October 27, 2016 at 5:45 pm EDT | by Kristen Hartke
Digesting the Michelin Guide
Patrick O'Connell, gay news, Washington Blade, Michelin

Patrick O’Connell of the Inn at Little Washington, one of the few outside-the-District restaurants to make the new Michelin Guide. (Washington Blade file photo by Joey DiGuglielmo)

It’s been a couple of weeks since the revered Michelin Guide to Washington’s restaurant scene was released, giving us time to drill down into its content and consider what we can learn from our first experience under the watchful eye of the Michelin Man and his anonymous cronies.

We’re fortunate to live in D.C. during a true restaurant renaissance, with new options opening up at a somewhat alarming rate (how many people can possibly eat out enough to support all these restaurants?), so the guide does offer a new view and can point us toward restaurants we might overlook simply because they are stalwarts in other neighborhoods (hello, Le Chat Noir and Kafe Leopold, we’re looking at you).

Plus, maybe we have one or two suggestions for Monsieur Michelin for future editions.

We really like brunch but the top restaurants don’t. Of the 107 restaurants profiled in the guide, 48 serve brunch, highlighting how popular brunch is here in D.C. However, of the 12 restaurants that received coveted stars, only one — Blue Duck Tavern — serves brunch. #priorities

We don’t have enough dim sum. The guide’s legend includes a symbol to denote a restaurant that serves dim sum and, sadly, there are only two restaurants on the list that do, only one of which, China Chilcano, is in Chinatown, er, Gallery Place, and it’s owned, ironically, by a Spaniard, José Andrés. As “Chinatown” is now practically devoid of Chinese food, this will come as no surprise, but it’s a sad fact nonetheless.

You don’t need a car to get a good meal in D.C. But you knew that. It’s ironic only because the Michelin Guide was created by a tire company in France in 1900, as a way to encourage drivers to get out and about in their cars (and, presumably, wear down their tires so they’d have to purchase new ones), yet visitors to the area are strongly encouraged to leave their cars at home. Of course, Uber drivers need tires and since you really can’t rely on Metro anymore to get to or from dinner, even car-free residents now need tires, albeit indirectly.

Michelin says there’s a “Near Southeast” neighborhood in D.C. that covers both Navy Yard and Capitol Hill. We beg to differ. While Navy Yard is occasionally referred to as Near Southeast, the Michelin Guide chose to lump it together with Capitol Hill on its map, calling the entire area Near Southeast. Since only two restaurants in the actual Navy Yard neighborhood made the cut, while seven did on Capitol Hill (including two restaurants that received stars, chef Aaron Silverman’s Rose’s Luxury and Pineapple and Pearls), it seems like Capitol Hill would have actually been the correct naming choice, and, thereby, less confusing to readers. Shaw residents will also notice that they apparently now live in Penn Quarter.

The only place worth going to for dinner outside city limits is 70 miles away. Don’t tell that to chefs Cathal Armstrong at Restaurant Eve in Alexandria or Jeremy Hoffman at Preserve in Annapolis. However, we’ll give it a pass simply because the only restaurant to land on the list from outside D.C. was the Inn at Little Washington, earning two stars for one of our favorite chefs, the witty and meticulous Patrick O’Connell. While some have agitated about the whys and wherefores of the Inn being awarded two stars instead of the full three, we think it’s just a matter of time — with only 13 three-star restaurants in the entire country, it’s reasonable to think that D.C. might not get any its first time out.

Reviewers don’t eat dessert. Or, we think they didn’t, because nary a mention of our favorite pastry chef, Alex Levin, made the guide’s review of Osteria Morini. Sure, the pasta is good, but we’d honestly start the meal with Levin’s tortinos and tartalettas if convention would let us. How is this man still single?

Apparently, Wolfgang Puck gets a pass. In one of the strangest entries in the guide, the review of the Source by Wolfgang Puck, located at the Newseum, states, “Wolfgang Puck manages to churn out reliably good food … The Pan-Asian bistro doesn’t capture headlines with every plate.” Um, OK. This is the Michelin Guide, right? While we get that there were some items (notably, the ever-elusive dim sum) that were noteworthy, there were several restaurants in D.C. that didn’t make the guide at all that do more than “churn out reliably good food,” making this entry a bit of a head-scratcher.

Vegetarians, this guide won’t help you. If you’re looking to find recommendations for plant-based meals, Michelin is of no use, although they do supply symbols to let us know who has the best sake and outdoor patios. We respectfully suggest adding a symbol — perhaps a tiny leaf — to help denote restaurants that offer plentiful vegetarian options; it’s a hot trend in our city and others, so we think it’s worth highlighting.

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