I'M NOT GOING to remind you about the latest New York-based chophouse favorite to move downtown, Smith & Wollensky (1112 19th St. NW; 202/466-1100), although I am going to tell you it's celebrating National Wine Week Sept. 27 through Oct. 1 with complimentary wines at lunch from a rotating group of three or four fine wines and sparklers (the way its corporate sibling Cite does in New York, if you remember that story). Get those reservations in now.
I'm barely going to warn you that S&W's other corporate sibling Maloney & Porcelli is also moving into Washington this winter,into the old Bice/Villa Franco space at 601 Pennsylvania NW and right next door to the big 'n' beefy Capital Grille. (Maloney is actually a little less of a strict steakhouse, with some strong mod-Manhattan stuff, too, but carnivores will be perfectly happy.)
I'm certainly not going to warn you that there's yet another Manhattan meaterie coming soon (Bobby Van's, going into the old Isabella/Notte Luna location on 15th Street NW near McPherson Square). I'm only going to invest in scale futures -- and to tease former Washington Post food editor William Rice, who's been pretending to pursue his restaurant critic career in stockyard-heaven Chicago while really indulging his beef jones, for coming back to town last week to promote his "Steak Lover's Cookbook" at Morton's. After all, he might as well have stayed here.
In fact, what I'm really doing is wondering just which all-American appetite -- one good guess might be Diamond Jim Brady -- inspired the creation of the "surf and turf" platter. After all, even all-protein diet gurus might concede that those guys we wrote about a while back, the ones who walked into Morton's and demolished a 48-ounce porterhouse steak and a three-pound lobster each (plus potatoes and dessert) were headed down the wrong road to nutritional Nirvana. But I've always felt that dumping the two flavors together (traditionally lobster tail and filet mignon) diminished both, even if they were carefully prepared; and all too often resulted in their coming together in a sort of over-charcoaled compromise.
Nevertheless, we're in a self-indulgent culture where two luxuries are always better than one; so I'm encouraging chefs at least to consider lighter, more imaginative and more successfully blended ways of combining meats and seafoods -- for instance, the appetizer of two tartars, a super-lean bison and a white (albacore) tuna, dressed with peppery daikon radish at Lafayette in the Hay-Adams Hotel (16th and H streets NW; 202/638-2570). Or the seared Maine scallops with braised short ribs in port (an appetizer) at Melrose in the Park Hyatt (24th and M streets NW; 202/955-3899). And as the weather cools, chef Jeff Shivley of Georgetown's Sea Catch (1054 31st St. NW in Canal Square; 202/337-8855) is going to be experimenting with rotating neo-surf and turf specials such as wild boar with bay scallops, bison with lobster and the really intriguing medallions of venison with shrimp ragout. (The J. Paul's version, a crab cake and half a rack of barbecued ribs, isn't quite what I was talking about but so absolutely pure publican that it's irresistible, at 3218 M St. NW, 202/333-3450 and Baltimore's Harborplace, 410/659-1889.)
Chefs are also looking for ways to rethink foie gras, which is nearly always done up with some fruit sauce that's supposed to cut the richness, but which generally only hops alongside. (The "cutting" theory is also why you're traditionally advised to drink sauternes or another sweet wine with foie gras, but champagne works much, much better, say I.) And sauteing the liver only makes it worse, which is the rest of the usual treatment. (Chilled or grilled, please.) So thumbs up to the Equinox mix of foie gras with duck slaw and apple-balsamic dressing (818 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202/331-8118); the "carpaccio of foie gras and monkfish with truffle vinaigrette" at the Barcelona-mode Cities (2424 18th St. NW; 202/328-2100), which is also the sort of surf 'n' turf I could literally dive into; the terrine of foie gras with fleur de sel (the most amazing French sea salt, so good that I, the non-salter, hauled a bag home), mango puree and lime juice at Melrose in the Park Hyatt (24th and M streets NW; 202/955-3899, along an even less over-rich pheasant and foie gras ravioli with date and cumin puree; the duck foie gras with seared rare tuna and preserved tomato-wine sauce at Mezza9 (in the Hyatt Arlington at 1325 Wilson Blvd.; 703/276-8999), another sort of super-anti-surf 'n' turf as well; the seared foie gras on corn crepes with "tart" rhubarb ragout at Elysium in the Morrison House Hotel in Alexandria (116 S. Alfred St.; 703/838-8000); and the fantastically inspired red snapper with foie gras, cranberry beans and mango-raspberry relish at, well, Relish (18th and M; 202/785-1177). At least it's not all fruit.
UPCOMING: Through Sept. 24, the very fine Bombay Bistro restaurants in Rockville (98 W. Montgomery Ave.; 301/762-8798) and Fairfax (3570 Chain Bridge Rd.; 703/359-5810) are celebrating the distinctives cuisines of South India, particularly the states of Andhra Pradesh (spicy and seafood-heavy, though a goat curry is on the list), Tamil Nadu (a dry area in which many seeds and legumes are exploited, represented by a pepper-spiced chicken), Kerala (home of the fine Tellicherry peppercorns and an area where coconut oil is a favorite cooking medium) and Karnataka (where tomato, lime, tamarind and pork have been assimilated into the mix). The special menus are available only at dinner, and fans know these are not large rooms; call early.
INCOMING: Ordinarily, $500 a plate would be a little stiff for Courses consumers, but hey -- it's Julia and Jacques! Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, longtime stirring and sparring partners who are launching a new PBS series, will be the guests of honor at a dinner Sept. 30 at La Colline on the Hill (400 North Capitol St.; 202/737-0400); it's termed an "intimate" affair, and you really better call early on this one.