was ordered our glasses were promptly refilled.

Service was uneven as a whole. Certainly not European *** standard, though that wasn't our expectation. Rather, we had a similar experience as ReedM - some of our servers were engaging and enlivened the mood (particularly the excellent dining room manager) and others were just kind of there. The person manning the cheese cart was previously a highlight with his udderly terrible jokes, but he spoke so quickly and softly that it was basically impossible to understand what cheeses he provided for our group. It's hard to pinpoint a major issue, or something glaringly incorrect about the service, it just didn't resonate as in years/ months past.

Also re: popcorn - I wasn't served it in 2018 across a few visits, or last weekend. Perhaps it's being phased out?

All in all, our friends enjoyed the experience, which was the main point. We will return in a couple months, but hope that the service is a bit more consistent and engaging.

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6 hours ago, Keithstg said:

We made a trip to the Inn last weekend, as two friends were visiting from out of town and had never been. Due to a last-minute babysitter snafu we were three rather than four, but the staff handled the situation with aplomb and quickly re-set our table prior to us sitting down.
...
All in all, our friends enjoyed the experience, which was the main point. We will return in a couple months, but hope that the service is a bit more consistent and engaging.

The popcorn was not offered to us. I believe it to be available only on request. 

Nice report! Your experience seems very similar to ours. 

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6 hours ago, Keithstg said:

We made a trip to the Inn last weekend, as two friends were visiting from out of town and had never been. Due to a last-minute babysitter snafu we were three rather than four, but the staff handled the situation with aplomb and quickly re-set our table prior to us sitting down.

...

All in all, our friends enjoyed the experience, which was the main point. We will return in a couple months, but hope that the service is a bit more consistent and engaging.

1 hour ago, reedm said:

The popcorn was not offered to us. I believe it to be available only on request. 

Nice report! Your experience seems very similar to ours. 

"James Beard Foundation Gives Patrick O'Connell Lifetime Achievement Award" by Bridget Hallinan on foodandwine.com

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