J&G Steakhouse

Master Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten brings another one of his world-famous restaurants to the U.S. and this time to the nation’s capital. The wide-open layout and an emphasis on non-meat fare help to separate itself from area predecessors, such as Charlie Palmer, BLT Steak or Smith & Wollensky.

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First impressions included how well J&G uses the city’s natural backdrop as a key aesthetic feature.  On a recent weekday evening, the Washington Monument shined brightly through the south windows, even in spite of the intermittent rain. The ceilings appear almost as tall as the monument, and with wide walkways and cathedral-sized windows, diners shouldn’t feel cramped.

Contrary to its title, J&G provides a bevy of non-red meat options, sure to appeal to any palate. Our server recommended we try the veal Milanese, with cranberries and arugula, as well as the seared halibut cooked in a scallion-chili sauce.

Our waiter was prompt with service, as he brought a glass of Havens Merlot and a Manhattan, which came stiff and worth the $13 tag. The top-shelf rye whiskey and vermouth was mixed with Grand Marnier and Angostrua bitters to make the cocktail just slightly sweeter than you’d expect from a standard Manhattan.

J&G proved that while it’s exciting to create new spins on old recipes, it’s more important to nail down the old recipes. In this case, the Maryland crab cake called mightily to me. I was pleased and surprised to find more crab than cake. Most intriguing was the ginger-lime vinaigrette that really added a new dimension to the dish. The clean, tangy, citrus flavor was new to me, and a pleasing spin on what would have been an already well-served dish. 

My guest tried the calamari and it did not disappoint, as it was served lightly battered and enhanced by a subtle jalapeno kick.

Other appealing options included the Parmesan risotto and bacon-wrapped shrimp with avocado.

The six-peppercorn New York steak is a treat, served with hints of smoky flavor and complemented well by the Béarnaise sauce.

The black pepper jam also goes well with the 14-ounce dinner, but the house steak sauce was disappointing and entirely too sweet for our liking. 

A fellow diner gleefully testified the glazed short ribs were the best she’d ever eaten. Our server maintained they practically fell off the bone, and he was right; I’d never tasted short ribs so tender, and chewing was more of a formality. Sadly, though, the caramel onion glaze was too sweet and overpowered the taste of the meat instead of complementing it. Short ribs served with jalapeno-seasoned spinach made for a delicious pairing.

My side dish of potatoes gratin could easily have become a meat afterthought, but instead proved to be much more. Thinly cut and dressed with a simple cheese sauce, it left me wishing I’d ordered two. My companion’s broccoli was steamed right, but lacked much flavor beyond the Parmesan cheese.

With barely an appetite left, we ordered the warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Chocolate fudge dripped from the center after the first stab, and I somehow forgot about the massive meal from just before. Management would do a great service to customers if they could simply provide pillows and air mattresses as part of the dessert service.  Other attractive dessert options include the poached peach and the crackling cherry pie with orange sorbet.

J&G Steakhouse is located on the first floor of the recently opened W Hotel at 15th and E streets NW, and is the sequel to Vongerichten’s first J&G Steakhouse located in Scottsdale, Ariz.