Written by Anita
January 11, 2009
Walk into the lobby of the Four Seasons and you’ll immediately notice a difference. Gone is the tastefully elegant but somewhat staid décor of the past. In its place are dark woods and natural materials. This theme carries into BOURBON STEAK—celebrity chef Michael Mina’s latest venture and his first foray into the DC dining scene. Dressed in rich chocolate browns and stitched leather, the dining room exudes cozy warmth but not steakhouse stuffiness. An eclectic mix of pop and rock favorites, ranging from Aerosmith to Morrissey, provides background dinner music and the clientele is clad in everything from business suits to jeans. One thing that hasn’t changed about the Four Seasons: you can still expect to get four-star service here and throughout the hotel.
Enough about the surroundings—it’s the food that really deserves your attention. Yes, the steaks (poached sous vide in clarified butter, then seared and grilled) are as tender and juicy as you could hope for, but we were also pleasantly surprised by the wide array of tempting fish, poultry, and meat offerings on BOURBON STEAK’s menu.
Meals here start with a trio of hot and crispy duck fat fries with dipping sauces (our favorite was the truffle oil fries with truffle aioli) and a pan of warm black truffle rolls that are reminiscent (at least in their appearance) of homemade cinnamon rolls. Tasty as they are, try to resist filling up on these, as you’ll want to sample a few of BOURBON STEAK’s excellent appetizers.
Even if you’ve shied away from tartare in the past, you’ll want to try it here. The American Wagyu tartare is mixed tableside with nine different ingredients (cornichons, capers, lemon peel, mustard, sea salt, black pepper, flat leaf parsley, quail egg, and olive oil) and the Ahi Tuna tartare is blended with habanero chiles, ancho chili powder, Asian pears, mint, garlic, quail egg, pinenuts, and toasted sesame oil.* Both are stellar examples of how refreshing raw meats and fishes can be when done right.
Other standout starters include the decadently rich pressed Hudson Valley foie gras (topped with a Satsuma tangerine gelee and accompanied by an inventive cauliflower “couscous” made from three differently colored varieties), the hearty red wine-braised oxtail (served with a creamy bone marrow custard, frisée, and grilled miche), and the marinated Hamachi sashimi (with white soy, jalapeño, young coconut, and fresh aloe).
For the main event, you really can’t go wrong with one of BOURBON STEAK’s oak-fired meats (we loved the rib eye cap steak) or feast on two other showstoppers, the Liberty Farms duck or the Duroc Pork. Great sides include the spaghetti squash with Virginia ham and juniper butter and the Brussels sprouts (yes, Brussels sprouts!) with bacon and apple.
Need a light ending to your meal? Then the ethereal passion fruit panna cotta with coconut sorbet, lemon grass consommé, and avocado and grapefruit fits the bill.
Michael Mina’s BOURBON STEAK gives us yet another reason to love DC living!
*Ambitious enough to try this at home? The recipe is available online here.
We had the opportunity to meet with Michael Mina and chatted with him about his new restaurant.
Q: What prompted you to open a restaurant in DC?
A: I’d been hearing great things about DC from my friend, chef Jose Andres, and he encouraged me to open a place here. The owners of the Four Seasons also own the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco [where he operates MICHAEL MINA and CLOCK BAR] and I love the Four Seasons. The timing also seemed perfect with the inauguration coming up.
Q: What dish or dishes are unique to your DC menu?
A: At lunchtime, we offer six salads—three fish and three meat salads. It’s a little bit of east coast meets west coast. Each of the meats is grilled or seared, and they come with a different bread and spread. They are then dressed tableside.
Q: Tell us about the origins of your cooking technique?
A: I was not a fan of the filet cut, and American [Wagyu] is not as tender as Japanese Kobe. So I experimented with a small steam table and poaching meats [sous vide] at a set temperature. I finish them on the grill. This lets the meat get to rare with no shrinkage and a consistent color.