Menus get more and more elaborate, some listing seven or eight ingredients per dish; but sometimes the chef keeps a little something to himself (or just doesn't elaborate on her private spice mix). Wonder what that elusive flavor is? You might be surprised. For instance:

BANGKOK JOE'S -- 3000 K St. NW (in Washington Harbour); 202-333-4422. Ground cilantro root, garlic and black pepper paste in the lobster and pine nut dumplings and the shrimp and crab gyoza.

CEIBA -- 701 14th St. NW; 202-393-3983. Guarapo, house-pressed raw sugar cane juice, in the brine for marinating the feijoada (Brazilian braised pork shank).

CITYZEN -- 1330 Maryland Ave. SW (in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel); 202-787-6868. Indonesian cubeb (Java pepper), a berry spice that tastes like a combination of clove, allspice, pine and pepper in the gastrique that sauces the tripe Wiener schnitzel.

MELROSE -- 1201 24th St. NW (in the Park Hyatt Hotel); 202-955-3899. Bone marrow and Parma ham in the chestnut soup.

SIGNATURES -- 801 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 202-628-5900. Wesa (African tail pepper) and honey powder in the steak seasoning; bacon oil in the popped corn.

2941 -- 2941 Fairview Park Dr., Falls Church; 703-270-1500. Smoky black cardamom and Sauternes in the braised pork belly.

-- Eve Zibart

A Ceiba secret ingredient: juice from raw sugar cane.