Charlie Palmer owns restaurants in NY, DC, Vegas and elsewhere, and is known for lots of wine (which I did not sample, much to the sommelier's chagrin)-- 3500 bottles on display in the restaurant, and a total of 10,000 on premises-- and high quality ingredients. This location, which is right on Capitol Hill (in the area where the streets criss-cross confusingly; we had to ask some pedestrians for directions). The restaurant itself is spare but impressive: leather banquettes, lots of glass, lots of black and white, lots of chrome, and dark wood. It doesn't have the traditional steakhouse feel, but definitely feels stylish and expensive. The staff was attentive-- no less than six people, headed by a stylishly suited waiter, served us during the evening-- but not overly so. We had plenty of time to talk and people watch.
The scene felt a lot like the early scenes of American Psycho. Lots of gelled hair, expensive suits, and exchanges of business cards. I could practically hear Patrick Bateman's brand litany in the back of my head. The interesting part? Of the serving staff, only one was female. Of the guests, including me, I think there were maybe six women in the entire dining room. Despite Hillary Clinton's run for president, Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, and Condoleeza Rice as secretary of state, Capitol Hill is still very much a boys' club.
There aren't a ton of pictures from this place, because I felt very self-conscious taking them. I'll have to get over that, won't I?
We each got a drink-- Terry, a beer (I really have to keep track of what sort of beer he orders out, don't I?) and I got a cosmopolitan. The first one tasted like straight cranberry juice, the second one was quite tasty.
The chef sent out an amuse bouche, which was a cold cantaloupe soup with grenadine. Very refreshing, and the contrast between the very sweet cantaloupe and the syrupy, tart grenadine was fantastic.
For our first course, we split a Caesar salad-- this was great, with whole leaves of hearts of romaine, lots of freshly grated parmesan, and an obviously fresh dressing that was heavy on the anchovy. It was plenty for two people, but they didn't split the plate. It's a little awkward to share a salad with someone next to you.
Our entrees came up next. Palmer's has a ton of different steaks: from USDA Angus aged from 21-28 days and in various cuts, to Kobe beef at $20 an ounce (5 ounce minimum), as well as chicken, duck, pork, seafood, and one vegetarian (but not vegan) dish. Terry got a steak: a "Cowboy Cut" ribeye, bone in, with horseradish cream, creamed spinach and fries with chipotle aioli.
I ended up with the Roasted Breast of Sonoma County Duck with endive marmalade,
roasted macoun apple tarte tatin and seared foie gras. If I eat much more duck and foie, I'm going to start quacking. This was seriously heavenly: the duck itself was well seasoned and not too greasy or too dry, but the real standout was the tarte tatin with seared foie gras. If I just had a plate with that, I would have been a happy girl. The apple tarte tatin was very traditional, and the perfect complement to the foie gras, which was perfectly seared. It's the best foie I've had, bar none (and I've had so much foie in the past month, it's ridiculous). I was torn between gobbling up every bit in a taste overload, or savoring every last bite. I came to a happy medium.
Terry and I have eaten a lot of meals together, and we decided that this one was probably the best one-- the surroundings were stylish but intimate, the menu was outstanding, and the service was superb. If you find yourself in DC and want a steak (or duck or foie..), I'd highly recommend Charlie Palmer's.