- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2007

A good steak finally can be had on Capitol Hill, a neighborhood generally forgotten by restaurateurs of note.

Jordan’s 8, a sleek steakhouse and sushi restaurant that opened on Barracks Row a couple of months ago, serves steaks perfectly prepared to order, traditionally seasoned (for the most part) and nicely priced.

How about $27 for a perfect 8-ounce pan-seared center-cut tenderloin with merlot sauce? Or $23 for the 20-ounce marinated bone-in rib-eye Jordan’s Delmonico?

It seemed very reasonable to us, considering the high quality of the meat and the great preparation by Lisa Graves, formerly of the Caucus Room in Gallery Place.

“Some think of us as a ‘Baby Palm,’ ” says owner Jordan Cappolla , referring to the power-broker steakhouse downtown. “We’re attracting people from all over, and we’re very busy.”

That was apparent on a recent Tuesday night, when every table, bar stool, overstuffed lounge chair and outdoor-deck seat at the restaurant was occupied. Yes, this restaurant, housed in a row house, is of the sprawling variety, with two floors and various eating spaces, including the outdoor deck with a view of the Washington Monument. In total, it seats 200 guests.

It is tastefully designed with a touch of East Asian simplicity and elegance: pebbled walls, hardwood floors and large framed mirrors. Less Zen, perhaps, are the many plasma-screen televisions behind the 40-foot white-quartz bar downstairs and the smaller sushi bar upstairs.

It is not only the interior that is pleasing to the eye. So is the food presentation. Take the ahi tuna tartar, served with spicy chili sauce, pickled cucumber and lotus root. The tuna was stellar, as was the presentation: The fish — served on an angular white plate — was finely chopped and accompanied by thin slivers of fried lotus root. Through the holes of the thin root slices leaned several stalks of chives. Few places on the Hill could — or would — muster such elegant presentation.

The gazpacho, such an excellent warm-weather dish, was fresh and nicely seasoned but too smooth and soupy for our liking. We prefer chunky.

We also tried Jordan’s signature salad, an aesthetic pile of fresh mixed greens with blue cheese, dried cranberries and house vinaigrette — nothing revolutionary, but very fresh and nicely meshed.

Next to arrive was the excellent sushi. (The service is superquick, attentive and friendly, if not very knowledgeable.)

We tried the basic nigiri tuna and yellowtail, and both were perfect — from the high-quality, superfresh fish to the sticky rice. The rainbow maki, too, was first-rate and surprisingly generous at $12.

Not that Jordan’s 8 is a small-plates restaurant per se, but it features nine appetizers, and with its dozens of high-quality, innovative sushi varieties, guests who prefer lighter fare can stick with first courses and raw fish and be perfectly content.

We didn’t. The filet mignon, prepared as requested, was tender enough to cut with a butter knife. The peppercorn New York strip loin was equally well prepared and of the same high quality. But vanilla brandy sauce? It didn’t work for us. Too strange, like garlic ice-cream.

Other main-course offerings include whole poached red snapper, bison burger and lamb chops.

Worth noting are the excellent $5 sides. We loved the creamed spinach. Instead of the traditional chopped spinach and cream, the Jordan’s variety features sauteed whole-leaf spinach in a white-wine and cream sauce. Yum.

Mr. Cappolla says he intends to change the menu every four to six months to include seasonal fare and to keep things fresh.

Lunch? Not yet, he says.

“I’m not complaining — I should have this ‘problem’ all the time — but we have been so busy these first few months. It’s overwhelming,” he says.

He recommends reservations a day or two in advance, although guests, who appear to be a perfect cross section, can expect to be seated within 30 minutes even without a reservation.

The wine list is short, but the bar is well-stocked on stronger libations, and mixed drinks are just $5. The desserts clearly are an afterthought. The carrot cake was adequate, but not much more. Waiters — all in the young-and-gorgeous category and dressed in all black, of course — could benefit from more training in cooking and preparation methods.

A dinner at Jordan’s 8 is not yet quite a home run, but it’s close.

Speaking of baseball, Mr. Cappolla, who also owns the martini bar Tapatinis down the street, says he thinks the new baseball stadium — less than a mile away — will give his and other Eighth Street businesses a boost.

“There is no place I’d rather be right now,” he says. “With H Street doing a 180 and the new ballpark being built, it’s an exciting time.”

RESTAURANT: Jordan’s 8, 523 Eighth St. SE; 202/543-6401

HOURS: 5 p.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to midnight Saturday and Sunday

PRICES: First course $6 to $11; main course $9 to $27; dessert $5; sides $5; sushi $4 to $28

CREDIT CARDS: Major cards accepted

PARKING: Limited street parking

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

METRO: Eastern Market (Orange and Blue lines)

“I’m not complaining — I should have this ‘problem’ all the time — but we have been so busy these first few months. It’s overwhelming,”

— Jordan Cappolla, owner

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