I don't know whether I can think of a restaurant where I've had a finer dining experience than the one we had last night at Maestro in the Ritz Carlton behind the Tysons Galleria. Comparable, perhaps (I remember an exquisite evening at The River Club on K Street in Georgetown when Jeff Tunks was in the kitchen), but not finer. My verdict takes into consideration the ambience, the quality of the service, and, of course, the meal itself.
Maestro offers a choice among various prix fixe combinations. You can mix-and-match yourself a two-, three-, or four-course dinner from the "Traditional" and "Evolutionary" lists, each of which is divided into appetizer, pasta, sea, and land courses. Alternatively, you can allow the chef to visit your table to discuss your preferences and dislikes with you, after which he will follow his whim to create for you a meal of up to seven courses. Hmm, the whole thing is at:
Dessert is not included in the pre-fixe arrangements, but comes a la carte. But before it's offered to you, a handsomely provisioned cheese cart is wheeled over to you in case you're so inclined.
We stuck to the Evolutionary menu. Not one thing that passed my lips was less than grand. My appetizer was "La Mela di Foie Gras": "Torcolato Wine-Poached Apple with Confit Foie Gras". A baby apple was stuffed with the soothing confit, while another lozenge of foie gras sat nearby next to a dash of a minced apple slurry. Next came tortellini stuffed with burrata cheese and lavender, each with a thin, round beet chip perched on top.
I went on to Il Rombo: "Hay-Baked Wild Turbot with Olive Oil Mash, Black Trumpets and Spiced Vanilla Sauce". Before being served to you, your fish is presented in the pot, sitting in a bed of, yes, hay.
I preceded dessert with a cheese course, a lovely combination of Brillat Savarin and two others whose names I don't recall, served with grapes and a black fig.
Now, the tiramisu was supposed to have a mascarpone mousse filling. I felt there was little tiramisu there--that it was mostly mascarpone mousse. But no disappointment was involved. It was fresh and wonderful. It was accompanied by a wine-poached pear and an almond milk sauce.
For some reason--perhaps because this was "small" food, even though the meal overall, supplemented by several amuse-bouches, was substantial--we didn't share last night, so I can't personally tell you about anything my partner consumed, but he was as beatic as I was. Moreover, they accidentally brought him a fourth course, and allowed him to have it anyway when we pointed this out to them. Before my turbot and his venison came out, a serving of turbot appeared at his place. It turns out that when he ordered "Il Cervo", the waiter had misunderstood this as "turbo". The waiter had also heard the part about "venison", so he thought that both dishes were being ordered. End of story: because of this "mistake", which was certainly not in any way to our detriment, they comped me the cheese course.
The service was quietly enthusiastic and very detailed. The waiter explains everything that's on your plate while saucing it or otherwise putting finishing touches on it after setting it in front of you, so you don't have to try to remember everything the menu said about it. The sommelier is helpful and not intrusive.
The grand total before tax and tip: $200. The grand total at the swank River Club in the mid-1980s: $240. We felt that we got tremendous value for the money last night.
The chef is 28-year-old wonder Fabio Trabocchi, who we saw setting up plates in the front of the open kitchen all night long.
Thought you'd like to know.