- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Michael Mina, one of the superstars of the kitchen, opened his sleek contemporary Bourbon Steak restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown in December, taking over the space of the Terrace Lounge and also replacing Seasons as the hotel’s premier dining room. When Bourbon Steak is good, it’s very, very good.

Some of the best cooking arrives as a treat from the kitchen, such as the three small cones of french-fried potatoes, each a different flavor, and three dipping sauces. David Varley is the executive chef.

The name, as in Mr. Mina’s other Bourbon Steak restaurants, pays tribute not to the whiskey, but to one of the oldest stockyards in the United States: the Bourbon House Hotel, later the Bourbon House and Stock Yard, in Louisville, Ky. It was begun as an inn for farmers, with pens for their livestock on the way to slaughterhouses.

The Bourbon Steak menu offers eight steaks prepared on its wood-burning grill, but there’s an equal number of non-steak items. Regular and bar menus are available in Bourbon Steak’s attractive bar and lounge area.

Red meat is cooked at low temperatures, poached in clarified butter - lamb is poached in olive oil and pork in bacon fat - and then is grilled to cook evenly throughout. This assures remarkable tenderness, perfect for medium or medium-rare steaks. Steaks ordered rare or blue are cooked on the grill without the poaching.

A medium-rare rib-eye steak on the bone was wonderfully tender and beautifully pink all the way through. Coated in a rich onion marmalade, the steak was well worth the $39. The rib-eye is the least dear of the steaks; others range to $145 for a 6-ounce Kobe from Japan. Side dishes ($8 each) include an enormous baked potato, good creamed spinach, truffled macaroni and cheese, creamy mashed potatoes and roasted mushrooms.

The restaurant pays tribute to the notion that a perfectly cooked steak, prefaced by a good salad, is the all-American meal. Who’s arguing? A bibb-lettuce salad is first-rate, topped with smoked bacon, Maytag blue cheese, slivers of avocado and a creamy vinaigrette.

Aside from the cuts of beef - filet, skirt, porterhouse, New York and bison tenderloin, the rib-eye and both American and Japanese Kobe - Mr. Mina serves a tender and succulent lamb loin. Pork loin is served with pork belly and a caramelized pear. Duck breast, although slightly tough, is nicely flavored and served with couscous with a faint cinnamon fragrance.

Fish dishes include day-boat scallops, crispy striped Atlantic bass, a lobster potpie and a variety of fish cooked on the wood grill.

The duck foie gras with a coating of tangerine gelee makes an outstanding starter.

Black truffle tortellini and the crab beignets are good but nothing out of the ordinary. Crispy veal sweetbreads suffer from oily breading and unpleasant taste and texture.

We had enjoyed a delicious and tantalizing American Kobe tartar with finely chopped, perfectly seasoned meat, but at a later dinner, the beef was not as finely chopped as before, and fat had to be trimmed at table by the diner.

Hamachi sashimi, however, rates high marks, and the cold shellfish offerings are equally fine.

Pastry chef Jerome Colin works magic. Passion-fruit panna cotta is refreshing and utterly delicious, with coconut sorbet and a small pitcher of lemon-grass broth. A coconut candy bar amuses: a small bar of caramel, chocolate and almonds is coated to look like an ordinary candy bar.

Lunchtime salads include butter-poached lobster; haddock with sunchokes; sea bass with potatoes; quail with spinach; lamb loin with Swiss chard; and a skirt-steak Thai salad.

RESTAURANT: Bourbon Steak, Four Seasons Hotel, 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 202/944-2026

HOURS: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily; dinner 5 to 10 p.m. daily; bar and lounge 11:30 a.m. Thursday through Saturday until 1 a.m., and Sunday through Wednesday until midnight

PRICES: Appetizers $9 to $25; entrees $19 to $34 (lunch), $29 to $72 (dinner); desserts $11

CREDIT CARDS: All major cards

PARKING: Valet parking for lunch and dinner for $10

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

METRO: Foggy Bottom

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