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Charlie Palmer: the Quest for the Perfect Steak Begins

March 24, 2009

Charlie Palmer Steak
101 Constitution Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001
Nearest Metro: Judiciary Square

Despite February being a month filled with restaurant deals and steals, it was hard for us to ignore the calls of steak. D.C. is known for it’s plethora of steak houses, and the mood hit us hard. We decided to stop by the Hill outpost (other locations include New York and Las Vegas) and check out the scenery. For us, Charlie Palmer Steak did not give off a good first impression, but patience is always a virtue as the main course was well worth waiting for.

Peter’s take…

When Erin decided that she wanted to dine at a steakhouse for our monthly dinner, initially I was a bit leery because I am not a big fan of overpriced, poor service chain steakhouses. At the time the only chain steakhouse that I was a loyal patron of was The Capital Grille. However, after our experience at Charlie Palmer Steak, I would not hesitate to return. To me Charlie Palmer Steak really distinguished itself through its attentive but not overbearing service and the overall quality of their entrees and sides.

Initially, the meal did not get off to a great start. ET and I decided to split a Caesar salad. I am a huge fan of Caesar salads and I would not ever hesitate to order one, anytime, anywhere. It is definitely one of my favorite foods. I also consider a Caesar salad to be a fairly simple dish to execute. There’s no way to sugarcoat it, the Caesar salad at Charlie Palmer Steak was awful. While the lettuce was fresh, it simply did not taste good. I got through my half portion, but ET did not even bother to attempt to finish hers.

Luckily, the appetizer was the one and only low point of the entire meal. ET had to excuse herself  for a moment and in the short amount of time she was gone, a waiter had cleared any bread crumbs from the table, refolded her napkin, brought out the entrees and sides. As she was walking back to the table a waiter noticed and basically escorted her to the table and proceeded to pull out her chair for her. That was extremely impressive and almost made me forget about the salad.

I wasn’t in a steak kind of mood, so I asked the waitress what she recommended, the monkfish or the venison. She advised me to go with the venison and I am glad I deferred to her expertise. The roasted venison loin with vanilla scented sweet potatoes and apple smoked bacon was perfectly cooked and tender. As good as the venison was, the highlight of the meal was the parmesan tomato gnocchi. It was quite flavorful and a perfect texture. In fact it did make me forget about the Caesar salad until I sat down to write this review.

Although we did not order dessert, we were sent a complimentary dessert sampler. The second free tasting of the meal, as we were treated to a shrimp ceviche style amuse-bouche earlier. The highlight of the dessert sampler were the truffles. Perfect way to cap the meal.

And Erin’s take…

I had been craving a steak dinner for a while now, and Peter indulged me with dinner within view of the Hill at Charlie Palmer. The restaurant itself is flawless and we were seated next to a wall to wall window with a glorious view of the Capitol in the sunset. Combined with the impeccable service, the restaurant is a great first date spot, especially with someone new to the city.

We obviously ignored the Restaurant Week menu as the selections were extremely limited and the difference in price, with wine, slight. I knew what I wanted, and I wasn’t afraid to order it. Simple, classic, medium rare petit filet with a side of whipped potatoes.

And it was everything I hoped it would be, the steak cooked and seasoned perfectly. The meat melted in my mouth as I ate it. The potatoes, while delicious, did not compare to Peter’s gnocchi, which was soft and delicious in a tomato butter sauce. Peter was quite the gentleman and shared more than half with me as I announced that “I could eat that gnocchi everyday.”

Despite the less then memorable and overpriced wines by the glass, I would gladly head back to Charlie Palmer, but only for my main course.  But honestly, with so many other steak houses to try it will probably be awhile.

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