Kicking off Restaurant Week at Bourbon Steak with lunch.

Restaurant Week is always something that I never miss. I have been to Bourbon Steak once before but it was for a photo shoot for DC Modern Luxury Magazine. At the shoot we were provided a few things to nibble on but not enough to consider a meal. I was anxious for the chance to go back to Bourbon Steak. Restaurant Week afforded me the perfect opportunity. When I arrived at noon for the reservation, the restaurant wasn’t busy yet. The staff including General Manager, Mark Politizer and Chef David Varley were hanging out at the hostess stand chit-chatting before guests arrived. I’m sure that the staff were anticipating all of the Restaurant Week diners and Monday lunch was the official kick-off. The whole concept of Restaurant Week is to bring restaurants more business when they otherwise might be slow due to summertime and vacationing Washingtonians. Restaurateurs love it because participating restaurants are packed five days in a row. Restaurants are so busy during Restaurant Week that restaurant staff … anticipate it’s end.  Sorry guys!

Bourbon Steak House-made sodas. Cherry Smash.

House-made sodas.

Our server, who I don’t think told us his name, tisk tisk, was friendly and offered plenty of recommendations, including that we should order the house-made sodas which are made daily by Duane Sylvestre, one of the head bartenders. I messaged him on twitter asking him where he got his inspiration to create the specialty sodas, He said, “Nostalgia! I miss those Rock Creek Soda Flavors, that are impossible to find anywhere.” It’s true that Rock Creek Sodas are hard to find. The bottling company has been closed for over 40 years. The gingerale was my favorite. Our server said that his favorite of their sodas is the Cherry Mash. Friends at the table ordered the other two: Black Raspberry Cream and the Peaches & Cream (see photo on right). I completely agree that the Cherry Smash is the best but all three were like nothing else I’ve ever tasted. An usual addition — a white paper straw. Surprisingly, it doesn’t break down as fast as you’d think. I was impressed.

Skillet of Homemade truffle bread

Truffle Bread. Photo by Lisa Shapiro

While we were enjoying sipping our sodas, we were surprised with the delicious smell of their house-made bread: a miniature cast iron skillet of house-made pull-apart rolls flavored with truffle butter. The rolls are served piping hot so thankfully guests are given tongues. The bread is soft and has a strong musky flavor.  If you like truffles, you’ll think it’s divine (see photo on left).

Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup

Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup

Their Restaurant Week three course prix-fixe menu included three choices for each course. I would have been happier with more choices, but I found something for each course that appealed to me. For the appetizers, all of them were excellent seasonal dishes that showcased the bounty of of the summer season and included all locally sourced ingredients. The choices included their very popular Marinated Path Valley Watermelon salad with shaved lardo, feta, and minus 8 vinegar, which was served at the ‘Best of Washingtonian’ party last month, the Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup with Cabot Cheddar Grilled Cheese (see photo on right) and Grilled fresh Sardines with Piperade and garden sauce vierge which is a piquant mixture of olive oil with herbs and spices.

Marinated Path Valley Watermelon salad with shaved lardo, feta, and minus 8 vinegar.

Marinated Path Valley Watermelon. Photo by L. Shapiro

I was sad that I had to miss the ‘Best of’ party this year but now I had the chance to try the watermelon dish that was served at the party. Chef Varley said, “the watermelon salad has been a top seller all summer! Only a few more weeks left though.”

Most any dishes that are drizzled with vinegar, saba, or served with a vinaigrette I have always really liked. Also, I’ve never tried “lardo” before which is a type of salume made by curing strips of pig fat taken from the layer of hard fat along the pig’s back. The watermelon cubes were thick and sweet. The combination of flavors with the sweet watermelon, the feta, and the tart vinegar were perfect (see photo on left). Although the lardo was thinly shaved, it tasted very rich. I’m sure that in some way it’s supposed to make the dish magnificent but I could take it or leave it.

Bourbon Steak Restaurant Week Ham Sanwich Cuban Style

Ham Sandwich, Cuban Style

For the main course, options included the Pressed Bourbon Steak Ham Sandwich, Cuban style, the Smoked Sunburst Trout with fried green tomatoes, and bacon beurre noisette, and the Gryffon’s Aerie Grass-Fed Beef French Dip sandwich with Pleasant Ridge reserve and crispy onions. I have been eating a lot of Cuban sandwiches lately. Perhaps it’s a trend. I loved the Cuban at 8407 Kitchen Bar and there is an interesting story behind it too (save for another post). I’ve also recently had the signature “Fidel” from El Floridano, DC’s Cuban Food Truck. Chef Varley’s spin on the Cuban using Ham is actually very authentic. It doesn’t use Roast Pork like a classic Cuban, but Ham is close enough. The sandwich had Swiss cheese, thinly sliced house-made spicy dill pickles, and fresh mustard made from real mustard seed. I don’t usually like mustard, but fresh mustard made from scratch is the best there is. Chef Varley had just enough without overpowering the other ingredients in the sandwich. That was my only complaint about El Floridano’s Cuban. I thought that it had too much mustard. The sandwich was a very large portion. In fact, I had to take half of it home.

French Dip sandwich

I also tried the Beef French Dip sandwich. Just the components alone makes this  an impressive sandwich. The beef is sourced from local sustainable farm, Gryffon’s Aerie located in Crozet, VA (about 3 hours southwest of Washington, DC). Their beef comes humanely treated, grass-fed purebred American Milking Devon cattle. You can ask for better beef than this. The menu doesn’t specify that the “Pleasant Ridge Reserve” is an artisan, farmstead cheese that comes from southwestern Wisconsin, where the milk from grass-fed cows. These are no small details to someone who believes strongly in eating fresh, local, and sustainable food. My only complaint: The sandwich is served between buttered crispy crunchy bread that makes it very difficult to eat. The bread falls apart almost immediately after the first bite but it’s still delicious.

Sundae

For dessert, I ordered the Classic Brownie Sundae which was beautifully presented with an almond shaped scoop of ice cream (which is created by the rolling it on a spoon), several miniature square brownies topped with cream, chocolate syrup, and nuts. At first, it doesn’t look like much, but it was the perfect portion after having three courses, and of course, I was sharing with the others at the table. I liked the brownies best; they were small but sweet and rich.

"Melba"

My dessert was the safe choice. I knew that I would like it; however, a friend ordered what I will call, “The Peach Melba” with Warm Path Valley peaches, Griddled Poundcake, and Blis Bourbon Barrel-aged maple syrup. You wouldn’t know it until you tasted it, but the dessert was comprised mostly of tangy frozen yogurt. It was very sour. The maple syrup and the sweet peaches should have helped round-out the tartness but it was still a bit too much. Perhaps something sweet drizzled over the yogurt, like a sweet peach or raspberry preserve would have been a welcome addition. It was beautifully presented with raspberry basil meringues in the shape of round balls.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my meal. The service was very excellent and I’m impressed with their mission and usage of local and sustainable ingredients. I will definitely be back … this time for hearty dinner.

For More information: Bourbon Steak DC
Located: The Four Seasons Hotel Washington DC (Georgetown)
Address: 2800 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Tel: 202.944.2026

Advertisements

One Response

  1. great review! you did so much research on the dishes and people.

    my drink was the tiki-tiki (ginger grapefruit i think) — the cherry smash and blackberry cream soda were definitely the best of the bunch though!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s