J & G Steakhouse

February 27, 2010 - J&G Steakhouse is located in the old Hotel Washington (now the new W Hotel) on the corner of 15th and Pennsylvania in Washington, DC.  I am a big fan of Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the Manhattan-based chef who opened J&G Steakhouse in July 2009. I went to Jean-Georges, his restaurant located in the Trump Tower in New York city, a couple of years ago so I had been wanting to try his DC restaurant for some time. I'm not sure what took me so long, but finally last night I made it there.
My friend and I called for reservations but none were available. We decided to go anyway, take our chances for sitting in the Wine Bar downstairs, and order from their limited bar menu.  The hostesses were friendly and immediately took us to the Wine Bar.  The bar was not crowded (we went early enough to ensure that there would be seats) and we sat ourselves down on two very uncomfortable bar stools. To our surprise, the bartender informed us that they offered the full restaurant menu at the bar.  Hooray, the night was looking good. We moved to two very comfortable seats at a communal table in the middle of the bar (see picture above).
There were many great menu choices including a chef's tasting menu that included salmon tartare with ginger dressing and fresh radish; parmesan risotto with wild mushrooms; seared cod with a scallion-chili sauce, basil and celery; a grilled petit filet with J&G steak sauce, sautéed spinach and french fries; and for dessert, a warm chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice cream. We considered ordering this but the tasting menu rule is that everyone in the party has to order the tasting menu.  We felt this limited the number of different items we could try so we decided to share several appetizers and one entree. Next time I will definitely try the tasting menu.
First let me say, the service was incredible!  The waiter was friendly and helped us make our dinner and wine selections. The wait staff was fairly knowledgeable about the wines on the menu and consistent in their recommendations.  We had a discussion with the bartender about who has the best cheeseburger in DC. The bartender immediately said that J&G had the best burger in the area; however, he admitted that he's never tried Palena's burger, Amy's and my pick for the best burger in the area. Palena is located in the Cleveland Park area of DC.  Intrigued, Amy and I decided to share the J&G cheeseburger and fries as our entree to see if this burger could meet or exceed the burger at Palena.
We ordered rice cracker crusted tuna with a citrus-chili sauce.  You can't really see the citrus-chili sauce in the picture below but it was a mayonnaise-based sauce with a perfect mixture of spice and citrus.  Hands down, this was my favorite for the evening. 
Next was the steak-tartare frites.  I have to say that I was underwhelmed with this dish.  The steak tartare was fairly bland and lacking in any depth of flavor. The frites were good but not the best I've ever had (best frites - Liberty Tavern in Clarendon).
Next was the crispy calamari, pickled chilies and yozu dip. The calamari were dipped into a tempura batter and deep fried. The sauce was very light and airy with hints of citrus.  The calamari were good but a little tough. I liked the pickled chili touch. 
Our last appetizer was the Maryland crab cake with a ginger-lime vinaigrette.  The crab cake had mostly crab meat and very little breading, exactly the way I like it. The ginger-lime vinaigrette was a perfect compliment to the crab cake.
And finally, the waiter brought out the cheeseburger.  The chefs split the burger and fries on two separate plates, a very nice and thoughtful gesture.  The best part about the burger was the homemade pickles and I don't generally like pickles. These pickles almost change my mind about pickles. The burger was very good but it did not quite beat the taste of Palena's burger.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention the wine. J&G serves wine in quartinos (250 mL or 1/3 of a bottle) and bottles.  Amy ordered a quartino of the Parcel 41 Merlot 2006, Napa, California and I ordered a quartino of Martinelli Bella Vigna Pinot Noir 2006, Russian River Valley. Ordinarily, Amy does not order Merlots, mainly because in general, they seem to be lacking in personality, complexity, and boldness (and besides, they got trashed in the movie Sideways).  However, the waiter highly recommended Amy trying this Merlot because she was looking for a wine with some acidity, light on tanins, bright fruit and some earth tones.  This merlot fits the description on all points. It was actually very good.
Finally we ordered one quartino of Graffigna Malbec Grand Reserve 2006 San Juan, Argentina.  The waitress accidentally brought out two quartinos, so we got the second one for free.  This is a great spicy Malbec (tasted lots of pepper).
My only complaint for the entire evening is that they brought all four of our appetizers out at the same time. It would have been better if they would have spaced the delivery out a little better. 
Final thought - I would definitely go back.  I would love to try out the Lounge upstairs.  It certainly looked like the happening place in DC last night.

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