By Jeff Dufour - 07/27/06 12:00 AM EDT
With the arrival of Jimmy’s on K Street in June, D.C. has another high-end steakhouse.
It’s a competitive market, to say the least. By my count, there are 13 traditional, upscale steakhouses in D.C. Based on a survey this paper did of steakhouses back in April, five of them even serve predominantly dry-aged steaks.
So how does the newcomer stack up? Fairly well.
Every steakhouse needs something to differentiate it. Here, the hook is that Jimmy’s is Washington’s only restaurant to serve Old KC-brand Kansas City dry-aged beef.
Old KC selects choice and prime beef from the Midwest’s top ranches and hangs the large cuts to age in its coolers. For the uninitiated, dry aging stands apart from wet aging, where the meat is vacuum-sealed and aged in its own juices.
With dry aging, natural enzymes break down the muscle fibers, producing a more tender steak. The aging process also costs the beef some of its weight, but at the same time concentrates the flavor.
At Jimmy’s, such steaks are available in no fewer than seven cuts.
The Kansas City steak was a treat. Bursting with nutty, earthy, buttery dry-aged flavor, this is top-flight beef. It comes in 12- and 16-ounce versions, as well as sliced with bleu cheese or truffled demi glace.
Rib-eye fans have two choices as well: a 14-ounce Delmonico or a 22-ounce cowboy rib-eye on the bone.
Lighter appetites can take an 8- or 12-ounce filet mignon, but the real prize here is the 16-ounce bone-in filet, a rarity among D.C. steakhouses. Here, the bone brings plenty of beefy taste to an always tender, yet not always flavorful, cut.
Any steak is available with the restaurant’s mustard cream, tomato relish or brandy peppercorn sauces for an additional $2.50, but you won’t need it. In fact, it would be a shame to obscure the beef’s flavor.
The same could almost be said for the side dishes. Unlike most steakhouses, potatoes are included with your beef here, but this is a mixed blessing. The mashed potatoes were a bit bland and dry, while the potatoes au gratin were dull-looking on the plate and listless on the tongue.
Even though it’s named after the famous Jimmy’s Harborside restaurant in Boston, Jimmy’s on K is part of the McCormick & Schmick’s empire. Thus it’s no surprise that a strong emphasis on seafood is Jimmy’s other niche.
“We fly our Atlantic lobsters directly from New England coastal waters daily,” proclaims the menu.
Two pounds is the minimum here, which will set you back nearly $60. There are also 12- and 16-ounce lobster tails available, for $37 or $49, respectively.
Better leave the shells on here, because the meat in the lobster “martini” appetizer emerged mealy, as if it had been in the cooler for a couple days.
Better starters include the Alaskan salmon pastrami, the giant prawn cocktail and the fried calamari with Italian peppers and marinara.
Fish here is quite fresh, but its preparations are tired — trout almondine, grilled halibut with “maitre d’ butter,” parmesan-crusted tilapia and swordfish with rosemary-garlic butter.
While the accompanying saffron risotto was better than expected, the stuffed Gulf shrimp were heavy and a bit brash.
It would have been refreshing to see some more innovation from a company that prides itself on seafood.
There is a diamond in the rough on the salads list, however — “limestone” butter lettuce with lemon and Dijon cream dressing. As our waiter told us, the heads of lettuce come with their roots still submerged in water. The chefs pluck out the heads and slice them to order. The result is as fresh and crisp a salad as you’ll find.
The press materials promise an environment filled with “rich mahogany,” so I was prepared for a scene out of “Anchorman.” Thankfully, it’s a bit more restrained than that, the black, white and gold tones reminiscent of any number of New York beef palaces.
So too are the servers, and this is a good thing. The waiters here are by and large capable, yet casual. They tell it like it is, generally steering you toward the menu’s better offerings.
Take their lead, because there are some pitfalls here. But overall, you’ll find great product. It’s just too bad the corporate folks wouldn’t give the chefs a little more room to work.
Jimmy’s on K Street
1700 K St. N.W.
Hours: Mon.-Th. 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m., bar service until midnight; Fri. 11:30 a.m.-midnight, bar service until 1 a.m.; Sat. 4 p.m.-midnight, bar service until 1 a.m.; Sun. 4-10 p.m., bar service until 11 p.m. Happy hour Mon.-Fri. 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Prices: Expensive. Lunch appetizers $5.95-$13.90, sandwiches and entrees $8.75-23.95; dinner appetizers $6.95-$19.80; entrees $21.80-$79.
Rating: 3 out of 5 domes