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BLT Steak gets “social” for Bastille Day.

Exec Chef Victor Albisu. Photo by Lisa Shapiro.

I was one of the lucky food bloggers who was invited to attend BLT Steak’s Bastille Day “Social Media Social,”  — where us diners were actually encouraged to take pictures of our food, upload them to Facebook and twitter and tweet throughout our meal. Our fellow diners weren’t snickering at our rudeness, instead they’d pass you their plate and say, “Oh have you tried the …” and you of course reciprocate with passing them your plate. Media dinners are always a great time, especially when all of the attendees, who are usually die-hard foodies, mutually agree to order a variety of items in order to have the greatest sampling possible of their menu and daily specials. Each of us carefully discussed our options and who was going to order what. This was my first dining experience at BLT Steak but it has been on my list for a while, since I follow Washingtonian’s 100’s Very Best List religiously. BLT Steak DC is ranked #22.

BLT Steak Popover

BLT Steak Popover

Before ordering our table was provided their popular Gruyère popovers which were gold and flaky on the outside and warm and doughy on the inside. I liked the golden brown parts best. Once you got into the meat of the popover, I thought it tasted too eggy. They are gigantic so it’s easy to cut one in half to share. The popovers are also served with a small aluminum tin shaped like a milk jug with coarse sea salt inside and creamy butter for spreading. I don’t think the popovers needed salt. This was definitely a crowd pleaser; everyone loved the popovers.

fontina, bacon and truffle toasts

Fontina Brioche with bacon and truffle oil.

We were also served specially made fontina brioche with  bacon and truffle oil. They reminded me of gourmet Texas Toast — delicious! Sorry, according to the Chef, these are not offered on the regular menu.

Charcuterie plate.One of my favorites and most memorable of the first plates, was the charcuterie plate featuring sopressatta, chorizo, prosciutto and bresaola. The meats were smokey, salty, and in order to  compensate for the meats’ richness, the plate was served with house-made pickled vegetables. I especially liked the pickled veggies, since I am a vinegar fanatic. Honestly, I think the pickled vegetables could easily be added to the menu as a side dish. They were wonderfully fresh and flavorful.

BLT Steak Pickled Vegetables.

Pickled Vegetables.

In addition to trying a lot of BLT Steak’s dishes, it was also the first opportunity that I had to meet Executive Chef Victor Albisu, (see photo on right) who has cooked in a professional kitchen since he was 7 years old and trained as a butcher by age 12, brings an exotic background to the bistro-inspired steakhouse due to his Cuban and Peruvian heritage.

Photo Tuna Tartare at BLT Steak DC

Tuna Tartare. Photo by Morgan Goodale, 2911 Productions.

His impressive background and culinary experience is exemplified in his ability to create innovative flavor combinations such as the use of avocado and soy-lime dressing in the tuna tartare, which is one of the most memorable dishes that I tried. I really liked the crunch on top and the soy-lime dressing was a perfect flavor accompaniment to the tuna. It really brought out the flavor of the tuna.

I am a firm believer that one shouldn’t each too much tartare of anything. I’m not suggesting that the restaurant doesn’t offer good quality fish, but it is still raw and everything — especially raw food should be eaten in moderation. BLT’s tuna tartare is a large portion and should definitely be shared.

The other one of my favorite dishes from the night was the Hamachi Crudo with avocado and yuzu pickled peppers that was available on the daily prix fixe Blackboard menu (3 courses $60). Both dishes had Asian inspired flavors. I was impressed. These dishes could have easily been created by Asian Fusion Master, Chef Susur Lee from ZENTAN who has several varieties of crudo on their menu. I also tried one of their East Coast raw oysters, they come in either 1/2 doz or a full dozen and are served together both East and West Coast Oysters. I don’t usually eat oysters, but I was glad that I tried one. It wasn’t briny or too chewy and I didn’t even gag when slurping it down.

Since we were sharing, I had the opportunity to try many of their appetizers including their Grilled Double Cut Smoked Bacon. I like bacon but I wasn’t blown away by this dish. I guess I’m not a true bacon fanatic like others are … and I know that they are out there. I thought it was a nice presentation. We had to ask the Chef what was on top of the bacon. Surprisingly, Chef said that it was simply a finely chopped mixture of fresh parsley and garlic drizzled with sherry vinegar.

Crab cake with radish salad

Crab cake with radish salad

I ordered the crab cake with Meyer lemon and radish salad. I’m a sucker for a good crab cake and even though we live so close to the Chesapeake Bay where fresh live blue crabs can be easily sourced, I don’t frequently find a crab cake that I like well enough to remember it. While the crab cake is beautifully presented, I thought that there was too much filler and not enough lump crab meat. I also thought that the filler was heavy on the celery. Although it is served as just one on the plate, it’s a large enough portion to share. It’s less of a portion that the tartare but still plenty if you plan to order 3 courses.

Filet mignon with blue cheese sauce.

Filet with Blue Cheese sauce.

Since I had never dined at BLT Steak, I felt that it made sense to order beef, since that is after all, their specialty boasting that all of the beef is the finest available USDA Prime or Certified Black Angus Brand. I ordered the 12 oz Filet, medium. I was afraid that if I told the waiter that I wanted it medium well that he’d gasp and run off and tell the chef. Also, I knew that I had pretty much filled up on the appetizers and that I would end up taking most of the steak home — and I was right. Each meat is accompanied by a sauce of your choosing. Choices include 3 mustards, red wine, Béarnaise, blue cheese, peppercorn, horseradish, BBQ, and chimichurri. I ordered the blue cheese dressing, since I love blue cheese. Although I wasn’t starving, I ate a good portion of my filet. Due to the prism like shape of my beef, the edges were more done than the center. This isn’t a problem — in fact if you’re going to share this makes it very easy to share with someone who likes their steak more rare, like my husband, who likes it still kicking and bleeding. I, on the other hand, like it just a touch pink. The filet was juicy and flavorful. The sauce was delicious and I enjoyed assembling the beef and sauce myself. My circle isn’t much of a circle. Oh well. I’m not a professional.

I skipped dessert but there are some tempting offerings such as the Carrot cake with ginger ice cream, the caramelized NY Cheesecake, and Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse with Banana Ice cream. Maybe next time …

Restaurant 3 offers DC Diners a ‘Week of Bacon’

3 Bacon Sampler

3 Bacon Sampler

Restaurant 3 , a family owned Clarendon neighborhood restaurant that gets its name from its place in the line up in the business, (after Whitlows and Mama Quans) will delight Washingtonian bacon lovers by paying homage to bacon with a week of tastings, festivities and bacon themed happy hours. Owner Jonathan Williams and Executive Chef Brian Robinson will put the spotlight on the cured meat by dedicating an entire week to its smoky salty goodness by celebrating the “Week of Bacon” from October 21-27, 2009.

Each day for the duration of the week of bacon, the restaurant will offer a daily Bacon Happy Hour, where bar guests can feast on bacon bites such as bacon on a stick & bacon-wrapped shrimp and wash it all down with $3 craft beer draft specials.

Executive Chef Brian Robinson cures all his own bacon in-house and is a firm believer in the foodie philosophy that, “Everything tastes better with bacon,” a philosophy that he looks forward to sharing with his guests through his gut-busting Bacon Tasting Menu being offered throughout the duration of the Week of Bacon. Priced at $30 per person, the menu will feature some of Robinson’s favorite food and bacon pairings such as Bacon & Eggs and Maple Bacon Ice Cream.

Bacon Bacon Bacon!

Bacon Bacon Bacon!

Course 1
Bacon & Egg Salad
Frisee/arugula tossed with chopped house-cured bacon and topped with a poached egg
Course 2
Bacon Crusted Mahi Mahi
Oven roasted mahi mahi dusted with a finely ground bacon powder and served over a bacon potato hash
Course 3
Bacon studded waffle with maple bacon ice cream

A longtime bacon lover, Chef Brian Robison began curing his own bacon over 10 years ago. At 3, Chef Robinson has been able to experiment with several different cures and produces several dishes featuring his various styles of house-cured bacon. 
For More Information: Restaurant 3 is located at 2950 Clarendon Blvd. in Arlington, VA, across the Clarendon Metro Station. Open for dinner Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. – 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. and for dinner and brunch on Sunday from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., 3 is a neighborhood Clarendon eatery featuring Southern cuisine with imaginative twists, an impressive beer list and specialty cocktails.  For reservations please call 703-524-4440 or visit the website at www.restaurantthree.com