The Harper Notebook: Best Restaurants in Washington, D.C.


Dining options in Washington, D.C., are getting better and more varied. Many talented chefs are taking advantage of the area’s diverse ingredients — especially the fine seafood — to craft their menus. On my next visit to Washington, I’m eager to try The Dabney, chef Jeremiah Langhorne’s paean to mid-Atlantic seafood, meats and produce. Here are five restaurants we feature in D.C. from the United States Harper Collection guidebook.


Saffron and squid ink tagliatelle at <em>Equinox</em>
Saffron and squid ink tagliatelle at Equinox - Ellen Kassoff/Equinox Restaurant

Just south of Farragut Square, Equinox is sophisticated but understated. Chef Todd Gray is a strong proponent of Mid-Atlantic ingredients. On our most recent visit, we couldn’t resist the truffled risotto fritters with sweet garlic crème fraîche. Among the main courses, look for dishes such as rosemary-roasted rack of lamb with fire-roasted Japanese eggplant, Mediterranean olives and a turmeric-saffron jus.

818 Connecticut Avenue N.W. Tel. (202) 331-8118


Tajarin with white truffle at <em>Fiola</em>
Tajarin with white truffle at Fiola - Greg Powers

Lobbyists and their clients flock to Fiola for the same reason Mrs. Harper and I visited: the first-rate Italian food from chef Fabio Trabocchi. Despite the popularity, we found this a civilized place for conversation and loved our meal. We began with the superb — and generous — ahi tuna carpaccio with smoked caviar, roasted San Marzano tomatoes, olives dressed with yuzu and lemon for a little citrus zip, and a touch of fresh sorrel. We followed with a luxurious Maine-lobster ravioli with ginger and chives.

601 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. Tel. (202) 628-2888


The langoustine at <em>Marcel's</em>
The langoustine at Marcel's - Scott Suchman

At chef Robert Wiedmaier’s romantic restaurant, the menu changes frequently, but dishes have included Santa Barbara uni served with shrimp tagliatelle and a pesto coulis; pan-seared turbot with sweet-onion purée, leeks, crispy capers and a tarragon essence; and Angus filet mignon with cauliflower, cippolini onions and a cranberry-Cabernet sauce. The extensive wine list has 24 selections by the glass. Children under age 12 not recommended.

2401 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. Tel. (202) 296-1166


The interior of <em>Obelisk</em>
The interior of Obelisk - Google Maps

Tucked into a handsome Dupont Circle townhouse, this restaurant proves that fine dining doesn’t have to be stuffy. Peter Pastan has now turned full responsibility over to his partner, Esther Lee, who will continue to present an Italian-inspired menu that changes daily. Choices might include pastas such as squab agnolotti with chanterelle mushrooms, and main courses like red snapper with preserved lemon, olives, capers and Roman artichoke; or roasted suckling pig with rapini and pepperonata (for two). The well-priced wine list emphasizes bottles from Italy and California.

2029 P Street N.W. Tel. (202) 872-1180


<em>Mercimek Köftesi</em>, traditional seared red lentil patties, preserved lemon yogurt, pomegranate, lettuce leaves at <em>Zaytinya</em>
Mercimek Köftesi, traditional seared red lentil patties, preserved lemon yogurt, pomegranate, lettuce leaves at Zaytinya - Greg Powers

This airy restaurant features chef José Andrés’ imaginative take on the cuisines of Turkey, Greece and Lebanon. Mezzes abound with selections such as spanakopita (spinach pie) and mercimek köftesi (traditional seared patties made from red lentils). More-substantial dishes include grilled octopus with marinated onions, capers and a purée of yellow split peas; and braised lamb shank with eggplant purée. The fascinating wine list has more than two dozen by-the-glass offerings.

701 Ninth Street N.W. Tel. (202) 638-0800

United States & Canada
Get the Harper Collection guidebook to the United States & Canada, featuring Mr. Harper's favorite hotels and must-see places across the two countries.

Order the Collection Book »

By Hideaway Report Editor Hideaway Report editors travel the world anonymously to give you the unvarnished truth about luxury hotels. Hotels have no idea who the editors are, so they are treated exactly as you might be.
Learn more...