Plaudits: Washingtonian 2011 #28, Washingtonian 2010 #35, Washingtonian 2009 #16, Washington Post's 2010 Top 50 Restaurants
Official Friend of DCWD Rajistan called me up one late Saturday morning with the simple but contradictory statement, "I want a steak dinner tonight, but I've been hemorrhaging money lately, so it has to be cheap." I'll spare you the details but somehow I convinced him to come with me to the lounge at Bourbon Steak.
The dining room and the lounge at Bourbon Steak are both very similar, but also aesthetically different. The former is a golden brown, a relaxed atmosphere that you can peer at from the bar where the bar mirror would normally be. The lounge on the other hand is a little trendier, more black and dark brown than its counterpart. Rustic wood panel walls line the room complementing the wood floors. The lounge is a straight line, starting with lounge seating with leather chairs, then the tiled bar and some high bar tables alongside of it, with larger bar tables in the rear. It's a classy atmosphere; when we walked in, there was a party of six in tuxedos and floor-length gowns.
I had promised Rajistan that we could have Bourbon Steak's signature off-menu deal: the Smoke and Stout, a craft half-smoke and a pint of stout for $7. Unfortunately, that promotion had ended in February which I found out via tweet from the restaurant. What they did do via tweet though was tempt me into ordering a starter of lobster corn dogs. They are exactly what you'd expect: bitesize battered pieces of lobster on a stick with a mustard sauce. Obviously it's deep-fried lobster, so it's not the most buttery lobster I've had. But they were pretty delectable bites, which combined light, starchy, and zesty with the three different components.
My concession to Rajistan's steak request were the burgers at the Bourbon Steak lounge; he obviously then picked the steak burger, topped with cabot cheddar and a house secret sauce. By Rajistan's admission, this was one of the best burgers he's had, not the least because it was made out of steak; the composition of the meat gave it a richness and a butteriness that just could not be compared to others. The cheddar and sauce helped too making it a delightful juicy mess.
My pick was a lamb burger with grilled red onions, confit tomatoes, and chernoula yogurt. This was also fairly delicious, though with a distinct pleasant gaminess compared to the steak (obvious, but true). I won't lie though; I think the confit tomatoes made it though, giving the whole burger a certain je ne sais quoi. The only complaint I would make is that the yogurt seemed a little nonexistent to me, meaning that it didn't have that complete Mediterranean flavor profile I was searching for.
Along with the burgers, we both added the much discussed trio of duck fat fries: herb with pickled ketchup, old bay with a malt vinegar aioli, and cheddar with house barbecue sauce. Of these, both of us loved the old bay with the aioli, which isn't surprising given our love of spicy fries. Still, all three combinations were tasty, crispy and flavorful.
High-class everything, from the bar environment to the dining room, and perhaps most importantly, the lounge food: elevating even the simple classics to delicious status.
Food Rating: **** (out of 5)
Date Rating: 3.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Smart Casual
Bar Rating: Classy Crowd to Suits Scene
Cost: $$$ to $$$$$ (out of 5) ($50-$75 for two in the lounge, more than $100 for two in the dining room)
Pairing: The Kennedy Center has some wonderful concerts coming up: Mahler's 4th, NSO Pops: Pink Martini, Tchaikovsky. Make it a classy evening with a classical concert.