Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bourbon Steak: Just as good the second time

With friends Jeremy and Jen, we headed down to Bourbon Steak, the new(ish) Michael Mina restaurant at the Georgetown Four Seasons to celebrate...well, something. Snowmelt? The end of February? No matter, we were ready for a nice dinner with good friends whom we don't see often enough.

Actually, this was our second trip to Bourbon Steak...the first one, which went unblogged (sorry) was back in November with friends David and Ra'ed. That dinner was so memorable that we had long looked forward to a repeat visit. To be honest, Jeremy and Jen were not the most likely candidates since Jen is a vegetarian, but she is a good sport and always finds things to eat even in the most meat-heavy environments. Although she does refer to it as "the dead cow place".

Anyhow, I immediately caused a bit of commotion when I rejected the offered table, which was very close to the loud and not particularly good music emanating from the lounge next door. The staff was very nice about it, though, and quickly reset a better table closer to the windows and better for conversation.

As with our first visit, we were welcomed with the restaurant's signature trio of fries with three different seasonings and three different dipping sauces. Well, I never met a fry I didn't like, including these, although I did get the distinct impression that these fries were more than a few minutes out of the fryer. Tasty, but neither super-hot nor super-crisp. Probably my punishment for messing up the table arrangements. Unlike the first time, when they were addictive and devoured in a few minutes, these sat around and actually went unfinished.

Oh well, on to better things. Jeremy and I had the iceberg lettuce wedge with blue cheese dressing and lardons, which was excellent. OK, it's not exactly haut cuisine, but still good. They did a good job of not drenching the lettuce in the thick dressing...I had been afraid of it being a bit overwhelming but the proportions were exactly right. Michael had the yellowtail sashimi which he described as very fresh, delicate, and delicious, and the mint and grapefruit accompanying it were delicious. He was not wild about the presentation....the fish was served curled up rather than laid flat as is normal...and the portion seemed just a bit skimpy, but the quality was irreproachable. Jen had a green salad which looked fine from my vantage point.

Main course: Since there was no vegetarian main course, Jen made do with mushrooms, broccoli rabe, and brussels sprouts (normally prepared with bacon, but omitted for her). I sampled the first two and both were succulent and delicious. Michael and Jeremy had the red-wine braised Wagyu beef, which Michael generously shared with me. It didn't seem like such a big portion when it arrived but it was incredibly rich, almost like braised short ribs (which it might have been...the cut wasn't specified). It almost had the richness of eating foie gras, which I guess is the attraction of Wagyu. It was indeed terrific (inducing an eye-roll of delight from Michael when he first dug in) but very, very filling. Meanwhile, I went simple with a seared skirt steak which was one of the best pieces of meat I have eaten in a while. Ordered medium rare, it came perhaps just a little darker than that, but had wonderful flavor and also surprisingly tender. I had brussels sprouts (with bacon) which were also very good, chopped fine and cooked until just tender. I need to rethink my brussels sprout preparation at home...clearly I have been overcooking mine as these got Michael's seal of approval which is not easy to get.

For drinks, we started with a round of cocktails: I had a dangerously addictive pisco sour, just to do something different, while Michael had his standard Domaine de Canton negroni which he said was overly heavy on the Campari...that's the trouble with non-standard drinks I suppose. Jeremy had one of their speciality drinks...a Kerouac I think...about which I received no feedback, and Jen had a glass of Malbec which I tasted and which was unremarkable. With dinner Michael had a couple of glasses of Au Bon Climat chardonnay, which he liked very much, and the three of us shared a bottle of Vita Nova Merlot blend (including Sangiovese and Syrah) which was introduced by the very helpful and friendly sommelier. This wine was an interesting find...more French than Californian in its balanced acidity and complexity, not quite as obviously charming as the Shiraz I had my eye on but very good with the food selections, especially the steak.

In general wine prices at the restaurant are rather high (for example, the Goldeneye that we enjoyed at Blacksalt on Wednesday for $65 was $90 here) but there is a "secrets of the sommelier" list which includes a number of very good values, such as this one which was only $45. To be fair, there are a significant number of decent bottles in the $50 range and the pricing seems to be inconsistent: some things high, some things quite reasonable.

Bourbon Steak, based on our two visits, is among the best executed restaurants in DC. The food is reminiscent of that at Blue Duck Tavern, or what Blue Duck used to be, but the room is more attractive, the service a bit more polished, and the food more evenly executed. We will be back for another special occasion.

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