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The Best Restaurants In The Area


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Like Jacques, I would flip a coin between Citronelle and Maestro.

Citizen is working to be in the same league but isn't quite there yet, based on a visit a few months ago. The food was excellent as was the service and the room, but it was missing that special something that the others have. But I think it is something that is sure to come with time.

My meal at Citronelle a year or so ago was memorable for the sense of having such confidence coming out of the kitchen that the whimsical touches didn't feel over the top and the proper but friendly service.

Two meals at Maestro in the last year have convinced me that this is as good a restaurant as I've been to anywhere (and Lord knows I've spent too much money and effort lately trying to expand that list).

All that said - If you like a more modern, urban feel with a French accent go to Citronelle. If you are looking for a more luxurious feel with an Italian accent, go to Maestro.

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I realize this is a hackneyed request, but here goes.

I am looking for a restaurant in which to celebrate my upcoming birthday with the +1. It can be anywhere in the DC/MD/VA area and cost is not a determining factor. Neither of us cares much about wine, so the wine list is, essentially, irrelevant. What I'm looking for is a good food and, preferably, a more neighborhood-y, intimate feel. Our restaurant of choice for special celebrations in the past has been Palena. I still like Palena a lot, I'm just looking to broaden my horizons. I'm a fish-a-terian, so steak houses/meat-focused restaurants are pretty well out.

My first choice was (sniff) Komi. They're on vacation the weekend I want to go (Labor Day weekend). For a variety of reasons, I can't easily shift the weekend I want to go. The two remaining restaurants on the list are Restaurant Eve with the tasting menu (sounds good to me, it's a bit far from where I live, but do-able), Blacks (it's gotten such glowing reviews here in its current incarnation, but somehow, I'm not sure it's what I'm after). ETA: Maestro, which was on the list, is closed on Labor Day weekend.

Any thoughts on the winner among these two? Recommendations for a place that I'm overlooking and should really consider? Thanks for reading this far in a request that I know is kind of tedious.

ETA: Although moved into this thread, I'm not serious considering either CityZen or Citronelle.

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I realize this is a hackneyed request, but here goes.

I am looking for a restaurant in which to celebrate my upcoming birthday with the +1. It can be anywhere in the DC/MD/VA area and cost is not a determining factor. Neither of us cares much about wine, so the wine list is, essentially, irrelevant. What I'm looking for is a good food and, preferably, a more neighborhood-y, intimate feel. Our restaurant of choice for special celebrations in the past has been Palena. I still like Palena a lot, I'm just looking to broaden my horizons. I'm a fish-a-terian, so steak houses/meat-focused restaurants are pretty well out.

My first choice was (sniff) Komi. They're on vacation the weekend I want to go (Labor Day weekend). For a variety of reasons, I can't easily shift the weekend I want to go. The three remaining restaurants on the list are Restaurant Eve with the tasting menu (sounds good to me, it's a bit far from where I live, but do-able), Blacks (it's gotten such glowing reviews here in its current incarnation, but somehow, I'm not sure it's what I'm after), and Maestro (it has many years' worth of positive reviews under its belt and I would love to try it; I'm wondering about the atmosphere).

Any thoughts on the winner among these three? Recommendations for a place that I'm overlooking and should really consider? Thanks for reading this far in a request that I know is kind of tedious.

I would say go for Maestro! This seems like a perfect opportunity to visit. I guess it might not have the "neighborhood-y" feel, but it's not as frou-frou as one might think. And the open kitchen is always a treat.

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What I'm looking for is a good food and, preferably, a more neighborhood-y, intimate feel. Our restaurant of choice for special celebrations in the past has been Palena. I still like Palena a lot, I'm just looking to broaden my horizons. I'm a fish-a-terian, so steak houses/meat-focused restaurants are pretty well out...

The two remaining restaurants on the list are Restaurant Eve with the tasting menu (sounds good to me, it's a bit far from where I live, but do-able), Blacks (it's gotten such glowing reviews here in its current incarnation, but somehow, I'm not sure it's what I'm after).

If you're going to consider other options, the challenge lies in the "neighborhood-y, intimate feel" parameter. Since you're a fish-a-terian, I'd expedite you to either 2941, CityZen, or Vidalia as the absolute best choices in town right now, but I'm wondering if Pesce might not be more what you're after. No, it's not in the same league as the others, but it remains underrated and forlorned, and Regine Palladin gets my vote as one of the most gracious, charming GMs I've ever come across. Better still, if you want truly outstanding fish dishes, is Circle Bistro. One important consideration is that because Circle Bistro has two superb poissoniers in Brendan Cox and Barry Koslow, it's a reliable kitchen seven nights a week, and probably on holiday weekends as well. Also, Tom Power of Corduroy is one of the only chefs in town who is adept at cooking meats, seafood, and vegetables - different chefs have different strengths, but Tom has talent in all three of these areas. Kinkead's, BlackSalt, and Oceanaire are out because of the atmosphere, and both Cashion's Eat Place and Obelisk are shadows of what they used to be.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I cannot speak for Black's as I have never been there, but I would recommend unequivocally Restaurant Eve. We were actually in the tasting room twice within the last 2 weeks and both meals were off the charts (hint: any menu item that says "gnocchi", or "black bass" should be ordered). Plus, you get the added bonus of Todd Thrasher's cocktails as an alternative to wine. It also has the neighborhood, friendly feel that you are looking for. Personally, I found the ambiance at Maestro to be a bit stuffy.

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I don't know how Obelisk is these days, but we found the cooking there to have much in common with Palena's. It's small enough to have an intimate feel, also. The only drawbacks are: a year ago it was not getting great reviews, and since the tasting menu is the only option I'm not 100% sure there are fish or vegetarian options for every course. But it wouldn't hurt to ask.

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For one of the best meals I think you will have in the area, I am going to recommend CHarleston in Baltimore. Hands down one the best dining experiences I've had next to Bistro Jaunty in Napa, and Per Say in Ny. The service, the food, and the fact that several hotels are nearby for a continued celebration :) If you want to stay in Dc, then I would go to Citronelle, if you want Virginia- go to Maestro and enjoy the Ritz after.

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I don't know how Obelisk is these days, but we found the cooking there to have much in common with Palena's. It's small enough to have an intimate feel, also. The only drawbacks are: a year ago it was not getting great reviews, and since the tasting menu is the only option I'm not 100% sure there are fish or vegetarian options for every course. But it wouldn't hurt to ask.

I'm not a huge fan of Obelisk (although it's been a couple of years since I was last there), but I do know that they'll do a 100% vegetarian menu for anyone at your table who requests it. Still, I think you'd be better off at any of the places others have suggested... and if it were me, I'd pick Eve.

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Your preference for a place with a "more neighborhood-y, intimate feel" should lead you directly to Restaurant Eve's tasting room. Both Maestro and CityZen are in large hotels. Eve is a block off of King Street in Old Town Alexandria in an historic townhouse. It epitomizes what you are looking for. And Chef Cathal Armstong was not named one of the ten best new chefs in the country by Food and Wine Magazine for nutt'n.

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Your preference for a place with a "more neighborhood-y, intimate feel" should lead you directly to Restaurant Eve's tasting room. Both Maestro and CityZen are in large hotels. Eve is a block off of King Street in Old Town Alexandria in an historic townhouse. It epitomizes what you are looking for. And Chef Cathal Armstong was not named one of the ten best new chefs in the country by Food and Wine Magazine for nutt'n.

And with regard to this:

Such generalizations, based on a single meal, are vacuous and unhelpful.

Well, I don't have an expense account that allows me to visit the tasting room at Eve often, or any of the other special occasion restaurant before I give my opinion on it. For most people one visit is all they get for a place like Maestro, Eve, or Cityzen, as these places are quite expensive. I have nothing against EVE, I think it's a fine restaurant, however if I had a choose where I would spend $300-$400 on dinner for two it would be Maestro.

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Wow, thanks all. I've received some very thoughtful replies to my query that clearly took into account my stated preferences (including somebody who edited their response to delete references to bacon :) ), and opened my eyes to some places that weren't on my radar screen (thanks, Rocks). I'm not sure where we'll end up, but I'm grateful for all the recommendations (additional recommendations gratefully accepted!).

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I'm not sure why Rocks has concluded that BlackSalt is not an appropriate option because of the atmosphere. For a pescatarian looking for a special meal in a neighborhood restaurant, that's exactly the place I would recommend. Ask for a booth, or one of the tables "upstairs"--a semi-private nook four steps above and overlooking the dining room. We had a great meal there a couple of weeks ago, to celebrate my husband's birthday. I mentioned it when I made the res, and they did a few special things that made it very nice for him. The quality of the fish and shellfish there is impeccable, and the kitchen is reliable. Subtle, delicate flavors are not Jeff Black's style. He goes for big, intense flavors, if that appeals to you. For some people, who like plain, simple dishes, it is too much.

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An opinion with such a narrow basis is not worth voicing (except perhaps to oneself) and is unhelpful to the person looking for useful information. But I will add that the opinion voiced conflicts somewhat with the poster's earlier description of the meal (which is an excellent description by the way).

I still stand by my statement that Eve has best food in Old Town. However, my meal at Maestro was much more memorable, and if I was in the mood to spend big bucks, I would most likely spend it at Maestro. Others may disagree, but that's ok too. I never said the food was bad at EVE, it was just not as great as the food at Maestro or Cityzen. Give it a rest and get back on topic. Eve is GOOD, Maestro is GREAT! I prefer to have great when I am spending big bucks!

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[One post modified at user's request; six replies to the original version deleted. Can't a guy go play tennis for an hour? :) ]

I'm not sure why Rocks has concluded that BlackSalt is not an appropriate option because of the atmosphere. For a pescatarian looking for a special meal in a neighborhood restaurant, that's exactly the place I would recommend.

BlackSalt is definitely "neighborhood-y," but it was the "intimate feel" request that made me shy away from it.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I've said before that Maestro is my favorite restaurant anywhere, but intimate and neighborhoody are two adjectives that do not spring to mind in describing it.

Blacksalt can be intimate if you opt for a booth as Zora mentioned and serves some impeccible seafood prepared either simply or or not, but always prepared well.

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I've said before that Maestro is my favorite restaurant anywhere, but intimate and neighborhoody are two adjectives that do not spring to mind in describing it.

Blacksalt can be intimate if you opt for a booth as Zora mentioned and serves some impeccible seafood prepared either simply or or not, but always prepared well.

Eve gets my vote (even with an IN at Vidalia) - Cathal is a genius

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Hmm, after reading about Marcel's, maybe it should be included in this list.

Two years ago I would have agreed with you; a year ago I wouldn't have. However, Marcel's is now the only restaurant I've ever promoted to bold in the dining guide. This, after having demoted them awhile back - first out of prudence due to the opening of Brasserie Beck, then out of necessity based on personal experience. But based on what I've now seen? Marcel's is back.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Where should I go for my birthday?

Komi

Restaurant Eve Tasting Room

Minibar

Cityzen

(Citronelle was awe-inspiring last year, but I like my variety; maybe in a few years after I've tried all of Don's bolded restaurants, I'll do a repeat :( )

I've only been to the first two, so that's all I can comment on. Both are wonderful. The only major thing I can think of to distinguish the type of meal is that you get a lengthy series of bites at Komi first (at least an hour's worth) and then a few more small courses (or more with the degustation). At Eve you get the 5 or 9 (do I have the numbers right?) courses spaced in a more "standard" way (not that there aren't any amuses but not to the degree you get the bites at Komi).
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To me it depends on whether you have eaten at the Minibar or not. Having eaten there, here's my ranking:

1. Komi

2a Restaurant Eve Tasting Room

2b Cityzen

3 Minibar

I just cant bring myself to 100% say that Eve is better than Cityzen. This was really tough

I haven't eaten at any of these places yet.
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I have never been to Eve, so I can't comment on that, but out of the rest of the group above I would definitely choose Komi for a birthday meal. CityZen, while outstanding and perhaps the best overall food experience in this city, is more of a place that I want to go for just that; to sit and enjoy food. Komi is the type of place I want to go and be pampered with incredible food and wine service, try a lot of great little things, and spend a special night enjoying myself. It is also one of those once-a-year type places, whereas CityZen is the kind of place that you could potentially go once a month or so and sit at their bar and have that incredible deal, which has honestly turned me off from going the more expensive route in the dining room.

minibar is also a cool experience, but I did not enjoy it nearly as much as Komi.

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I agree, but you have to go to be able to say that

It is definitely unique and worth going at least once, but Komi has remained a notch higher than every other restaurant I have been in DC, so naturally I am inclined tell someone who has not been there as opposed to anywhere else.

Either way, you don't go wrong with any of those options, Dan.

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Where should I go for my birthday?

Komi

Restaurant Eve Tasting Room

Minibar

Cityzen

(Citronelle was awe-inspiring last year, but I like my variety; maybe in a few years after I've tried all of Don's bolded restaurants, I'll do a repeat :( )

I'd go to Komi or the Eve tasting room before the other two. Then again I had maybe one of the worst dining experiences of my life at Minibar and I thought CityZen was just ok.
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The question isn't "which is better". The question is "what are you in the mood for?"

On my last trip to Komi I was not blown away by the food - although it was very excellent. On the other hand, it's a frightfully comfortable place to spend three or four hours getting hammered and eating well, and Derek took astounding care of us and we enjoy the place immensly.

Minibar is, of course great fun but too often the technique was more impressive than the actual taste. It's also kind of a short, busy, experience -- all those plates in just two hours, while sitting at a barstool.

I've only been to Eve for DR events so can't coment.

And CityZen is lean, mean and the up and coming scene. I think it's probably the most daring and creative of the four right now. Not as comfortable as Komi but it would be my choice were I choosing solely on food.

But again, these restaurants are sufficiently different that ranking them is a fool's errand.

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Dan, I have never been to Cityzen, so I can't comment on that. Personally, I like Marcel's better than Vidalia. I do have to say, however, that it has been about three years or so since I have been to Marcel's, but it was an awesome game tasting menu that we had that night, perfect for the winter. I would probably check on some more recent experiences from Marcel's though before taking my word for it. Vidalia would definitely be the "safer" of the two choices though, consistently great food and always good service.

Did I just talk myself into Vidalia!?

Either way, all three are good choices and you will have a great time at each. As for the "holy shit" moments, I have only been like that at Citronelle, Komi, Minibar (in a different way) and Restaurant Eve in DC.

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Okay, thanks to some availability issues, my choices are now:

Cityzen

Vidalia

Marcel's

I want a cozy experience with my wife, but also a place where I'll get lots of "holy shit" moments with the food that are like little birthday presents.

Cityzen isn't all that cozy, but if you tell them that it's a special occasion, they will make a little effort to make it memorable, to include a little less-exposed table. There are some corners of the dining room that are pretty private. I can almost guarantee that you will have at least one or two "holy shit" moments. That would be my recommendation.
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Cityzen isn't all that cozy, but if you tell them that it's a special occasion, they will make a little effort to make it memorable, to include a little less-exposed table. There are some corners of the dining room that are pretty private. I can almost guarantee that you will have at least one or two "holy shit" moments. That would be my recommendation.
Another vote for Cityzen. Marcel's is a great restaurant, but less on the "holy shi&" scale. When I think of Marcel's I think of extremely well prepared dishes, but nothing too far off the beaten path. Not that there's anything wrong with that - just seems like Cityzen is more in line with what you're looking for.
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Maybe there is a discussion somewhere on the board but I have yet to find it. So here we go...

today I was tasked with setting up an lunch for 4 of us on the company dime(s). Suggestions from the other three were along the lines of "why don't we go back to Mortons". Granted Mortons can be good but I am baised when it comes to chains and therefore I am left to make the reservations. This leads me to 2 questions- where do you like to go when price isn't a factor? AND (more selfishly) where does one go in the Tysons Corner/Vienna/McLean area?

I was tossing around the idea of lunch at Evo Bistro , Le Petit Mistral, Bazin's or 2941. Any thoughts or suggestions? We might even make it over the bridge in to MD, but I'm at a loss for dining options in Cabin John.

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Vidalia

opps didn't see the NOVA part. If money is no object then you might as well go check out what the new chef at 2941 is dishing up.

No idea on the NOVA part, but the only place that I ONLY choose if it is an expense account meal is BLT Steak. I like it enough to go, but I think it is too overpriced to pay for myself.
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