Oftentimes, the most well-known restaurant guides such as the Michelin Guide or the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list are criticized for highlighting too many European (especially French, Italian and Spanish) and Japanese tasting menu establishments. Having been to a fair number of those types of restaurants, my wife Jun and I have been looking for places that depart from the conventional cuisines and culinary frameworks where we can appreciate something truly groundbreaking. I had my share of doubt if DC, to which we moved from NYC last year, would have such a restaurant until we recently visited Reverie in Georgetown. Led by chef Johnny Spero, who was born and raised in Maryland and worked at several culinary trailblazers around the world such as Noma, Minibar and Mugaritz, Reverie offered a remarkable dining experience we have not had in a while, and instantly became one of the best restaurants in DC (and frankly America) in our mind.

Reverie’s tasting menu, currently at $220 per person (admittedly not cheap but totally worth the splurge), is New American with a focus on seafood sourced from the Mid-Atlantic region. You don’t often see fine dining restaurants with Mid-Atlantic concept perhaps because many chefs are trained to think that the best cuisines and ingredients are from Europe, Japan or California. Well, chef Johnny will convince you in a resounding fashion that you can get so much out of the bounties of the East Coast. After a series of fresh mussel, hiramasa (yellowtail amberjack) and scallop dishes to start, we were greeted with a plate of giant clam with green tomato broth inspired by gazpacho. Even though clam is not her favorite shellfish, Jun absolutely loved this dish where the citrusy green tomato flavor added so much to the gently prepared clam.

The kitchen also has a playful take on Carolina gold rice with an aromatic bowl of rice soup with crab and egg inside, and we certainly didn’t expect to encounter for a savory course ice cream and caramel with sunchoke flavor that worked exceptionally well with caviar. On our visit, my favorite dish of the night was neither seafood nor meat; the kohlrabi with vegetable glace displayed impeccable flavor and texture that will turn anyone into a vegetable lover. The lone meat dish of the night, duck breast with rhubarb, beet and fennel, was also more or less perfect in its juicy texture. The desserts, which chef Johnny also puts together himself, were also quite ingenious, starting with delightful bites of candied geranium with white chocolate, current and sour cherry, followed by a richly delicious bowl of coconut in embers with koshihikari rice below the coconut surface.  

Getting a reservation at Reverie via prepaid tickets on Tock is not too difficult as long as you plan in advance; I would think that a table here should be as difficult to get as other top DC restaurants such as Minibar. The beverage list from Marcie Cox is also quite thoughtful, with interesting wines from all around the world designed to complement the food very well. The Scandinavian-influenced design of the dining space also gives you a sense of minimalist elegance perfect for a date night. During the dessert course, chef Johnny came over to our table to chat. We could tell that he is very passionate about food (he is also extremely friendly) and eager to showcase his unique take on the Mid-Atlantic cuisine that is not boring or conventional. He is also working on a new restaurant in DC, Bar Spero, which will also focus on seafood but in a more casual style inspired by Spain’s Basque region. If you have been somewhat tired with the more or same French, Italian or Japanese tasting menus in your life, Reverie will be an awesome revelation; it shows that not every chef has to follow the same culinary path or pursue the same ingredients or techniques to succeed. We can’t wait to go back to Reverie in the future to see how chef Johnny’s bold and thoughtful dishes evolve.

KenScale: 9.0/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.75/10)

Address: 3201 Cherry Hill Lane, Washington, DC 20007


Reservation via Tock

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