Sunday, August 30, 2009

Charlie Palmer Steak

A few weeks ago we told you about Restaurant Week. In that post I mentioned that more expensive restaurants like steakhouses tend to offer good Restaurant Week deals because you normally can't eat there for $35. Recently, we took our own advice and went back to Charlie Palmer Steak.

We like Charlie Palmer because it isn't the typical stuffy steakhouse. If you're looking for dark mahogany decor, you should probably head to one of DC's other steak places. Charlie Palmer Steak is sleek and features huge windows with up close Capitol views.

The restaurant also has a special place in my heart because I took B there for his first birthday in DC. At the time, I was living in LA and he was living in DC, and I wanted to take him somewhere special for dinner when I came to visit. Knowing absolutely nothing about DC restaurants, I googled and googled until I came across Charlie Palmer Steak. I was drawn to the modern decor, amazing Capitol views, and appealing menu. We had a great meal there for his birthday and the restaurant search process sparked my interest in the DC restaurant scene. From that day forth I was a loyal reader of the Post food section and made it my goal to soak up as much information (and eat as many great meals) as possible.

When you enter the restaurant your eye will be drawn to the "floating" wine cube. This isn't your grandpa's wine cellar. The restaurant's wine collection is housed in a beautiful glass cube that appears to be suspended over water. You should also check out the restrooms. The men's and women's rooms are separated with frosted glass dotted with clear "peepholes" and the sinks are connected so you can reach over and grab the guy washing his hands in the men's room. Yeah, it's kind of strange.

With all of that build up, I almost forgot what you came here for: to see the food! The Restaurant Week menu was a little on the limited side, but we both found items we were very happy with. To start, the chef provided an amuse of rock shrimp ceviche. I liked that the restaurant took the time to offer this sort of special touch during Restaurant Week.

B started with a chilled Virginia corn soup with Maryland blue crab and tarragon. I didn't read the menu carefully so was a bit stunned when the cold soup hit my lips, but it was really flavorful. Also, I like that the restaurant strives to use ingredients from within 150 miles of DC (as you can see by the Virginia corn and Maryland crab used here).

I opted for the Medina Farms Heirloom Tomato Salad with Cherry Glen Farms goat cheese mousse. I appreciated that the chef let the local tomatoes and goat cheese shine in this dish. This is summer on a plate.

For my entree I had the Roasted Roseda Beef Sirloin with boulanger potatoes and caramelized shallots. This was a quality cut of meat and was cooked to a perfect medium rare. One thing that threw me off a bit was the strong bacon flavor of the dish. Since bacon wasn't mentioned on the menu, I didn't expect it. B will tell you that everything is better with bacon but I think it overpowered the flavor of the steak.

B ordered the scallops. It wasn't on the printed Restaurant Week menu but was offered as a special. More to come on these beauties from B...

One of my favorite parts of Restaurant Week is getting dessert with my meal. We have a running joke that we don't need to order dessert because, as B loves to say (which he borrowed from my father), "we've got ice cream at home." He knows how much I look forward to getting to order dessert at a restaurant and is always kind enough to let me choose. However, because dessert is included in the Restaurant Week menu, we each got to order our own. I went with the Morning Glory Farms Peach Cobbler served with vanilla frozen custard. If the tomato salad was summer on a plate, this was summer in a ramekin. Yummy.

On the waiter's recommendation, B ordered the Chocolate Pave with local raspberry salad and milk chocolate ice cream. The wafer cookie on top added an artistic touch. This was chocolatey deliciousness.

Again demonstrating that it doesn't slack off on Restaurant Week, Charlie Palmer Steak served up these little treats with our check. Also, during our meal we saw General Manager Philip Gates checking in on each table. As we were leaving, he caught us in the hallway to thank us for coming and we thanked him for taking the time to make Restaurant Week a special experience instead of a regrettable one. Classy touch Mr. Gates.

Second Thoughts From B

It is so easy to tell the difference between restaurants that care and those that are just looking to get by. In our three trips to Charlie Palmer steak, we've learned that they are always in the former category. This blog is evidence that we usually opt for a new culinary experiences over tried and true favorites. However, like everything in life, there are exceptions and this is one of them. Throw in the bargain that is Restaurant Week and how could we resist a return trip?

If I were to criticize anything it would be the lack of choices on the restaurant week menu. If our selections were representative of the other dishes however, what the menu lacked in quantity, it made up for in quality.

My corn soup was amazing. Remember when Violet Beauregarde eats Willy Wonka's three-course meal bubble gum and turns into a blueberry? Well, this soup was like a three-course o' corn on the cob. First you tasted the savory, then creamy, then sweet. And to date, there have been no after effects...

As promised, let me take a moment to describe my scallops. They were seared and covered in a mushroom sauce that was heavy on the cream and onion, while still light and perfectly complimentary to the scallops. It wasn't as pretty as other dishes but it all looks the same in my belly anyway.

J mentioned the amuse, the goodies that came with the check, and the personal effort made by the manager. It should also be mentioned that we both went home with some gingerbread as a final thank you (and promotion of their winter party events). But in the end, we should be the ones who say thank you. Thank you for consistently wonderful food and service, and thank you for continuing to be one of our favorite restaurants!
Charlie Palmer Steak on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Vidda said...

Oh no! Are you saying that I'm missing another Restaurant Week???? I will have to do better for the next one :-) We enjoyed our experience at the Charlie Palmer's in Orange County too...