Feature

What the experts recommend: D.C.’s top restaurants

On the menu: crispy Brussels sprouts with a side of curried mayo, heirloom tomatoes with house-made cottage cheese and basil, and house-made charcuterie.

Againn
Washington, D.C., is in the “midst of a shift in food culture,” said Sarah Wildman in The New York Times. The evidence of changing tastes in the nation’s capital includes “new farmers’ markets, celebrity chefs,” and the healthy date-night meal choices of the first couple. On K Street, a new breed of restaurants has brought ethnic flair to an area usually reserved for fussy eateries serving “lobbyists and image-makers.” Againn (pronounced ah-GWEN, which means “with us” in Gaelic) is the work of Louisiana native Wes Morton. The food is mostly pub fare—bangers and mash, shepherds pie, house-made corned beef—prepared with some “haute twists,” such as using locally farmed meat and hints of curry. The crispy Brussels sprouts are addictive with a side of curried mayo, while an excellent soup of warm curried carrot and orange, with cooling yogurt and mint, was “presented beautifully in a small cast-iron bowl set on a wood cutting board.” Overall, the fare is a bit heavy; my only regret was coming midday rather than for dinner. 1099 New York Ave. NW, (202) 639-9830

Buck’s Fishing & Camping
A new chef has recently taken the helm of this Friendship Heights standby, but its “tradition of a first-rate prime sirloin and great desserts” continues, said Tom Sietsema in The Washington Post. Gone is Carole Greenwood, who I thought was often brilliant but some diners found stuffy. In her place is the relatively unknown Vickie Reh, who keeps the “food serious” but has lightened the mood. “A Manhattan, glinting with ice, helps. So do red-checkered tablecloths.” Along with the steak and desserts, Reh has maintained some of her predecessor’s top additions to the menu. Yet she has her own style, evident in crisp catfish wrapped in “tasty tortillas” or plump roast chicken with a fresh lemon zing. Reh also knows how to bring out the best in vegetables, as in a pairing of heirloom tomatoes with house-made cottage cheese and basil. “Count yourself lucky” if you get the chance to enjoy a meal at the popular 20-foot-long communal table. “It’s the best seat in the house.” 5031 Connecticut Ave. NW, (202) 364-0777

Ripple
Roger Marmet, the former head of the Learning Channel, built that cable network’s popularity atop the interior design show Trading Spaces, said Tim Carman in Washington City Paper. With Ripple, “his first foray into the hospitality industry,” Marmet shows that he still has a finger on the trends people care about, capitalizing on three dining buzz words: local, seasonal, and value. This Cleveland Park space is part wine bar, part restaurant, with a wine list that includes more than 50 different vintages served by the glass, including a number for a reasonable $6. On the menu, roughly 20 modest plates are under $20. Of those, executive chef Teddy Diggs’ house-made charcuterie is a must, while the saba-glazed pork belly paired with albacore tuna prove to be “a combination of land and sea that could be the next steak and lobster.” Some of the food here can be a bit salty, but that’s something that a little fine-tuning should cure. 3417 Connecticut Ave. NW, (202) 244-7995

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