An elite group of high-end D.C. restaurants that limped through all the stops and starts, public health protocols, sanitation theater, staffing challenges, and shifting needs of their customers in 2020 get a big reward today as the Michelin Guide dispenses sought-after stars.
Five restaurants claimed their first stars in the all-digital 2021 guide, including a two-star evaluation for Jônt, where customers can sample chef Ryan Ratino’s blend of Continental luxury and Japanese fermentation techniques in dishes like Dungeness crab with donabe rice, truffle, and maitake mushroom. A news release from the restaurant says Ratino, 30, is the youngest chef in the U.S. to oversee a two-starred restaurant, and the youngest chef ever to boast two different starred businesses.
The other newcomers include Rooster & Owl, where chef Yuan Tang presents tasting menus with an eclectic mix of American, Asian, Italian, and Middle Eastern flavors; Xiquet, chef Danny Lledó’s Valencian-style Spanish spot in Glover Park full of luxurious paella pans and suckling pig cooked on a spit over orange wood; Cranes, for Spanish-Japanese small plates from chef Pepe Moncayo; and El Cielo, a pre-existing brand of prix fixe restaurants from chef Juan Manuel Barrientos that added a location in Northeast’s La Cosecha market to its properties in Colombia and Miami.
Michelin has already established that restaurants that have remained temporarily closed would not have to forfeit their stars, which means two two-starred tasting rooms — Minibar by José Andrés and Pineapple & Pearls — maintained their elite status. One-starred Plume, which offered its mid-Atlantic haute cuisine inside the Jefferson Hotel downtown, has also remained closed. Komi, the Greek-leaning Mediterranean prix fixe place renowned for Johnny Monis’s cooking and Anne Marler’s service team, held onto its star despite its full-scale, takeout-only pivot to casual, vegetable-centered Happy Gyro. The Inn at Little Washington, a haute American destination down in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, remains the only restaurant in the D.C. guide with three stars.
No restaurants that won stars for 2020 were demoted off the list. One omission by the French tire company’s anonymous inspectors appears particularly glaring. Albi, chef Michael Rafidi’s Levantine restaurant in Navy Yard, has wowed local and national critics with bold Middle Eastern flavors and a refined touch on pitas, kebabs, hummus, and whole chickens that show off Rafidi’s skill with a wood-burning hearth. The price point and high-level wine program would both seem to appeal to Michelin’s sensibilities, but apparently there was only room for one fancy restaurant centered in the Arab world: Maydan, a new pick in 2020. Pan-Latin Seven Reasons, named Esquire’s No. 1 best new restaurant in America late in 2019, is also prominently absent. As is Kevin Tien’s Moon Rabbit, the lone venue in D.C. that gives Vietnamese cooking the fine dining treatment.
Bad Saint, a game-changing Filipino restaurant that has been snubbed for years, was again left off the list off starred restaurants and absent from the Bib Gourmand list highlighting value-driven selections for diners who want to spend $40 or less per person. Michelin announced winners in that group Tuesday, April 20. Michelin inspectors denied a star to chef Amy Brandwein, a perennial finalist for James Beard awards for her seasonal Italian cooking at Centrolina. Brandwein’s new cafe and bakery, Piccolina, would seem to be an ideal fit for the Bib Gourmand list, but Michelin left it off.
Michelin will follow the D.C. guide update by releasing its guides for Chicago and New York on April 29 and May 6, respectively.
Here’s the full list of 23 starred restaurants around the District.
Michelin’s 2021 Starred Selections for D.C.
The Inn at Little Washington
Pineapple & Pearls
Tail Up Goat
Rooster & Owl (new)
El Cielo D.C. (new)