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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Mon–Thu 11:30am–2:30pm
Mon–Thu 5:30pm–10:00pm
Fri 11:30am–2:30pm
Fri 5:30pm–11:00pm
Sat 5:30pm–11:00pm
Sun 5:30pm–10:00pm

Features Date-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


West End
1190 22nd St. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 974-4900
Westend Bistro by Eric Ripert
Sometimes greatness is more about moderation than flash

Unlike some of the world’s other great chefs, Eric Ripert has not franchised his name. Yeah, he’s got the requisite cookbooks and the website; he seems to do some Cuisinart toaster-oven promoting; he collects his honors and awards. But considering his culinary achievements and his rock-star potential, it seems as if the man actually avoids attention.

When Ripert puts his name on a new restaurant—and, beyond his New York flagship, Le Bernardin, he’s only done it for three Ritz-Carlton restaurants, including this one—you can bet that it’s not going to be a glorified casual-dining concept, and it’s not going to be a margin factory trying to do 500 covers per evening.

Westend Bistro is the restaurant that you would have him open in a fantasy world. It’s casual, it’s accessible, and it’s about as close as you can get in the United States to Le Bernardin’s level of execution at this price point.

The secret is in how wisely the great “Culinary Director” seems to have allocated his costs. Instead of filling his menu with complex show-off recipes that demand a line full of superstars and an MBA managing inventory—frequently the mistake of a brash young chef—he’s spent his money on ingredients of high quality and low snob appeal, and on a well-trained, competent staff that is able to execute consistently on an immensely satisfying menu of great balance and sophistication.

It might begin with melting, eye-rolling jamón ibérico with grilled country bread, arugula salad, and white beans with a whisper of truffle; an assortment of clean, bright oysters; or a rosy tuna carpaccio that’s pounded into a thin film over the plate, probably unlike any you’ve had unless you’ve been to Le Bernardin. An extraordinarily delicate salmon fillet goes brilliantly with lentils, pickled mushroom, and black truffle butter. And then there are two of the city’s greatest under-$20 dishes: a beautiful fish burger, with fennel, oven-roasted tomato, and saffron aioli, on a sweet brioche; and—surprise!—perhaps DC’s best tagliatelle alla bolognese. This, from America’s greatest seafood spokesman?

Chocolate caramel cream with sea salt, one among many excellent desserts, is yet another creation that demonstrates elegance through balance and restraint. The wine list is a bit short and limited given the power of the kitchen, but there are some decent Alsatian whites.

Horizontal fluke tastings and acrobatics with lobster in New York might have earned Ripert his high profile, but perhaps, in this latest phase of his great career, a magnificent sense of moderation is the quality from which we can learn most.

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