Seasoned DC Restaurateurs Join Michelin Rankings
After New York, San Francisco and Chicago, Washington, D.C., became the fourth U.S. city to receive a seal of approval from the internationally revered Michelin Guide, which assigned 14 stars to the District’s restaurants, including three two-star restaurants. The guide was released Oct. 13 at the National Press Club.
The three destinations on the two-star list were chef José Andrés’ theatrical Minibar, Aaron Silverman’s innovative Pineapple and Pearls on Capitol Hill and the Inn at Little Washington.
Fiola, Masseria, Blue Duck Tavern, The Dabney, Kinship, Plume, Rose’s Luxury and Tail Up Goat all received a single star. Italian and modern American cuisines were the most represented — eight out of the nine restaurants on the one-star list fell under these categories, with Japanese restaurant Sushi Taro as the exception.
The long-awaited selection of top-flight eateries was set in motion May 30, when Michelin announced the deployment of multiple inspectors around the D.C. area.
When the tire manufacturer set out to encourage customers to embark on more road trips through the Michelin Guide of the early 1900s, it limited its scope to mechanics, hotels, gas stations and a select group of restaurants.
Today, featuring more than 27 countries and nine individual cities — including D.C. — the global enterprise evaluates restaurants’ creativity and personality, as well as value, consistency and ingredient quality. Fewer than 120 restaurants in the world have been awarded what has become the top-tier three-star accolade.
With the local restaurant industry on high alert, selections from Michelin’s “Bib Gourmands Guide”— a first-round selection of lower-cost eateries — were announced Oct. 6. This designation requires restaurants to offer two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less.
“The most telling [factor] in the value of these selections is the fact that they are the restaurants that the Michelin inspectors themselves frequent when dining off the clock,” Michelin said on its public relations newswire.
Considered “more affordable, fine-dining locations” by Michelin inspectors, the city’s 19 local winners range from Greek-Mediterranean to Filipino fare, with over 15 culinary traditions represented in the final assortment.
Notable mentions include Bidwell’s full-service Southern cuisine, 2Amy’s unique pizza crafting, Georgetown neighborhood favorite Das Ethiopian Cuisine, Kyirisan’s French-inspired Asian and China Chilcano’s Peruvian flare.
Located at the corner of 28th and M streets, Das is a short walk from campus. An intimate two-story structure with seasonal outdoor seating and a phenomenal menu, it seems inevitable that this Georgetown gem made the cut.
“We are really excited because we try to give the best attention to customers,” Sileshi Aliform, who works at Das, said. “We provide consistent service and great value is at the core of our foundations, which makes Michelin’s acknowledgement a recognition of all the people who make our local eatery the best it can be, always keeping everything effortlessly simple.”
Four of Andrés’ D.C. outposts were selected: Peruvian-Japanese-Chinese restaurant China Chilcano, tapas joint Jaleo, Greek-Mediterranean Zaytinya and Mexican restaurant Oyamel. Featured in Time Magazine’s 2012 “100 Most Influential People in the World,” Andrés is the internationally recognized chef and co-owner of the renowned ThinkFoodGroup, responsible for multiple dining concepts around Washington, D.C., as well as in Los Angeles, Miami and Las Vegas.
“It truly is an exciting time for us,” ThinkGoodGroup spokesperson Margaret Chasey said. “The presence of our restaurants in Michelin’s ‘Bib Gourmands’ is truly a confirmation of the excellent standards we have continued to hold. I believe customers will appreciate that we’re recognized by international platforms.”
The transformation of D.C.’s food scene did not occur overnight — it is an accumulation of local culinary innovation that occurred gradually over the years, bite by bite.
Michelin’s annual guide has previously neglected to feature D.C. specifically.
“I am excited to announce that Michelin will be part of the extraordinary and eclectic food scene in America’s great capital,” the guide’s International Director Michael Ellis wrote on the group’s newswire May 31. “Washington is one of the great cosmopolitan cities in the world, with a unique and storied past that includes, among so many other things, a rich culinary tradition that continues to evolve in exciting new directions.”
With its addition to the guide, D.C. joins the ranks of such global gastronomic capitals as Paris, Tokyo, London and Hong Kong.
“The Michelin Guide for Washington D.C. will become the 29th edition of the international collection, but most importantly, the first to cover an American city in the Mid-Atlantic region,” Michelin representatives stated through their newswire.
Innovators like Andrés, local entrepreneurs and creative chefs of eclectically imbued cuisines have collaborated equally toward eliminating what The New York Times called D.C.’s long-held label of “expense-account steakhouses” and “white-tablecloth hotel dining rooms.” Stale dining rooms have been replaced by lofty pop-ups, while tapas and ramen dominate over ribeyes.
The increasing accessibility and urban attitude of D.C.’s best restaurants have resonated with students on campus. The GU Eating Society is a student organization based on community, exploration and, above all, food.
“The GU Eating Society uses food as a way to learn about different cultures, and is trying to a community around the D.C. food scene. We are really excited to create a community around new restaurants we can explore as a group,” said Alex Heintze (MSB ’19), co-founder and co-president of the GU Eating Society.
The world has clearly taken notice of Washington’s new culinary standards. Recent praise of D.C.’s fresh dining identity has been delivered by multiple publications.
In a 2014 New York Times article, John DeFerrari, historian and author of “Historic Restaurants of Washington D.C.: Capital Eats,” spoke to the significance of the District’s multicultural food scene.
“We have had the fortune of getting immigrants from all over the world. The traditional profile of an ethnic restaurant was someone who had to leave their own country without much financial support to start a casual restaurant, but now we are seeing those roots established with people taking it to the next level,” DeFerrari wrote.
After Bon Appétit Magazine named D.C. “2016’s best restaurant city of the year” in its August issue, Editor-in-Chief Adam Rapoport said he was excited for the city’s culinary ambitions during an interview with Washington’s Top News.
“When I grew up in D.C. in the ’70s and ’80s, ambitious food was limited to white tablecloths and having to reserve a month ahead of time … Food has become cool. People have always loved food, but it never had that cool factor until recently.”
For those awarded either one-, two- or three-star credit by Michelin, the pressure to maintain exceptional quality and service will be particularly demanding.
“People take the Michelin Guide very seriously, and it could really increase their credibility in the D.C. food scene,” Heintze said.
However, in a city thriving through unconventional dining creations, the challenge may continue to rest on Michelin’s capacity to keep up with innovative culinary designs.
Although D.C. has been on the map of expanding gourmet markets for years now, the introduction of internationally recognized institutions like Michelin will consolidate the efforts of a growing dining-oriented community, which has forged a truly unique setting for all those willing and able to experiment. The renewal of the city’s gastronomical diversity paired with global acknowledgement is bound to be the recipe for a bright future among D.C.’s restaurateurs.