Along with the influx of chefs has come an influx of critics. France's cheeky food guide, Gault-Millau, evaluated Washington dining in its October issue and found along the way that "Washington has lost its provincialism," that the city now offers "culinary sophistication" and "variety of astonishing choice." Of dining in general, Gault-Millau reported, "They eat very well in Washington, sometimes better than Paris." The critics approved of Haagen-Dazs ice cream and steamed crabs, found brunch intriguing and were, to put it kindly, puzzled by Luigi's on 19th Street. How did they rate the French restaurants? Jean-Louis: tops, though they credited him with using "herbs previously ignored by the tables of Washington," including tarragon and basil. Certainly we knew pesto before we knew Jean-Louis. Le Pavillon they considered nearly a brother of Jean-Louis. Maison Blanche: chic without surprises. Le Bagatelle: The menu is in serious need of a fresh coat of paint, or the restaurant risks being outdated. Le Gaulois: the city's best quality for the price. Jockey Club: Its overcooking is inadmissible at such prices. They also visited and praised some non-French restaurants, finding Nora's "more than a restaurant, a rendezvous," and applauding its emphasis on pure, fresh ingredients without chemical additives. Germaine's: high prices for small portions, but unique. Palm: If you don't order your steak rare, it will be tough as the pedestals of the White House's columns, but the onion rings and creamed spinach are delicious; expensive and highly caloric. Nathan's and American Cafe: the best of the boutiques a bouffe. Finally -- not that one would call Gault-Millau outdated -- they were a little late in praising The Big Cheese, which has closed its doors in Washington.