Neighborhood: 14th Street/U Street
Normally, I'm not one to venture into new restaurants in the opening month (much less opening weekend), but when a boutique steakhouse opens up in our neighborhood, even pescetarian Official Friend of DCWD Madison was intrigued. So we rounded a group of fellow diners, including Official Friends of DCWD Juju, Swizzle, and Texas, to head over to Lost Society's soft opening for a first look.
For one of the premier spots on the U Street Corridor, the space that Lost Society now occupies stood conspicuously empty for quite a surprising amount of time. And sadly, the downstairs portion now looks like it will be inhabited by a Subway and a Dunkin' Donuts, of all things. But rising above that, Lost Society sits on the second floor and rooftop of the newly renovated building at 14th and U. The entrance opens onto a metal staircase leading up to the restaurant, a main dining area on two, and a bar/patio on three.
The main dining area reminds you of a trendy cleaned-up Irish bar, in that bar booths and lounge seating surround a central wood bar with mounted TVs. Exposed brick is everywhere, and the furniture is classy upholstered and riveted leather. Upstairs is an indoor bar space, and an outdoor roofdeck patio. There's a lot of nice touches, from the crystal chandeliers to blue velvet curtains to the upbeat samba-jazz playing from the DJ stand. Outside, it's two-tops in combination underneath a canopy, with mostly half-booth seating where we were for this meal. It probably compares most closely to Napoleon/Cafe Bonaparte in its 1920s glitzy speakeasy meets Victorian splendor decor. In terms of vibe, it's early yet, but it'll probably settle somewhere between Local 16 and Marvin: a fun and trendy spot for the hip set that loves the roofdeck.
We were a difficult reservation (we had two fours that the hostess was gracious enough to let us combine into an eight), and in that sense they were very nice. And admittedly, it was a soft opening and there's something to be said about letting a restaurant get its feet underneath it. But the service was overwhelmed to put it mildly. Our well-meaning server (who confessed that she was just a cocktail waitress who had been pressed into service) just fell way behind. A request for lemons for the water took so long that one of our friends just got up and got them from the bar herself (the lemons came ten minutes after that). And drink service was a disaster. I asked for a pinot noir with my dinner order; twenty minutes later a malbec that no one ordered was delivered; and by the time the pinot came, I had been done with my steak for ten minutes. This experience happened to half our table.
Between the eight of us, we ordered basically the whole of the menu. First, of course the steaks. Swizzle and I both went with the bone-in rib eye with morel mushrooms, while another at our table had the filet with compound butter. Here's a fast tip about the menu: get the filet. The rib-eye was fine, with a nice char on the outside, but just underwhelming otherwise. The filet on the other hand was tender and juicy, with flavor that was positively augmented by the butter. All three steaks came with an order of creamed corn, which honestly was the real winner in terms of flavor.
For the pescetarians at the table, there were a few other options. Madison ordered the stuffed lobster, a small portion of tail with tomatoes, blue crab cream, and shitake mushrooms. Texas had the wild mushroom risotto, while another friend ordered the blackened shrimp with wild rice risotto. I think all three could be described in the same way: small portions, relatively well-priced (at $17, $12, and $11, respectively), but all sort of on the same scale of just fine. In particular the risottos were decent, but nothing that couldn't have been made by a decent home chef. On top of that, the platings (which you can see from the pictures) were uninspired.
Overall, the food was hit or miss, and the service was overwhelmed. But it was the opening weekend (so it'll get a little bit of a free pass) and we'll definitely be back to give it a second shot.
Food Rating: ** 1/2 (out of 5)
Date Rating: 2.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Smart Casual
Bar Rating: Classy Crowd to Party in the USA
Cost: $$$ (out of 5) ($75-$100 for two)