With late fall and winter holidays fast approaching, celebrate the lavishness of the season with serious gustatory pleasures around the nation’s capital city. Don’t be fooled by Washingtonians praising frugality; we love a healthy dose of excess, particularly when it comes to food. Case in point: the following five restaurant choices that raise the luxury bar around town. Many sumptuous prix-fixe chef’s tastings are worthy of inclusion, but we stuck with à la carte dishes that stand on their own.
We also didn’t include anything gimmicky (such as five-figure desserts that arrive with gem-encrusted spoons). Our favorite extravagances are luxurious based on the high quality and rarity of ingredients and the care with which they are prepared and presented. When those points meet, the result can make you swoon. But with truffles flying in from Europe by the barrel, champagne parties just around the corner and months ending with an “r” finally escorting oyster season back into full swing, now is the time to feast on D.C.’s over-the-top delights.
Bourbon Steak: A5 Miyazaki Japanese Wagyu
Situated inside the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Four Seasons Hotel Washington, D.C., this quintessential modern steakhouse from Michael Mina serves up one of the world’s great delicacies. The Japanese cattle are famously fed beer and massaged daily to produce steaks with such intense fat marbling that the meat nearly liquefies when you bite it. A three-ounce minimum portion will set you back $105 (before side dishes, drinks or dessert). But authentic Wagyu from Japan is an unforgettable experience and a perfect precursor to an engagement, or for a blowout holiday meal. A close second at Bourbon: the decadent lobster pot pie, which at market price in a slow lobster season can top $75 for the homey comfort food.
Le Diplomate: Grand Plateau
Most D.C. power dining spots have a seafood tower, but none as spectacular and fresh-from-the-ocean delicious as the one at Le Diplomate. (Bonus: No necktie is required at this bustling casual bistro, either.) Round up four to six friends to enjoy lobster, king crab legs, scallops, oysters, shrimp and clams piled high on ice with savory sauces. This delectable $130 selection is a brilliant gateway for classic steak frites or roasted duck with baked figs.
Fiola: Alba white truffles
From October to January, the world goes wild for the famed white truffles from Italy and France, the most expensive in the world. But more than with any other ingredient, great sourcing and quick turnover are critical for a heightened truffle experience. Chef Fabio Trabocchi masters the sourcing and the menu at Fiola, with offerings as simple as white truffle shavings with an egg or classic risotto ($50 to $80 each). Add truffles to any dish, including pastas such as tortellini with braised short ribs, for a supplement of $40 to $60. As a special promotion in January, Fiola offers them shaved tableside for the restaurant’s cost — last year, diners paid $3.50 per gram (about the weight of a paperclip).
Proof: Vertical vintages of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne
We consider wine an honorary food group, so flights certainly count as composed dishes. Proof restaurant (named after Benjamin Franklin’s line that “Wine is proof that God loves us.”) has a deep, well-tended cellar providing vertical vintages of several amazing labels, like Cristal from 1990 to 2004 for $350 to $875 per bottle. If you want to indulge, a vertical tasting of cult favorite (and impossible to find) Screaming Eagle from 1997 through 2005 should do the trick (from $2,200 to $5,500 per bottle) for you and several of your very good friends.
Pepe food truck: Pepito de Ibérico
Splendor doesn’t always need to arrive in an opulent package. Forbes Travel Guide Tastemaker José Andrés helped lift the U.S. ban on Ibérico ham. The robust ham is laced with ribbons of flavorful fat, made from free-range black pigs that feast on herbs, acorns and olives. It is one of Spain’s great delicacies, costing up to $120 per pound. When chef Andrés’ food truck, Pepe, rolled into town, it came as no surprise that the menu included a luxe sandwich graced with a seared Ibérico loin layered with Serrano ham, roasted green peppers, caramelized onions and aioli on a crusty bun. For $20, it’s all yours.
Photos Courtesy of Scott Suchman, Four Seasons and Fiola