As 2016 draws to a close, we have been doing a lot of reflection on the past year. I realized that the one question I've been asked more than any other this year is "Where should I eat?" With the number of fantastic dining options in this city increasing daily, choosing where to spend your hard-earned dollars is a tough choice! So, as our year-end gift to you dear readers, consider the restaurants mentioned below (all recommended by our expert team of food writers) your forever answer to that burning question. Happy eating, friends!
"I've had many amazing meals this year — Pineapple & Pearls, Metier, Fiola, Taqueria Habanero — but the one that sticks out as the very best was the chef's table tasting menu created by Ryan Ratino at Masa 14 in May. Perhaps it was because my expectations were so low. (Consider what one friend said when I raved about the meal later: 'Masa 14? Really?! I think I saw someone throw up at brunch there once.') Dishes included a dramatic display of raw oysters over dry ice topped with pink peppercorn-rhubarb granita; lamb with black garlic, morels and fava beans; and black sesame ice cream in a cone filled with rice pudding. It was stunningly beautiful and — most importantly — all tasted amazing. Ratino will soon take over the kitchen at Ripple, and I can't wait to see what he does there. He's definitely one to watch." -- Rina Rapuano
"My most memorable meal this year was a lunch at Minibar, which normally only serves dinner. But chef Quique Dacosta, who holds three Michelin stars for his eponymous restaurant in Denia, Spain, was in town and wanted to cook on the spur of the moment with his dear friend José Andrés. You don't say no to an invitation like that. The epic experience was part magic show, part sheer extravagance. One of Dacosta's creations looked like a whimsical woodland scene and revealed all these wonderful earthy, umami flavors, while José's team served a plate of smooth rocks, which turned out to be chocolate coated foie gras. I couldn't stop oohing and aahing (and taking pictures). Truly unforgettable." -- Nevin Martell
"With its celebrity ties and beautiful decor, I expected the food to be good at RPM Italian -- but I had no idea it would be outstanding. The housemade pastas are as good as any that I've had the pleasure of eating in Italy. I highly recommend the Mama DePandi's Pomodoro and the Mushroom Risotto." -- Troy Petenbrink
"Another good year of eating has been clocked, with many fantastic meals including The Dabney, Convivial, Haikan, Hazel, and some old favorites Mintwood Place, Lavagna, and more! One of the outstanding surprises this year was at Lapis, the modern Afghan restaurant where I felt like I was dining in someone's home. I started with the pumpkin bolani, the beef kebabs and aushak (dumplings), baked eggplant, and wrapped up with the comforting qabuli palow. There were lots of vegetarian options too! It's all stellar!" -- Aparna Krishnamoorthy
"Since choosing one single favorite meal from 2016 is a nearly-impossible task, I’m letting a personal attachment tip the balance here… I celebrated my sixth anniversary over a lovely dinner at the chef’s counter at Masseria. We opted for the five-course tasting menu and had such a memorable evening enjoying fresh crudos, luscious pastas and a mesmerizing show from the kitchen team. I joke that pasta is one of the great loves of my life, and I still dream about the chestnut ricotta agnolotti and the linguine with XO sauce. Our server was so sweet to surprise us with a bubbly toast at the end of our meal, and the plating artists sent us chocolate congratulations -- the best kind of congratulations." -- Lani Furbank
"Bistro d’Oc, which has since closed, was my favorite meal during my first year in D.C. The duck confit was delicious, provided you happened to be there when it was on the specials menu, and they had some lovely pâtés on their appetizer menu. I felt like I’d somehow graduated to the next step of life when I had one of their champagne-based cocktails before catching a Tennessee Williams play at the Lincoln Theater." -- Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
"Hazel and Tail Up Goat should probably pay me at this point for the number of people I have sent their way this year; I'm constantly asked where people should dine or spend special occasions and I can't help but have those two restaurants' names fall out of my mouth. And while all of my own personal meals there have been incroyable, the dinner that stands out in my mind as the BEST meal of 2016 was at Convivial. I think it was a combination of fantastic service, decadent food and superb company -- I was dining with my entire family to celebrate my birthday and that special touch of eating with all the people I love most put the experience over the top. The menu has changed significantly since I last dined there (I can't wait to go back and try the Braised Lamb Osso Buco with Parisian Gnocchi and Za'atar) but the dish that we all fought over that night was the Fried Chicken 'Coq Au Vin.' It's probably Convivial's most famous dish and everything about it is perfection -- from the plating to the balance between the crisp of the chicken skin and the moist meat underneath to the just-the-right-amount-of-sweet glaze it is an unforgettable dish. That paired with the Escargots in a Blanket, the Latkes with celery root and dry cured lamb and the Leeks Dijonnaise left me full and happy! And don't forget to save room for Eva Kronenburg's delectable desserts -- you can't go wrong with any of them but my favorite has to be the Hot Sticky Toffee Pudding with maple ice cream." -- Laura Wainman
Be sure to click through the gallery above for a sneak peek at a few of these mouth-wateringly good meals we were fortunate to enjoy!