The 2008 100 Very Best List — It’s Here!!

The most anticipated edition of the Washingtonian has been bestowed upon DC Foodies. DC area restaurant goers have anxiously awaited the release of the Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurant List in the latest issue (January 2008).
There have been quite a few changes. First off, this issue introduces a scale for service in addition to the traditionally used star system for culinary experience. Introduced last year, the magazine ranks the restaurant from 1 to 100 and all 100 restaurants are rated on a scale of four to two stars. All restaurant receive at least two stars or are not included in the top 100. The highest rating of four stars (culinary epiphany) was given to only three restaurants this year and last year.
Michel Richard’s Citronelle was ranked #1 again this year, however CityZen moved up from #3 in 2007, to #2 in 2008. Chef Richard (pictured) made that rarest of leaps in the world of food—from the pastry kitchen to chef of one of the country’s foremost restaurants. A chef who inspires colleagues with his creativity of invention, he was among the first chefs inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who in American Food and Wine. Maestro, which was ranked #2 is closed until March 2008, thus was not included in the 2008 list. The restaurant is searching for a new Chef de Cuisine to replace the award-winning Chef Fabio Trabocchi.
Amazingly, Komi moved from #10 last year 7 spots to #3. This is quite impressive! The Executive Chef is one of DC’s youngest chef’s. Komi’s success has been attributed to Chef Johnny Monis who was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s 2007 Best New Chefs. As newest member of this exclusive club, Chef Komi (pictured on the right) joins the ranks of past local winners Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve (2006), Eric Ziebold of CityZen (2005), Fabio Trabocchi of Maestro (2002), Frank Ruta of Palena (2001), and Roberto Donna of Galileo/Bebo Trattoria (1990).
I have not had the honor of dining at any of the top 3 restaurants, Yet although I plan to visit CityZen for my birthday dinner late January. CityZen has gained several prestigious awards such as, “Restaurant of the Year”, by DC Modern Luxury, August 2007, Mentioned on The Go List as one of the “Hottest Restaurants in the World”, Food & Wine, May 2007, 2006, and “Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year”, Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., June 2007.
I am thrilled to visit this extraordinary establishment and sample Chef Ziebold’s culinary expertise. The restaurant’s 20-foot high ceiling offers you a better view of the activity in the open kitchen, while the style and décor still provide an intimate setting. Eric’s menu changes monthly depending on the availability of the freshest ingredients. Stay tuned my review next month, it will be a big one.
Following the four stars, the first awarded 3 1/2 stars (Outstanding) is Restaurant Eve, which moved up 2 spots from #6 in 2007. I have reviewed Restaurant Eve’s lickety split lunch in the lounge, but have not been there to try their main dining room or tasting room. The closest that I come to the Top 10 is #11 Charlie Palmer Steakhouse that I visited in August 2007 for Restaurant week.
As of 2008, I have only dined at 19 of the 100. Many of them that I have reviewed were pushed out for 2008, such as Acadiana, Ceiba, and Restaurant Kolumbia. It seems rather unfortunate that Acadiana and Restaurant Kolumbia were added to the Very Best in 2007 only to stay one year and be Out in 2008. There is an asterisk next to Restaurant Kolumbia in the “Outgoing” box on page 89 that indicates that a restaurant has closed. The restaurant’s website does not provide any news about the supposed closing, but upon further investigation, I found on zagat.com that they closed on October 27, 2007 and will be looking for space elsewhere to launch a new venture. DCist reports that the renovations to their building have caused them to lose their lease. It’s a shame, really. I was just there. I reviewed the restaurant just a few months ago and now it’s gone. Jamie Stachowski told Don Rockwell of the Food Forum that he plans to open an Eastern-European bistro with an emphasis on his Polish roots. The location and date are to be decided.
The Majestic was added to the List (ranked as #42), however I don’t believe that this establishment is consistent enough with their cuisine to be included. I dined at the Majestic in October 2007 and was thoroughly disappointed. I believe that it was added only for the fact that Cathal Armstrong (pictured to the left) has recently taken over the kitchen. It simply doesn’t belong in the 100’s Very Best, not yet, that is. Maybe the fact that Washingtonian named them “Restauranteurs of the Year” has something to do with it. Don’t get me wrong, I think that Cathal and Meshelle are fantastic! I especially love what they did with Eamonn’s and I heard that their next venture, European-style butcher, break bakery, gourmet shop, and wine centric lounge, will be opening in 2009 in the Del Ray area. I also can’t believe that Johnny’s Half Shell (#59) is ranked above L’Auberge Chez Francois (#60). I find it simply impossible. The service alone at L’Auberge should rank them higher than most. After all, the Washingtonian did award them the highest rating for service “supremely attentive” while Johnny’s only got “competent and efficient”.
I am mosly pleased that Farrah Olivia by Morou Ouattara in Old Town, Alexandria that was added in 2007, ranked as #32 with 2 1/2 stars has moved to #22 in 2008 with 3 stars. My first visit to Farrah Olivia was January 2007 for my birthday. Yes! I chose it for my special dinner. I have been back at least twice, since, never to be disappointed.
I just love Chef Morou. I even stopped watching the Food Network’s Next Iron Chef when he was eliminated in week 3, the episode in which the chefs’ resourcefulness were tested by sticking them with coolers full of “wild” ingredients — chosen in secret by a fellow competitor — that they had to turn into two dishes in one hour with a charcoal grill and limited tools. The Ivory Coast native’s signature artistic presentation was lost on the judges, who wanted to see his food “touching” after being warned in week 2. “I mean everything is constantly in little piles,” Judge, Donatella Arpaia said. Though the other judge, Andrew Knowlton defended the Farrah Olivia chef’s dishes, he ultimately echoed that sentiment: “We found the plating again to be a little monotonous,” he later told the chef. And so … he was out. I was thoroughly upset and disgusted that at one point the judges said that his dish, based solely on taste alone, was their favorite, Yet he was eliminated for “monotonous plating”.

Since Restaurant Week is coming up, beginning January 14, 2008, I plan to visit at least one or two of the Top 100’s Very Best Restaurant’s. I have my reservation for DC Foodie Favorite, Corduroy and I hope to also try one more … Komi and Central (#10) are not participating, so I will try to get to Vidalia (#8) since I have not been there.

My goal is to visit all 100, but of course, it keeps changing!
I have a lot of food to eat … and a long way to go to being able to boast that I have dined at all the 100’s Very Best!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s