Squid ink and smoked paprika cannelloni at Sfoglina. (Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

For the past few months, Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema has been hard at work assessing the Washington region's best restaurants for his fall dining guide. The area has seen a boom in innovative Asian restaurants, Sietsema said, but the year's most notable developments have been in high-end dining.

“The region's more formal places are all cooking as if they're chasing after Michelin stars — and some are,” Sietsema said. “Our high-end places tend to be as fun as they are delicious. The lofty level of cooking and the absence of pretension are truly impressive.”

Here are his top 10 favorites of the season, chosen in part for their distinctive service, ambiance or both. Click on the restaurant's name for the review.

10. Sfoglina

You can count on one hand the number of ingredients in most pastas at Sfoglina, and the noodles are made fresh in a room adjoining the dining area. At his Van Ness restaurant, chef Fabio Trabocchi eschews the more opulent tendencies of Fiola and Fiola Mare for simple, pared-down preparations of classic Italian dishes. The results are so striking that you might be tempted to take a snapshot before devouring them. 4445 Connecticut Ave. NW.


The Salt Line in Yards Park serves fresh seafood, including a lobster roll with fries. (Deb Lindsey/The Washington Post)

9. The Salt Line

Waterside views? Check. Just-caught seafood? Check. Nautical decor? Check. The only thing missing at the Salt Line is the sound of seagull squawks. From chef Kyle Bailey, formerly of Birch & Barley, comes this casual destination-dining spot with such menu hits as seafood charcuterie, rockfish crudo and Nashville hot soft-shell crab. Landlubbers will appreciate the New England Smash burger, which Sietsema found to be one of the best in town. 79 Potomac Ave. SE.


ChiKo is changing what people consider fast-casual dining with upscale Chinese-Korean dishes, including a cumin lamb stir fry. (Photo by Dayna Smith for The Washington Post)

8. ChiKo

Everything about ChiKo screams casual — except the food's quality. The counter-service restaurant on Barracks Row serves Korean and Chinese dishes finessed by chefs Scott Drewno (formerly of the Source from Wolfgang Puck) and Danny Lee (of Korean favorite Mandu). The menu is packed with such lovingly made dishes as furikake butter rice topped with brisket and a lamb stir-fry so excellent, Sietsema offers to buy you dinner if you can find a finer one. 423 Eighth St. SE.


Tiger Fork is a bustling Chinese restaurant that resembles a Hong Kong night market. There you'll find barbecue meat and crispy sour potatoes. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/The Washington Post)

7. Tiger Fork

Hidden within Blagden Alley, Tiger Fork is a Chinese restaurant so vibrant and aromatic you’d think you stepped into a Hong Kong night market. The open kitchen is helmed by Irvin van Oordt, an alum of the Source and Rogue 24, which happens to be the building’s previous tenant. Don't miss the barbecue plate piled with pork belly, pork shoulder and soya chicken. Behind 922 N St. NW in Blagden Alley.


The ampalaya dish from Bad Saint is one of the most popular at the small Columbia Heights restaurant. (Jennifer Chase/The Washington Post)

6. Bad Saint

Pray to the line gods that you’re one of 24 lucky diners to land a seat in Bad Saint. The small, no-reservations Filipino restaurant in Columbia Heights can be a challenge to get into, but chef Tom Cunanan’s dishes inspired by family recipes are worth the wait — and the national acclaim. Vegetarians will appreciate the shredded banana hearts and coconut milk with long peppers, cane vinegar and ginger. 3226 11th St. NW.


Métier, the restaurant from chef Eric Ziebold, serves pre-dinner hors d'oeuvres in the salon. (Deb Lindsey/The Washington Post)

5. Métier

No detail is overlooked at Métier, chef Eric Ziebold’s sleek restaurant beneath Kinship. The chef takes flavor risks that pay off: banana and sea urchin strike a pleasant chord; tomatoes and pink peppercorns bring a dessert to life; and avocado toast gets even better with dashi jelly. If you’re in the mood for a gourmet meal with top-notch service (and low decibels), Métier is the way to go. 1015 Seventh St. NW.


Pizza margherita and lemon verbena slushie at Minibar. (Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post).

4. Minibar

José Andrés’s culinary playground serves one dazzling dish after another, including edible Parmesan spoons meant for scooping up basil foam and balsamic vinegar “caviar.” Unlike many gastronomic spectacles, Andrés’s actually taste good, which is part of the reason Sietsema says it's worth dropping the $275 per person for this stellar prix-fixe meal. 855 E St. NW.


Himitsu's chef Kevin Tien serves Japanese food with a twist, including karaage, buttermilk fried chicken thigh with Korean gochujang glaze and house sweet pickles. (Dixie D. Vereen/The Washington Post)

3. Himitsu

What Himitsu lacks in size it makes up for in flavor. The shoe box of a restaurant in Petworth serves jewel-like cuts of raw fish as well as cooked winners like fried red drum in green curry. It can be difficult to choose from chef Kevin Tien’s dishes, so don’t hesitate to tell your server how hungry you are and follow the chef’s whims. 828 Upshur St. NW.


Presentation is playful at Pineapple and Pearls, the fine-dining concept from Rose's Luxury chef Aaron Silverman. (Dixie D. Vereen/The Washington Post)

2. Pineapple and Pearls

This thrill-inducing restaurant from Rose’s Luxury chef Aaron Silverman flips the dining experience on its head, beginning with a prepay model. Plating is playful, including an “afternoon tea” portion that includes elevated finger foods like a foie gras canele and sorrel and roe tuile. The menu-free meal keeps you guessing. 715 Eighth St. SE.


The Inn at Little Washington serves dishes that transport the diner to another place, such as this crispy Napoleon of chilled Maine lobster with a golden lobster gazpacho. (Dixie D. Vereen/The Washington Post)

1. Inn at Little Washington

Dining at the Inn at Little Washington is a journey, and not just because it’s a 90-minute drive outside of the District. Servers at Patrick O’Connell’s combination restaurant-hotel put on a transportive show with such dishes as lamb carpaccio with Caesar salad ice cream; foie gras custard; and a chocolate sphere served with a tiny golden hammer for accessing the ice cream inside. At nearly 40 years old, this spot's looking better than ever. 309 Middle St., Washington, Va. 

Read more:

The most scathing restaurant reviews Tom Sietsema has ever written

Chefs say a dishwasher can make or break a restaurant. So I signed up for a shift.