- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2008

BLT Steak

1625 I St. NW

202/689-8999

American

BLT Steak — for Bistro Laurent Tourondel — is more high-end steakhouse than bistro, a capital version of the New York BLTs. It is a comfortable place to enjoy very good food.

The dinner menu with dinner prices is available at lunch. The kitchen also prepares several hefty salads and sandwiches and a few lunch entrees. A mixed vegetable salad topped with slices of excellent fried chicken is particularly good. A large cheese popover is hot, perfectly baked and irresistible.

Steaks vary from a 10-ounce hanger steak for $24 to Kobe strip steak at $26 per ounce. A recent special was a 10-ounce Kobe hanger steak for $33. The perfectly seasoned steak was cooked as ordered, but a peppercorn sauce was mediocre. Braised beef short ribs are superb.

Small portions of potatoes (baked, gratin, hash brown, fried or mashed) and vegetables (spinach, asparagus, green beans, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms) can be ordered as sides.

Seafood includes Dover sole, lobster, swordfish, tuna, cod, scallops and grilled shrimp. Nothing is remarkable about the shrimp cocktail except the size of the shrimp.

Desserts include an excellent crepe souffle with a passion fruit coulis. Service is friendly and efficient.

Corinna Lothar

Hudson Restaurant and Lounge

2030 M St. NW

202/872-8700

Contemporary

Hudson, a new restaurant and lounge in the David Greggory restaurant space in Washington’s West End, has a sleek look and a well-stocked bar, but in terms of food offerings, it falls short.

The menu, which includes everything from Thai curry mussels to buttermilk fried chicken, has the look of a Top 40 chart — something to please everyone but nothing to excite or thrill; no originality and no risk-taking.

Hudson has the feel — and price — of an upscale chain restaurant, and considering that it’s a stone’s throw from several large hotels, this probably makes good business sense: a wide range of choices but nothing too out there.

The interior is modern and tastefully done but not unique. The service is speedy, but knowledge of food and food preparation is lacking; you get the feeling there is no passion or real interest in food here. Some may say it lacks soul.

This is reflected in the kitchen as well. No garnishes, no unexpected flavor combinations, no stellar produce or meat selections and no creative presentations. It’s a business, not a place that pushes a culinary envelope.

Gabriella Boston

Westend Bistro

1190 22nd St. NW 202/974-4900

Contemporary American-French

The new Westend Bistro by Eric Ripert is lively, buzzing with talk and the clink of wineglasses.

Appetizers are the classics: oysters, clams, mussels in white wine with chorizo, fried calamari and pork pate. Equally fine are grilled shrimp with a quinoa salad, a crab cake, and a memorable tuna carpaccio.

If onion soup is traditionally the test of a French bistro, the hamburger, plain or with a sharp cheese, is the test of the American counterpart, and Westend’s classic burger is a high-quality sandwich to rival any burger in town.

Other than a roast whole chicken for two, all the meat dishes are of beef. Fish choices are more varied, and skate is outstanding. Vegetarian choices are limited to salads and side dishes.

Desserts are up to the high standard of appetizers and main courses. Service is efficient, helpful, friendly and professional. Lunch and Sunday brunch are coming in mid-January.

Corinna Lothar

Lebanese Taverna Cafe

2478 Solomons Island Road

Annapolis

410/897-1111

Lebanese

T he Annapolis branch of the Washington area’s Lebanese Tavernas is a cafe in the Annapolis Harbour Center, with no reservations required.

Guests don’t need to know anything about Lebanese cooking to enjoy the bounty it offers.

The menu touts “fresh bread baked here all day,” and that is no exaggeration. The cafe’s warm pita bread is excellent, just right for all the dipping and wrapping from the selection of mezze on the menu.

The Taverna’s hummus dip, made with chickpeas and tahini, lets the ingredients speak for themselves. Smooth and creamy, it blossoms with just the right touch of garlic and lemon.

Baba ghannouj offers a much bolder flavor. Some texture from the eggplant is present, so it offers a nice contrast to the ultracreamy hummus.

Falafel heads the “For Your Fingers” section of the menu. The falafel is dense and offers a strong earthy flavor. Kibbeh ground beef, lamb, bulgur and pine nuts is more subdued. Both are perfectly crisp on the outside.

Scott Haring

The Source

575 Pennsylvania Ave. NW 202/637-6100 Contemporary Asian-American

Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant the Source has arrived in Washington, and the architecture, design, food and service are impressive. It is sophisticated and elegant. The bar-lounge on the ground floor is for enjoying drinks and quick bites. The fine-dining room is upstairs. The staff is well-informed and courteous, and dishes are prepared with style and elegance. The wine list of 300 labels is mostly American but with numerous international wines. The menu is Asian-inspired, such as a crispy, crunchy appetizer of three small lettuce cups filled with minced lamb and toasted pine nuts, or the roast suckling pig with plum chutney. Main courses consist of six dishes each of fish and meat or poultry. The lacquered Chinese duckling served with wild huckleberries is outstanding. Grilled lamb chops with a side of Hunan eggplant are wonderful. Fish is similarly treated with an Asian flavor, be it steamed salmon Hong Kong style or spicy prawns with fresh curry leaves and turmeric. The Asia-inspired bar menu is lighter, and the pizzas offer interesting combinations.

Corinna Lothar

Willard Room

Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th Street Northwest

202/637-7440

French

Walking into the Willard Room the elegant main dining room at the Willard InterContinental Hotel is like stepping back in time, despite recent refurbishing. It’s in a good way, though. There’s space between and on tables (rare in these days of small tables and crowded seating) in this room with shaded candlestick chandeliers and towering ceilings. Another welcome old-school touch is that the waiters, who wear dark suits and white shirts, actually know about the food and its preparation.

Speaking of which, the food is mostly French with some American touches, and it’s full of rich and buttery goodness now with a seasonal twist.

Beyond nostalgia, what does the Willard Room offer? Very much indeed: space, elegance, classic cooking, comfort and superb service. Dining in the Willard Room is an occasion. It is the perfect setting for flaming desserts.

Gabriella Boston

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