By Karen Villalpando, 11/01/2012
Lobster pot pie. Doesn’t that just sound delectable? It is the epitome of dining at Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons in Washington, D.C.. Yes, it’s their signature dish, but to me, it is a culinary metaphor for our nation’s Capital. Washington, D.C. is a complicated town, full of bluster and various personalities – or ingredients, if you will. Throw in some high brow discussion – the lobster – some simple facts – the pie crust – and housed in a nice shiny package – a three quart copper pot presented at the table.
But, like any good story, you should start at the beginning – not the pièce de résistance. Let’s start with the hotel.
The Four Seasons Washington, D.C. is located in Georgetown, just five minutes from the city center. Within walking distance are Georgetown University and a shopping mecca of myriad boutiques and restaurants. The residential neighborhood is lined with New England and Victorian homes in the classic row house style.
After spending the day strolling the streets of Georgetown – or the more intense sight seeing of the National Monuments – visitors will find respite at the Four Seasons, whether relaxing in the lounge, completely unwinding in the spa, or enjoying a world-class dinner in the Michael Mina restaurant and lounge, Bourbon Steak.
Drawing D.C. dignitaries, tourists and after-five office crowd, the lounge is a hub of activity at cocktail hour. Its bourbon theme decor invites whiskey aficionados to enjoy a small-batch Kentucky bourbon, rather than just sip on glasses of chardonnay. The cocktail menu tempts you with libations such as a 47ºN (not to be confused with the 47%) made with cointreau, crème de cassis, and fresh lime angostura bitters, shaken and served up. Or the Skaal with aquavit, fresh lime, celery juice, habanero syrup, shaken and strained into a chilled glass. If there is one thing I noticed at D.C. bars, they take their drinking seriously. And I mean that as a compliment.
Moving into the dining room, the warm wood walls and dim lighting create an intimate atmosphere. The friendly and highly professional wait staff recommended we order the caviar for the table. I’m never one to turn down caviar, and I suggest you don’t either. The tableside presentation was an event itself. First, chilled vodka was poured into shot glasses and a platter of condiments was plated in the center. The traditional chopped egg, onion, capers, crème fraiché and potato blinis are the supporting actors to the lead character – oscetra caviar. It may seem like a typical caviar presentation, but the staff at Bourbon Steak does it with such panache, it makes every diner feel special. In fact, it was on the specially selected tasting menu for the First Couple who celebrated a belated 20th Anniversary at the restaurant on October 7. (The Obamas opted to order à la carte, and what was served was kept private between the chef and the President and First Lady).
For our second course we shared two dishes, the ahi tuna and the braised veal cheeks. The ahi tuna tartare with ancho chili, Asian pear, fresh mint and toasted sesame oil is a light and refreshing dish. The crisp pear was an ideal accompaniment to the ultra fresh fish. In contrast, the rich, braised veal cheeks with ricotta agnolotti – small ravioli with a ragu of veal on top, had a depth of flavors. Salsify gave the dish a taste of artichoke, while the mahogany brown veal had hints of coffee. This highly satisfying dish had us all clamoring for the last bite.
Now the aforementioned lobster pot pie comes into the story. My daughter Rebecca ordered the colossal dish, while my husband ordered the Wagyu New York steak and daughter Emily the filet mignon. Two sides were selected – black truffle mac and cheese and creamed spinach. With all of the entrees coming to the table, I asked for an extra plate, and delightfully tasted a little bit of everything. The 2-1/2” filet was grilled to a perfect medium rare. The Wagyu, picking up flavors from the wood-burning grill, was as expected – melt-in-your-mouth good.
For the lobster pot pie, the perfectly browned crusted pie is brought to the table and then carefully sliced off and placed on the bottom of the plate. The whole lobster is plucked out of the brandied cream sauce and vegetables and placed atop the crust. The server ladles the cream, wild mushrooms, baby carrots and celery around the lobster. It is a Mina masterpiece.
The sommelier paired wines with each dish throughout the evening, starting with a glass of Louis Roederer champagne. With the ahi, a Loire Valley Chenin Blanc “Domaine des Baumard Savennieres” 20008 enhanced the flavors of the pear. A Robert Foley blend, “The Griffin”, 2009 Napa Valley was well matched with the beef dishes, and a big, buttery Ramey chardonnay went well with the lobster pot pie.
Dessert is not to be missed at Bourbon Steak, and with tantalizing sweets like crunch profiteroles, chevre cheesecake with Virginia berries, and Macallan 18 butterscotch pot de crème, you can’t go wrong with any of them. The profiteroles were the favorite at our table, with the salty caramel ice cream nutella and hazelnuts accompanying the pastry puffs. However, our last dish wasn’t sweet at all, as we ended this highly satisfying meal with a cheese plate of selected artisanal cheeses.
As we lingered over coffee and dessert wines, we recounted our wonderful day in our nation’s Capital, seeing the Washington Monument, getting a personalized tour of the Capitol building, and how we hoped for a glimpse of President Obama during the White House tour. Looking back, while we didn’t get a glimpse of the 44th President, we didn’t take for granted the feeling of roaming the same halls of our nation’s fore-fathers and all those who came after them.
It was quite a memorable trip, and the dinner at Bourbon Steak is another memory for our travel book.
Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons Hotel, 2800 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, D.C.. (202)944-2026. www.bourbonsteakd.c..com