Get to Know the 11 New Michelin-Approved DC Restaurants for 2021
All the new stars! All the new Bib Gourmands!
After a brief hiatus this fall, the Michelin Red Guide’s incognito inspectors have returned to the U.S. with quite a few accolades for D.C.: five(!) new starred establishments and six new Bib Gourmands, the latter of which recognize phenomenal restaurants at more affordable prices.
Below, your extremely extensive guide to a Michelin-approved tour of the best and brightest of DC dining — let’s keep all of these deserving spots in business for 2021 and beyond.
Two Michelin Stars
What’s on offer: Jônt was one of D.C.’s most highly anticipated new restaurants this year, when chef Ryan Ratino opened the long-awaited 18-seat chef’s counter inside his already Michelin-starred Bresca. In a departure from Bresca’s bistronomy plates, Jônt’s multi-course tasting menu features multiple Japanese accents, like scallop with kombu and shiro dashi or Hokkaido sea urchin with custard and English peas. Artful, colorful, exacting and technical, it’s no wonder the Michelin inspector called this one a “showstopper.”
Menu pick: No choices here: go for the tasting menu, and cross your fingers for plentiful house-made ferments and an iteration of the rye tart that had the Michelin inspector and other reviewers swooning.
One Michelin Star
What’s on offer: This Spanish kaiseki restaurant does what it says on the box, and yet still manages to surprise. Cranes’ Spanish-Japanese fusion menu pays homage to Chef Pepe Moncayo’s Barcelona background and culinary experience in Singapore. Bento lunchtime offerings effortlessly blend flavors from both cultures: shrimp with kasha soffrito, paprika oil and kumquat; maitake tempura with manchego cheese and chives. The dinnertime à la carte menu includes both smaller tapas and larger share plates. The former may include oysters with ponzu and Espelette pepper or patatas bravas with yuzu kosho ketchup; the latter could feature wagyu beef with potato purée and red wine sauce or unagi paella with ponzu.
Menu pick: The six-course omakase featuring a chef’s choice of seasonal selections, with or without a curated beverage pairing. (The wine list is heavy on sake and Spanish bottles.)
What’s on offer: Colombian chef Juan Manuel Barrientos’ Elcielo is divided into two distinct spaces. The front room and patio serve an 80 percent pescatarian à la carte menu, with choices including ceviches, crudos and arepas. (Try the signature “Tree of Life” bread with basil, paprika and brown butter or succulent guava barbecue ribs.) The back room is where Barrientos pulls out all the stops, with an artful prix fixe spectacle overlooking the open kitchen.
Menu pick: The 15-course “Journey,” featuring, among other things, “Chocotherapy”: an experimental, experiential course whereby chocolate is poured directly into diners’ palms.
Rooster & Owl
What’s on offer: This restaurant from husband-and-wife team Carey and Yuan Tang offers an edgy mashup of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Asian flavors. The $75 prix fixe features four groups of four options; innovative combos like Brie custard with Ritz shortbread, raisins and honeyed walnuts, or a vegetarian dish of Napa cabbage with funky camembert and pepitas breadcrumbs dare diners to confront their preconceived notions of what American food can be. A beverage pairing option includes cocktails, wine and sake.
Menu pick: Blistered BBQ carrots with a vinegar-based Carolina twang, served with a savory cornbread ice cream
What’s on offer: Chef Danny Lledó’s focus on the Valencian cuisine of his childhood is the heart and soul of Xiquet, located above Lledó’s Slate Wine Bar. The restaurant exudes warmth and sunshine, boasting skylights and, in the glass-enclosed kitchen, a visible open fire over which many of the restaurant’s dishes are cooked. Chief among them? The award-winning paellas, for which the kitchen crafts special broths to best showcase the flavors of the individual ingredients.
Menu pick: Paella de la Duquessa de Denia, with lobster, prawn, scallop, cuttlefish and Spanish sénia rice.
The Bib Gourmand Recipients
What’s on offer: Ellē is keeping the neighborhood in bread after taking over what was once Heller’s Bakery, with daily bread specials and dishes that pleasantly show zero regard for the traditional dividing lines of international cuisines. Lunch menu sandwiches may pile kimchi on toast or pair uni, caramelized onion and fermented chili with gooey raclette for a grilled cheese finally worthy of the oft-overused descriptor “umami-bomb.” Dinner options may include Japanese koji-cured veal Milanese or fish poached in a food-waste-reducing broth made from veggie scraps.
Menu pick: Anything pairing their in-house ferments and baked. A recent hit? The Nashville hot duck, with a whole confit duck leg smothered in hot sauce and piled on a giant buttermilk biscuit with bread and butter pickles and smoked ranch.
What’s on offer: Old-time charm and excellent soul food are at the heart of the Hitching Post, with its retro décor and generous portions. Food is made to order, a quirk that should be a plus and has nevertheless caused no small amount of grumbling among clients and reviewers due to long wait times. Stuff a fried oyster in the mouth of any whiner, and they’ll soon be a convert.`
Menu pick: The fried chicken, equal parts juicy and crisp, paired with your choice of two classic sides, like house-made mac and cheese or hand-cut fries.
Karma Modern Indian
What’s on offer: Karma stands out among Washington’s other Indian establishments by blending tradition and modernity, and East and West. The results include such dishes as paneer with basil pesto and naan with wild mushroom and truffles, alongside more traditional curry house offerings like chicken tikka and lamb rogan josh. True to its name, Karma donates a portion of its sales to charity.
Menu pick: The lobster masala with beetroot porival seasoned with mustard seeds and curry leaves, which exemplifies the line chef Ajay Kumar so wonderfully walks. Pair with one of the cocktails from Karma’s standout cocktail program.
What’s on offer: Makan embraces the diverse, internationally-influenced cuisine of Malaysia, with a menu including Penang street noodles with shrimp and sausage, fried yucca and creative nasi campur mixed rice dishes. Roti are perfect for dipping in a vegetarian pineapple pajeri nenas curry or pork vindaloo, a spicy, vinegar-tinged stew familiar to fans of Indian cuisine. Classic and craft cocktails alike feature Malaysian ingredients and flavors like palm sugar, calamansi and curry leaves.
Menu pick: The fried egg with tamarind and spicy house-made sambal for breakfast, and a Malaysian twist on French toast made with roti and pandan coconut cream for dessert.
What’s on offer: Hong Kong’s Cantonese cuisine gets a modern twist at Queen’s English, a family-run establishment from husband and wife team Henji Cheung and Sarah Thompson. The sleek dining room boasts a short-and-sweet menu of dishes where high-heat wok-cooking is omnipresent, whether as the defining element of in the charred octopus with goji berry and coriander or the accent of a wok-charred tomato vinaigrette on a lotus root salad. Natural wines and creative craft cocktails are a welcome accompaniment.
Menu pick: Prawns — heads, tails and all — with Thompson’s house-made XO sauce.
Residents Café & Bar
What’s on offer: This contemporary café nurtures a curated ambiance, with a house-made playlist crafted with as much attention and care as the craft cocktails. The large patio is the perfect spot to enjoy the espresso martini — a drink the café is committed to revitalizing, with three signature versions — and dishes inspired by European and Middle Eastern flavors and local produce, like blistered shishito peppers with maple glaze, mini lamb gyros with za’atar and feta, or lobster risotto with Calabrian chili, ginger and tarragon.
Menu pick: Aside from one of those espresso martinis? The sesame-crusted Amish chicken schnitzel with bacon, charred corn, sun-dried tomatoes and house-made ranch.
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