Thursday, March 18, 2010

By Georges, Annotated: J&G Steakhouse

For C's birthday at J&G Steakhouse, we allowed ourselves to relinquish a little control and let ourselves be guided us through the experience. We were rewarded.

The first such exercise occurred when we were seated, on the same side of a table, with no choice in the matter. Violating my cardinal rule of dining (whether at McDonald's or Le Cirque) did not come easy for me. I hate hate hate when couples sit on the same side of the table. However, our little alcove of a booth actually allowed for an intimate and rather comfortable seat, with a nice view of the elegant dining room....and if we leaned a little the right, we had a glorious view of the Washington Monument that we could enjoy together.

The bar at J&G is supposed to be good, so I ordered a cocktail, something I rarely do - generally, I stick to wine. My Dark & Stormy was a refreshing standard. The West Wing, something along the lines of a lemon mojito, also caught my eye. The focus at J&G should not be on the drinks though, it should be on the cuisine.

The menu is a collection of favorite dishes of chef Jean-Georges from his other restaurants. Frankly, I'm in love with this idea and wouldn't mind if another chef or two wanted to try this concept in DC as well. Our waiter steered us towards his own favorites amongst the dishes - actually, he "asked" us if we would like his recommendations, but I'm not sure that he would have let us refuse him the opportunity (all of this was very charming, mind you).

For appetizers, I went with the recommendation for the crabcake, and C asked about the salmon tartare and was satisfied with the affirmative response. Crabcakes are ubiquitous in DC, but this version stood out from the crowd. Made without old bay, but instead served with a chili lime vinaigrette, this dish was mouth-watering. I'm not sure whether the perfect browning or the brioche coating were the secrets to the delectable flavor, but it was fantastic. The salmon tartare, however, was even better. Served over a chili vinaigrette and fresh avocado - this was amazing, and I do not use that word lightly. I suspect the preparation of the salmon involved a ricer, but if this was the handiwork of a fine chop, bravo to the chef. The tender meat of the salmon was so fine that each bite was a textural and flavorful whirlwind. Given that the waiter's other recommendations turned out so well, I would also feel confident ordering the rice cracker-crusted tuna.

I ordered the Veal Milanese for my entree, which was again superb. The birthday boy, however, again won the ordering game with the Six Peppercorn New York Strip. The veal, breaded and fried, could have easily been too heavy, but the accompanying "warm sweet potato salad" of sweet potatoes, arugula, red cabbage, dried cranberries, and shallots (adding the perfect flavor accent) balanced the dish nicely. On the other side of the table, upon taking the first bite of his steak, C's immediate reaction was to rave that it was "phenomenal". By the time he finished his last bite, he was professing it was the best steak he had ever had (and my uber carnivore husband has had a lot of steak). Indeed, the bites I shared were outstanding, as the flavor transitioned from smoky to peppery to buttery and then melted to a blissful conclusion. Steak au poivre is not usually my cup of tea, but the flavor created by the array of peppercorns in J&G's version was uniquely satisfying. Nota benne: the lamp chop also received raves from our waiter, and looked and smelled delicious as it was whisked past our table.

The warm chocolate cake we shared for dessert was the one exception to our waiter's otherwise on-the-money recommendations. Not that it was bad, just underwhelming. Sadly, I could not say that this version can be distinguished from Domino's or Dr. Oetker's. Instead of dessert or visiting the strange W lobby bar (see footnote 1 below), I would recommend visiting the P.O.V. rooftop lounge. Though we did not have the time, it looks to be a very nice setting (just as it was during the Hotel Washington era).

All in all, a perfect night (better than my birthday - see footnote two), with near perfect cuisine.

footnote 1 - During our meal, whilst being doted on by a very attentive staff and dining on delicious cuisine, I exited the restaurant to find a restroom. First, I tried to go to the J&G bar, downstairs from the restaurant, which has such entirely different vibe (think Martin's Tavern in Georgetown) that one wonders how the two are connected. The bar seemed like a fun place, just not at all the same scene as the restaurant upstairs. Then, however, I wandered to find another restroom (the bar restroom was occupied), which meant I had to go through the W Hotel lobby. What a ridiculous scene - I glanced around...not less twenty feet from one another was a DJ spinning techno and desperately trying to get people to dance (in a lobby?!), and a large group of several families with children having libations tending towards Shirley Temples. Though J&G has no trouble with concept, I think the W is trying to more posh than it really is.

footnote 2 - During my blogging hiatus, we headed to Bourbon Steak. It was last July, so my memories are all a little fuzzy. Of note, though, is the fact that while I really don't remember the food, I have not forgotten strange goings-on. I was very excited about the menu at Michael Mina's local outpost, but instead, it seems that BS focuses on image. If that desired image is a rather coked-up crowd, well, they've succeeded. First, we were seated in a row of tables very close to one another. I spent most of the night trying to separate my then-pregnant self from the couple next to us. "Anna Nicole", as I like to call the twenty-something girlfriend of our eighty-odd year old table neighbor, decided it was appropriate to snuggle up to her boyfriend, on the same side of the tables, which were already close together, and FEED HIM. I'm not kidding you; I was seated within 18 inches of this action. The staff never offered us a new table, or apologized for the awkward situation; they just acted like it was not happening (something I did not have the luxury of doing with my prime seat). Further, when my mother-in-law attempted to use the restroom, she walked in on a couple, ahem, in the midst of extracurricular activities. Not exactly what we were expecting at such a nice restaurant. I would have to say that we did a lot better for C's birthday than for mine.


Manimal said...

Great review! Definitely makes me want to go back - like right now!

W. Mark Felt, Sr. said...

Yes, I did write "fussy" rather than "fuzzy" in my first draft. Please forgive my new mom vocab.

iEatDC said...

Yay for the Dark & Stormy. I'm not opposed to same-side-of-the-table dining, but J only indulges me if he has to--seated that way, or in a cafe in Europe where to face "in" would be absurd. I guess there are two ways to look at it--one is that the couples want to be NEXT TO each other. Eww gross pda, etc etc. The other is that they both want to people watch. I'm ok with that!

W. Mark Felt, Sr. said...

Some friends went to J&G last week, and had a horrible experience, and
C heard from a workmate that her experience was just ok. As from collective experience it seems J&G can be hit and miss, I'm glad we hit it on a good night.