Editors' pick

Bourbon Steak

American, Steakhouse
$$$$ ($35 and up)

Editorial Review

2013 Fall Dining Guide

2013 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
October 10, 2013

You don't have to like meat to warm up to the city's best steakhouse. While grilled beef is the centerpiece, chef John Critchley stocks his menu with all sorts of temptations from field and stream. The simple-sounding "market" salad bears the stamp of an artist with its landscape of edible pinks, greens and golds, while local rockfish teases the tongue with chermoula: Maryland hooking up with Morocco. Steamed clams with house-made bucatini, green and clean with toasted nori and (trend alert!) plankton, is amazing; the broth of cod consomme, preserved lime zest and brown butter keeps spoons busy until nothing remains but smiles. Critchley has a winning way of combining flavors without going overboard. Paella in a steakhouse? Try it, and you'll swear you're in Spain.

Shades of brown in the room boost Bourbon Steak's beefy theme and remind me to tell you that the coarse-cut beef tartare with Parmesan crisps and butcher's tender from Virginia help nudge this hotel restaurant in Georgetown to the top of the heap. Creamed spinach is the obvious side dish, but even better is harissa-kicked sweet-and-sour eggplant. Bourbon Steak nails all the extras.

The cocktail menu is encyclopedic, and the service runs Four Seasons-smooth. Only the loud and raucous bar detracts from the meat of the matter.

Bar review

Bourbon Steak's lounge takes elements of the classic steakhouse bar (brown leather armchairs, dim lights) and gives them a serious style upgrade, with long banquettes, low metal cocktail tables and stylish overhead fixtures. So far, so good.

Then you open the leather-bound cocktail menu and your mouth starts to water. The H.B. Shrub, made with rye whiskey, sherry, brandied cherries, burnt orange peel and a piece of huckleberry shrub, is as rich and decadent as it sounds. The Last Word, a gin/maraschino liqueur/green chartreuse concoction, is accented with lime peel and redolent of spring.

Mixologist Kevin Diedrich, a D.C. native, was recruited from San Francisco, where he had worked at Bourbon & Branch and Clock Bar, two of the most praised cocktail bars in the United States.

"It was an opportunity to do a bar program from scratch," he explains. "At [other bars], there'd be an existing program and I'd learn it. Here, I have full control."

Also, he added: "D.C. has a great cocktail scene, and I thought it would be great to be involved with it. It's my home town."

Diedrich says his is a "West Coast" style, influenced by the slow food movement; his cocktails involve lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Every month, he says, he goes to farmers markets and orders seasonal fruits (at the moment those include rhubarb and strawberries) and works them into the menu.

All this pleasure comes at a price, though: Cocktails are $12 to $16, as are glasses of wine. But the lounge usually stays packed from 7 p.m. on.

"I think it's phenomenal," says Clarence Wooten Jr., the president of Maryland Internet company CollectiveX. "You come in here and it's a who's who of Washington, D.C., business. And the mixologists are fantastic. . . . You'll be here for hours."

"This is the new D.C.," says Brian Davis, the Duke basketball-star-turned-developer, who's relaxing on a banquette with a cocktail. Davis lives nearby and says he stops in often. "Great drinks, great restaurant."

In the next month or so, Diedrich says, things will get even better: He's planning a menu of champagne cocktails, Pimm's cups and punches that will be served on the hotel's secluded patio.

-- Fritz Hahn (May 8, 2009)

2012 Fall Dining Guide

2012 Fall Dining Guide

By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, October 17, 2010

The best meat market in the city has more than just a stellar New York strip steak in its favor. If you can tear yourself away from dry-aged beef poached in butter before it's grilled, you can dine just as swell on chef Adam Sobel's glistening, sweet-sour sardines and succulent "country fried" veal topped with crisp okra. A night in this inviting den of protein, dressed in moss-green chairs and train-size booths, should begin with a classic cocktail and incorporate a side dish or two; creamed corn shot through with lime and cayenne and Singapore noodles pulsing with curry both sidestep steakhouse cliches. The attentive service within this Four Seasons retreat deserves a high-five, too. I applaud when a sommelier can bridge meat and scallops with a Roots pinot noir from Oregon that brings out the best in both turf and surf. Can we drop the silly bouquets of french fries that launch dinner, though? Frankly, this patron doesn't want to be tempted more than he already is.