The Hot Plate: It’s More Than Red Meat

Posted October 14, 2009 at 4:50pm

The last thing Washington needs is another steak house. With BLT Steak, Charlie Palmer Steak, Morton’s and a host of others, D.C. is a town filled with beef, which is why I was disappointed to hear that Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten would be making his D.C. debut with J&G Steakhouse.

[IMGCAP(1)]But on visiting the restaurant, located in the newly opened W Hotel (515 15th St. NW), I was pleasantly surprised to see that there is much more on the menu than just steak. There are ample fish offerings as well as dishes of organic chicken, veal Milanese and lamb chops.

Dinner at J&G begins with a complimentary sample of the raspberry lychee bellini, a cool and refreshing cocktail. Of the appetizers, the two most memorable dishes are the seared scallops and the sweet corn ravioli. The scallops are delicious and aren’t too dressed up; they are simply served with cauliflower and a tasty caper and raisin emulsion. The corn ravioli explode in your mouth and taste as though the corn was picked moments before arriving at the table.

The pork chop entree is tasty, though heavily spiced, but the best part of this dish is the asparagus and mushroom side dish. The crunch of the asparagus works well with the softness of the mushroom, and the side is bursting with flavor. The short ribs are so tender that a knife is unnecessary, but the spice tastes very much like cinnamon and overpowers the meat.

Then there are the steaks, with six varieties and one hamburger offered. On the low end, the hanger steak, served with fries, is a mere $22. At the higher end, the 10-ounce Wagyu sirloin comes in at $49. The steaks are well-cooked and thankfully free of too much char, but in the end, they are nothing special. They are neither the worst nor the best I’ve ever had; instead, they fall comfortably in the middle. It is worth noting, however, that the filet mignon is one of the most tender I’ve tasted. Perhaps the best part about the steaks is the six sauces offered by the restaurant, the best of which is the bearnaise, though the black pepper jam and barbecue sauce are also tasty.

I recommend forgoing dessert at J&G in favor of a cocktail. While the Crème Fraiche Cheesecake is light and tasty, the poached peach, pistachio ice cream and Champagne Sabayon are not. Pastry chef Manabu Inoue tries to roll too many flavors into one dish, and the end result doesn’t work. The cocktails, however, are worth trying. Not only are they significantly cheaper than at the W’s rooftop bar, Point of View, but they are also wonderfully delicious. Drinks at the restaurant start at $9, whereas rooftop cocktails are $14. The Dark and Stormy, a rum-based drink, is especially smooth and satisfying.

The biggest frustration that I’ve had at J&G is dealing with the bill. I was undercharged twice, and both times I let the server know. The error was quickly remedied the first time, but the second time my credit card was billed twice and the charge was not properly canceled until I called the restaurant several days later. This frustration at the end of the meal certainly detracted from the overall experience.

While the meals I had at J&G were good, few dishes stand out as something I can’t wait to eat again. The overall experience was good, though not great. If Vongerichten can find a way to stop playing it safe at J&G and incorporate a few more adventurous dishes into the menu, this place could really be a hit.