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2000s Archive

Having a Grand Time, Washington, D.C.

Originally Published October 2009
Here’s the deal: We offered some of our favorite restaurant critics a theoretical $1,000 to spend dining out in their home city. In considering how they would use their funny money, which had to cover meals for two, drinks, tax, and tip, these professional omnivores cast a spotlight on their own proclivities, as well as on the thrilling diversity of their respective cities. The result? Some very tasty inspiration.
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$65 As a world capital, Washington, D.C., offers a taste of just about everywhere on the map. Why settle for one cuisine when dozens beckon? We’ll start our tour with a pitcher of sangria and some tapas at the best Spanish restaurant I know, José Andrés’s convivial cocktail party otherwise known as Jaleo. With more than 60 small plates on the menu, decisions are tough, but no matter what’s new I always fit in house-made chorizo on mashed potatoes, a perfect Spanish omelet, and garlicky shrimp. 480 Seventh St., N.W., Washington, D.C. (202-628-7949; Jaleo)

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$45 Next stop is The Bombay Club, more glamorous than ever after a nip and tuck last year. The menu reminds patrons that there’s more to Indian cuisine than samosas and curries. Exhibit A: a soft duck kebab that teases the tongue with chiles and ginger. Nowhere is there a richer roasted-eggplant purée—this one gets its savor from onions, yogurt, fresh ginger, and time in a charcoal oven—or a wilder Malabari shrimp. 815 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. (202-659-3727; The Bombay Club)

$50 With its pressed-tin ceiling and butter-colored walls, Et Voila! could pass for a smart bistro in Brussels. My favorites include the beer-infused beef stew and grilled trout with leek fondue and tiny gray shrimp. 5120 MacArthur Boulevard, N.W., Washington, D.C. (202-237-2300; Et Voila!)

$350 In another life, Sushi Taro was a reliable neighborhood spot, but thanks to an ambitious makeover, the restaurant has emerged as one of D.C.’s best, period. Chef Nobu Yamazaki presides over the hushed sushi bar, where the omakase dinner starts at a hundred bucks per person, but the meal amounts to a delicious education. Hope to find live scallops, baby squid, and mackerel chopped with shiso, ginger, and salty plum. 1503 17th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. (202-462-8999; Sushi Taro)

$400 Obelisk’s stark town-house setting lets you focus on the five-course spread. From the skinny grissini and pillowy gnocchi to the grilled pork chops and chocolate-hazelnut cake, this kitchen hits nothing but home runs. Great food deserves great wine, and owner Peter Pastan stocks it. A bottle of Valentini Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2002 completes this exquisite menu. 2029 P St., N.W., Washington, D.C. (202-872-1180)

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