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By Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Magic in the Air

Washington restaurateur Savino Racine can read minds, bend spoons and -- with advance notice and in special circumstances -- even make objects levitate. The amateur magician counts "hundreds" of tricks in his repertoire, some of which can be viewed up close and personal (and free of charge) at Primi Piatti (2013 I St. NW; 202-223-3600), where Racine holds court in a chef's jacket on Saturday nights. While he says he wants customers to come to his Italian restaurant for the food, he doesn't mind using his dining room as a stage for a little magic. "I want to be the cherry in the whipped cream" -- a dash of excitement -- says Racine, who has tapped a handful of professional magicians to perform at the same time at his other restaurant, Finemondo (1319 F St. NW; 202-737-3100). First up: Alain Nu , a frequent headliner at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, who entertained guests at Finemondo last weekend. Now if only one of them could make the check disappear . . . .

Staking a Claim

The nation's capital is packed with places to cut into beef, but that isn't stopping a New York contender from opening yet another steakhouse here. Coming this summer: BLT Steak (1624 I St. NW), a spinoff of the popular Manhattan restaurant of the same name co-owned by chef Laurent Tourondel. Why Washington? "It's not too far" from New York, says the chef, who plans to commute to the District once or twice a week. "It's a beautiful city," he continues. Further, "a lot of my customers in New York are from D.C." Tourondel is well aware of the busy waters into which he's wading, but he thinks his concept is different. He describes the 110-seat dining room as "a cross between a bistro and a steakhouse," caramel in complexion, free of tablecloths and welcoming to women -- which he translates as "suede, not leather." BLT's signature dishes -- a double New York strip steak and Kobe rib-eye rubbed with smoked sea salt and smoked black pepper -- will be joined by a chalkboard menu listing seasonal vegetables and fish. As for the title, the initials BLT stand for the not-so-obvious Bistro Laurent Tourondel (Steak).


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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