Starry times for D.C. restaurateurs: On Wednesday, the Michelin Guide released its latest take on the local dining scene, with four restaurants earning the iconic Michelin star. Each of the new additions earned a single star; only one restaurant in the D.C. guide has three stars, The Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Virginia.
These four newly starred establishments join the city’s four new Bib Gourmands announced last week. The latter distinction, which rewards more reasonably priced restaurants, went to NOLA-inspired Dauphine’s, Indian fusion spot Daru, pop-up-turned-ramen-mecca Menya Hosaki, and Honeymoon Chicken, where fried chicken is paired with Veuve.
A handful of other D.C. faves were added to the guide with a less-prestigious “plate” designation, including low-country Southern stalwart Georgia Brown’s, Franco-Chinese fusion Bar Chinois and Mexican palace of corn Maïz64.
Here’s the lowdown on the newest star-spangled spots in the capital.
Chef Michael Rafidi spent years at such prestigious spots as RN74 and Blue Duck Tavern, cooking anything but the Palestinian cuisine of his roots, before finally opening this Navy Yard restaurant that delivers on the promise of “a journey through Levantine cooking.” Think bok choy served with apricot honey, whipped feta and smoked peanut harissa or coal-fired tilefish with chermoula, serrano chile and tahini. An international wine program rounds out the offerings from this spot, pegged by the Michelin inspector as “hip and lively,” with just enough nostalgic notes to help diners truly understand why Rafidi named it Albi — Arabic for “my heart.”
Mediterranean influence on South American cooking is ubiquitous and utterly delicious, and it’s also one of the governing influences of Venezuelan Chef Enrique Limardo’s West End Imperfecto. This year, Michelin inspectors awarded a star not to the “more casual” menu of the main restaurant, but rather to the Chef’s Table specifically, where a lengthy tasting menu served by Limardo himself could include kampachi tartare in avocado kombu dashi with serrano chile, lobster curry with coconut, or a brioche with Camembert and truffle honey the Michelin inspector dubbed “perfecto.”
The pandemic forced chef Rob Rubba to completely reimagine his then-forthcoming Oyster Oyster’s planned “oystertarian” tasting menu as a vegetarian comfort food takeaway joint. But since his true vision has arrived on the scene, the chef hasn’t stopped impressing diners with his micro-seasonal, ultra-local approach, and Michelin inspectors seemed as won-over as everyone else. “It is highly rare for a tasting menu to leave one feeling — well — energized, but so goes the imaginative cooking at this vegetable-focused gem,” swooned the inspector, who was conquered by smoked tofu bundled in fried celery root, not to mention the eponymous mushrooms; in this case, lion’s mane in spring onion mole.
Down a quiet Georgetown street, chef Johnny Spero has crafted a seafood-focused restaurant the Michelin inspector dubbed a “secret gem.” Spero’s menu marries local products and global influence with aplomb: oysters are paired with salted berry shio koji; sunchokes and caviar are served with sunchoke miso ice cream and sunchoke caramel; foie gras is united with persimmon, strawberry and a mochi waffle. Counter seats allow visitors to watch the maestro work, though the staff the inspector categorized as “disarmingly warm” are at your beck and call throughout the Nordic-influenced space.
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