The glass-fronted Mirabelle surveys the busy downtown scene from its corner perch at H and 16th streets, two blocks from the White House, where chef Frank Ruta once worked. No doubt the idea is to allow the town’s powerbrokers the chance to see and be seen; a generous-sized patio area is an even better spot for that. More likely, though, the meal itself will hold diners’ attention. Mirabelle offers a fine dining experience, but not in a stuffy way. White tablecloths, rounded leather banquettes and chairs, and even a dessert trolley hint at longstanding traditions of hospitality. Servers are utterly professional: “Would you like me to re-make that drink for you, sir?,” asked the bartender in response to my husband’s question about whether his martini had been shaken or stirred. (The drink was perfect as is; my husband was just curious.) The place is light-filled, the ambience lively, and on your plate are intoxicating tastes of, for instance, Pennsylvania raised rabbit pate, sweet pea ravioli, and braised veal shoulder "Oskar," with crabmeat gratin. Be sure to make room for dessert, such as the baba au rhum, jazzed up with coconut lime cream and spice-roasted pineapple. Ask to be seated in the alcove next to the bar, or at the bar itself if you prefer a more private spot than the main dining room.
- Elise Hartman Ford