Image: Dorade

Last Updated: August 2022

Current Status: In light of serious accusations made against Chef/Owner Eric Zeibold, we have suspended our recommendation pending resolution.

Before Times Review:

Last Visited: January 2020

Last year, the actress Charlize Theron had called out men for being too intimidated to ask her out.  So, in a flight of fantasy, we posed the hypothetical question where would you take Ms. Theron for a dinner date in D.C.?  It would have to be a special place.  A place that is sophisticated, but not too avant-garde.  It would have to be a place that offered a la carte dining (can’t do tasting menus on a first date!), so many of the most rarefied places like Komi, Pineapple & Pearls, and minibar were out of consideration.  You would want a place that was warm and inviting, not sterile.  But it couldn’t be too loud and distract from the required romantic ambiance.  And, of course, the food and service would have to be top-notch.   The place that meets those requirements and we put at the top of the list is Kinship.

Chef/Owner Eric Ziebold made his name at Cityzen (after a legendary stint as sous chef at the French Laundry).  Kinship, and its cousin the subterranean tasting-menu temple Metier, are a reflection of Ziebold’s and his partner Célia Laurent’s vision and style.  The cooking is sharp, focused but rarely crosses over into precious or fussy.  The menu is divided into four categories representing different approaches to cooking: Craft (highlighting technique like Boudin Blanc); History (drawing on classic dishes from various compass points); Ingredients (celebrating a product); and Indulgence (to bring the thunder – caviar, lobster on French Toast).  There are also larger format options for the table like a whole foie or the much-loved roast chicken.  It can seem confusing until you realize that under each header there is a vegetable dish, first course (pasta, soup), a main of fish, a main of meat, and dessert option.  It is like a standard menu, but you are reading across the categories instead of down.

The dishes are composed so that each element works as a distinct flavor and has a role as part of the whole.  The dorade was atop eggplant cubes, tomatoes and beans with a puree to hold it together.  To say a piece of fish is cooked “perfectly” has become a Top Chef trope, but then when you have a perfectly cooked piece it strikes you how special it is.  The baby artichoke salad had a creamy olive oil emulsion, olive “crumbs” and half a deviled egg.  Combined with the arugula and croutons, it was not so much a revelation as a careful balance to remind you of what good ingredients can do for a straight-forward dish assembled with care.  The desserts are not quite as restrained, but are as carefully composed.  A recent favorite was the Picatostes, a dish Ziebold found in Spain that is fried bread, served here with sherry ice cream and cinnamon crémeux.

The wine list is extensive and goes deep into California and French choices.  There are several bottles under $100, but the gravity of the list is between $100 and $200.  Cocktails are done well.  Service as a whole is smooth and charming.

The restaurant is a series of spaces where shadows play against soothing whites, with antique touches here and there.  The bar is divided from the dining room by a wall, which preserves a more quiet setting for the dining room.  The bar is also large enough to accommodate most with a chair on most nights (full dinner is served at the bar).   It is a place for conversing and contemplating, not carousing.

Ziebold and Laurent have created a special place.  It is not cheap, but it is not insanely expensive relative to the experience.  For the 1% crowd, it is an excellent, pricey place for dinner (one night I had dinner at the bar next to a White House correspondent for one of the networks and her spouse).  For those outside the 1%, it is a place that is worth the splurge.  It is the kind of place to celebrate with someone special, or a date with a movie star.

Other Guidance: From the website: “We recommend a smart casual dress code at the restaurant. Please refrain from wearing sportswear, flip-flops, shorts and hats.”  Dietary restrictions and allergies are generally accommodated, and there are several vegetarian options. Entry is at street level with no stairs.

Rating: Splurge Worthy
Cuisine: New or Old American (via France)
Neighborhood: Convention Center/Mt. Vernon
Address: 1015 Seventh St NW, Washington DC
Reservations: Tock, via the Website – deposits may be required.

Other Critics/Voices:

Washington Post:  Sietsema has stubbornly given 3 stars over the years.  Is it possible to call a restaurant excellent, give it three stars, and still sell it short?  Yes, yes it is.

Washingtonian: #12 in 2020 (jointly with Metier – Huh?  That’s like doing a joint rating for Café Atlantico and minibar) #9 in 2019; #27 in 2018; #4 in 2017. – Rockwell is a friend and fan of Ziebold’s.

Lori (Been There Eaten That): From 2016

Michelin: One Star in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020.

Years ago I came across this story about Ziebold’s time at The French Laundry, and I think of it every time I dine at place he cooks.  Read the whole thing, but the heart of the story is the night Ziebold had every cook step off the line when the kitchen wasn’t clicking.  He assured them they were not being fired, but he said essentially, “I’m going to show you how to cook.”  Then, “He cooked every single course, by himself, with not another soul on the line touching sauce pots or spatulas or garnishes. He jumped this way and that, gracefully, using every part of his body, talking, admonishing, telling, teaching, showing, explaining as he went.”