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Urban Butcher a Meaty Addition to Silver Spring

21 Mar

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of all things meat, so when I heard that Raynold Mendizabal was going to open a butcher-themed restaurant in Silver Spring, my ears (and my taste buds) piqued with interest. Urban Butcher is the newest entrant in downtown Silver Spring’s restaurant scene, and it’s certainly one of the most interesting when you scroll down their long if not diverse menu.

Both a butcher shop and a full service restaurant, Urban Butcher features everything from steaks to crispy pig tails to… ratatouille? Why yes, surprisingly enough, the restaurant accommodates vegetarians quite nicely as they offer a handful of non-meat items, something which our vegetarian friend Katie was really surprised by.


We started the evening off with some capocollo from their meat cellar. The house-cured meat was delicious, and with one bite you can easily tell that this is what they excel at.


But what was more surprising was how good the ahi tuna and ginger ceviche turned out to be. For a place that specializes in meats, this was one of our favorite items of the evening. Light and refreshing, the sushi-grade tuna was beautifully presented in a shot glass situated in a mason jar of ice.


Meanwhile, the winter chicory salad was overly salty and probably the weakest dish of the meal.


The beef empanadas, however, are worth getting. Stuffed with tender meat in a delightfully crisp shell and accompanied with chimichurri, I could have had a trio of these for myself.


Just as good was the thick-cut house pastrami. Smoky and tender, my only qualm was the small-sized portion.


The grilled Brussels sprouts were another unanticipated hit. Prepared with soy butter and garlic, it’s one of the best preparations you will find in the area – right up there with Red Hen’s. A vegetarian’s, or even vegans, delight.


Our party couldn’t resist ordering the crispy fries, which were accompanied with a side of mayo for dipping, as it was a good dish for sharing amongst the table.


The four of us decided to split two desserts. The first was a chocolate soufflé with goat cheese gelato. While the soufflé itself was grand, the goat cheese flavor was too overpowering and didn’t really complement the chocolate as well as anticipated.


On the other hand, the churros were simply fantastic. Served with an orange-cocoa dipping sauce, the fried dough was exceptionally crispy and was easily the better of the two desserts we ordered.

And while Urban Butcher is relatively new, the kitchen really needs to work on the pacing of their dishes. As soon as we were halfway done with the charcuterie, the rest of our dishes came out at nearly the same time. It was a mad dash to try most of them while they were still hot. Meanwhile, the desserts took an extraordinarily long time to come to the table after we had ordered them.

Hopefully management is trying to remedy that as they are producing some quality food in the kitchen, let alone in downtown Silver Spring. I’d certainly make a return visit, just for that ceviche of all things.

Urban Butcher on Urbanspoon

Birthday Dinner at Bourbon Steak

7 Jun

Having been to Ray’s the Steaks (and Classics), Charlie Palmer, BLT Steak, and Morton’s, Michael Mina’s steakhouse at the Four Seasons in Georgetown was the one restaurant we have long wanted to check off our bucket list. Rachel thought it would be appropriate to finally visit Bourbon Steak to celebrate my birthday a few weeks ago.

After we watched the Nationals pummel the Orioles 9-3 earlier that day, we took the American River Taxi over to Georgetown in what turned out be a picturesque day. We got to enjoy a tour of the Potomac as an added bonus as we made our way towards the Hilltop.

Duck fat fries

After looking over the wine list, our waiter came by and delivered the restaurant’s famous trio of duck fat fries. Each style came with its own seasoning and housemade sauce: thyme-herb with sweet ketchup, pastrami with 1000 Island, and white cheddar with BBQ sauce.

Truffle rolls

The complimentary truffle rolls, however, were even better. These delightfully pieces of flaky bread, which arrived in a cast-iron pot, were simply indulgent. Then again, anything that uses black truffle butter has to be good, right? They were like a cross between a sticky bun and garlic knot, but the flavor was just incredible. These might be the best rolls in all of DC, even besting Fiola’s.

Charred Spanish Octopus

We started the meal off with the charred Spanish octopus. It was a light and refreshing course given the hot, humid weather outside while the presentation was simply gorgeous.

14 oz bone-in New York Strip 50 Day

For the main course, I went all out, because hey, it’s my birthday. I ordered the 50-day aged, 14 ounce bone-in New York Strip, cooked medium-rare of course. It was as delicious as it sounded. With a nice sear on the outside, the marbleization gave the steak a very pronounced flavor while being very tender. Definitely one of the best I have had in the District.

8 oz Filet Mignon

Rachel kept things a little tamer and ordered the eight ounce filet. Excellently cooked and incredibly tender, Rachel was generous enough to share some with me. Not that I didn’t have my plate full with 14 ounces of my own steak, but I was just as impressed with her cut.

Black truffle mac and cheese

As for sides, we got the highly-acclaimed truffle black truffle mac and cheese as well as the wood-roasted “magical” mushrooms. The mac and cheese indeed met the hype – in fact, it proved slightly challenging to mainly focus on the steak given how rich this side dish was. The mushrooms, on the other hand, were just alright. Rachel remarked they had a rubbery texture to them and were simply not as good as the ones that we recently had at Boqueria.

Wood roasted "magical" mushrooms

Before we ordered dessert, the restaurant surprised us with a slice of their seven-layer cake since Rachel gave them the heads up that it was my birthday. The cake was rich and moist, and definitely would have sufficed as our dessert course had we not been persuaded by the waiter to order his personal favorite, the brown sugar bananas.

Seven layer birthday cake

I tend to stray away from superlatives, but this dish was one of the best desserts we have ever come across. Let’s list the ingredients now, shall we? Banana cake? Check. Peanut ganache? Check. Fried Captain Crunch ice cream? Oh, hell yeah. Now imagine all of these components on one plate. And the amazing part is that it all worked in perfect harmony. Honestly words cannot do it justice… just order it.

Brown Sugar Bananas

Overall, we had a lovely birthday dinner at Bourbon Steak. Our waiter was exceptional (he earned some extra tip after the brown sugar bananas recommendation), the food was terrific, and the atmosphere was lively without being stuffy. As for steakhouses, it’s clearly one of the best in Washington. And considering the water taxi accessibility, I might just skip Shake Shack at Nationals Park and come by the lounge and order one of their burgers instead.

Bourbon Steak DC on Urbanspoon

Anniversary Dinner at BLT Steak

16 Mar

Rachel and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary last week, so what better way to honor the occasion than by, you guessed it, going out to dinner? We headed out to BLT Steak as our friend had given us a gift card as a wedding present for said restaurant and felt that it was an opportune time to finally use it.

Sparking wine flight

We started the evening off by splitting a sparking wine flight of prosecco, rose, and champagne between the two of us. Soon after, we received a plate of crusty bread with chicken pate. The pate had some excellent consistency and certainly beats your typical spread of butter.

Bread and chicken pate

Then the restaurant’s trademark item arrived — their popovers. We have heard the stories and seen the images, but yeah, I’ll let the below shot speak for itself.


Piping hot, I nearly singed my fingers trying to crack open this mammoth piece of bread. But the pain was worth the reward once I pried inside and started tearing away pieces. Warm and soft, the restaurant even provides you with a recipe so you can try to make them at home.

We decided to split their Caesar salad for our first course, and it’s a good thing we did since the portion is large enough to share between two people. It was a unique presentation in that it is served with two giant croutons that you breakdown into smaller pieces. We also liked the fact that it wasn’t drenched in dressing yet wasn’t dry enough where you needed to ask for extra.

Caesar salad

Following in the tradition of our previous courses, Rachel and I decided to share their 12 ounce filet for our entree. Rachel preferred a medium temperature while I wanted mine medium-rare, so BLT was able to accommodate both of our requests by indicating as such when the steak arrived.  You also have your choice of sauce to accompany the steak, so we went with the béarnaise and peppercorn (our waitress was kind enough to let us try both).

12 ounce filet

The steak was excellently cooked as it had a subtle amount of char on the outside but melted in your mouth once you took a bite. It’s as simple as it gets – a dash of salt and pepper, then seared to perfection. I was very impressed by the tenderness as well as the flavor.

As for sides, we ordered the caramelized brussel sprouts with bacon lardons and truffle mashed potatoes. While we enjoyed the former, the latter was the more memorable of the two. Not to make such a bold statement, but these were some of the best mashed potatoes we have ever had. Creamy and buttery, we were savoring each bite until the bowl was scraped clean.

Caramelized brussel sprouts with bacon lardons and truffle mashed potatoes

BLT Steak proved to be a great place to celebrate our anniversary in DC. And while we also celebrated in New York as part of a weekend getaway, the write-up on that extraordinary dinner will have to wait until next week.  Stay tuned…

BLT Steak on Urbanspoon

Steak Frites at Medium Rare

26 Jan

It only took us ten months or so, but we finally tried Medium Rare last week. I can’t speak for Rachel, but I have been dying to try this place not only because of the simple concept, but plainly because I love steak frites. Turns out Medium Rare was designed with me in mind, and I greatly appreciate it.

We were able to procure a table for four with ease on Friday night, but that’s also because we were having a 6pm dinner. Rest assured the place was nearly full an hour later. It’s amazing to think that Yanni’s Greek Taverna is where Medium Rare now sits, but this is a great addition to the Cleveland Park neighborhood.

Helmed by Mark Bucher of BGR The Burger Joint fame, Medium Rare is the simplest of steakhouses – a prix-fixe menu of bread, salad, and steak & fries for $19.50. And yes, that even includes a second helping of their steak frites. For an entire meal under $20, it’s an incredible value.

Mixed Green Salad

The artisan rustic bread was crusty on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and our waitress gladly refilled our basket once we had gone through the first batch. The mixed green salad, topped with cherry tomatoes and Dijon vinaigrette, soon came next. We all enjoyed the salad as the lettuce was crisp without being completely saturated in dressing.

Then, it was time for the main event. The culotte steak (top sirloin cap) was topped with the restaurant’s “secret sauce” and served with a generous heap of frites. The steak, just like the name of the restaurant, was cooked medium rare. The thin, tender strips of beef were full of flavor, but the addition of the kitchen’s gravy/béarnaise concoction really got the taste buds flowing.

Steak Frites

Just as I had finished my plate, our server came by with a grillpan full of more steak and fries to distribute evenly amongst our table. Rachel was full by this juncture, but I happily had her seconds (are you honestly surprised?).

The four of us decided to split a dessert, so we went with the apple pie accompanied with vanilla bean ice cream. The pie was piping hot, flaky, and overflowing with apple. I especially enjoyed the ice cream as the vanilla flavor was very pronounced.

Apple Pie with vanilla bean ice cream

We had a great meal at Medium Rare, and it’s a terrific option for those not looking to break the bank. You’re not going to be getting a prime filet, but for the price, I was very happy with my steak. All and all, I would definitely come back, though you really have to be in the mood for steak frites since, well, it’s your only option.

Medium Rare on Urbanspoon

A Shining Spotlight on Charlie Palmer Steak

22 Sep

Not only was it just a year ago that DMV Dining launched, but around the same time, OpenTable debuted Spotlight, their Groupon-like website. Their very first offer was for Charlie Palmer Steak, and naturally we took the bait.

Needless to say, Charlie Palmer was (in our assessment) Spotlight’s most enticing offer since they launched, as the restaurants since then have not quite matched the caliber of the Capitol Hill steakhouse.

Amuse Bouche - Rock Shrimp Ceviche

Anyway, we nearly forgot about the certificate until we realized it was about to expire in a couple of weeks. On a related note, we really need to create a Google Calendar for our soon-to-expire Groupons…

We were able to book a reservation for Friday evening, and wouldn’t you know it, the restaurant offers free corkage on Fridays! This was purely coincidental when we originally booked our table, but upon finding out the news, we brought along a bottle of King Estate’s Acrobat Pinot Noir.

Filet Mignon

When we were seated, the waitress poured two glasses of the wine we brought and soon returned with an amuse bouche of rock shrimp ceviche. It provided some excellent flavor for such a small bite and was a nice way to start off our evening.

For our entrees, we kept it rather simple: we both ordered the European cut filet, Rachel opting for the petite size while I went for the standard portion (surprise, surprise). The quality of the meat was exceptional as it was evenly cooked and deliciously succulent. Not to throw Grapeseed under the bus, but the difference was night and day between the two restaurant’s steaks.

Parmesan gnocchi

Following the advice of EatMore DrinkMore’s Jenna, we ordered the Parmesan gnocchi as one of our sides. Folks, this could have been a meal in itself. For eight dollars, we had more than enough pasta to share between the two of us. Oh, and it was really, really good. It was such a clever way to complement the filet rather than serve it with your typical baked potato or order of fries (though the ones at Charlie Palmer did look delectable).

Wild mushrooms and onions

We also ordered a side of wild mushrooms and onions which we both really enjoyed. Nothing really to write about here, but the garlic nicely supplemented the filet.

We didn’t wind up ordering dessert as we were both so full from our meal, but then the waitress brought over a small assortment of bite-sized treats which included peanut brittle and chocolate truffles. Unsurprisingly, they were gone within seconds.

Dessert Assortment

Overall, we both really enjoyed Charlie Palmer. Our waitress was very friendly, topping off our wine glasses the moment they were no more than a third full. Meanwhile, the food was fantastic. I was very impressed by not only the cuts of the filet, but also by the superb gnocchi. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to Ray’s the Classics, but Charlie Palmer is right up there as one of my favorite steakhouses in the DMV.

Charlie Palmer Steak on Urbanspoon