An Early Look at Bourbon Steak (With Menus)

DC is packed with steakhouses. So why is celebrity chef Michael Mina opening one?

By: Kate Nerenberg

This past Wednesday afternoon, a fleet of uniformed servers were getting drilled by Bourbon Steak’s general manager, Mark Politzer. Dressed in a crisp suit, the former CityZen manager rattles off a list of hard-to-pronounce menu items, and the servers dutifully repeat him. “Aioli,” Politzer booms. “Aioli!” the obedient crew echoes.

Tomorrow, Bourbon Steak will open in Georgetown’s Four Seasons hotel, and it comes with high expectations thanks to chef Michael Mina. The latest celebrity chef to swoop into DC is based in California, and his empire includes 15 other restaurants. Although this is the fourth outpost of a Bourbon Steak—the others are in Detroit, Miami, and Scottsdale—it has a distinct personality, different from both its older siblings and other Washington steakhouses.

For one, steak isn’t even the focus of the menu. Instead, many dishes show off what Mina is famous for— seafood, served in dishes such as Jonah-crab beignets, and big-eye-tuna sashimi with white soy, young coconut, and fresh aloe.

The menu also reflects Mina’s belief in a popular kitchen idiom: Fat equals flavor. The welcome fries that land on every table are cooked in duck fat. There are seven cuts of steak, ranging from an eight-ounce American Kobe ribeye to a 28-ounce porterhouse. Each is poached in herb-infused butter, olive oil, or bacon fat, cooked to a near-done temperature, then finished on a wood-burning grill. Mina says his signature method is meant to seal in moisture, not allow the steaks to soak up butter: The kitchen starts dinner with two gallons of butter, and after a full night of poaching, they claim that all but about one cup remains.

We saw unusual garnishes—mustard paper, olive-oil powder—plus recession- and cardiologist-be-damned accompaniments for the steaks including lobster, Perigord truffles, grilled foie gras, and marrow bones. Even the lunchtime salads—which each come with a different homemade bread—sound rich: A pork schnitzel version is drizzled with caper/brown-butter, and another bowl’s lobster is butter-poached.

The coffee-colored interior, conceived by New York designer David Rockwell, houses a 40-seat lounge with a small-plates menu and a 120-seat dining room flanked with long banquettes and private booths. Instead of the dark-wood paneling and brass fixtures that are often associated with steakhouses, Bourbon Steak gets its warmth from sleek wood tabletops, mahogany water glasses, and dark leather chairs.

For those in search of the restaurant’s namesake drink, the bar menu offers more than 100 varieties of American whiskey, Scotch, and bourbon.

We’d love to see the servers reciting that list.

Bourbon Steak, Four Seasons hotel, 2800 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-944-2026. Lunch (starting Monday, Dec. 29), Monday through Saturday, 11:30 to 2:30; dinner, Sunday through Wednesday, 5:30 to 10; Thursday through Saturday, 5:30 to 10:30.

LUNCH

Shellfish & Caviar

Oysters & clams
America's best, daily selection

Marinated Nantucket bay scallops
Ruby grapefruit, juniper berry, fennel, shaved celery

Maryland blue crab
Horseradish panna cotta, tomato gelee

Four winds Louisiana Gulf shrimp
Spice-poached, Belvedere cocktail sauce

Maine lobster
Steamed and chilled, Yuzu

Ice-cold shellfish platter
Maine lobster, crab, shrimp, clams, oysters

Selection of caviar
Traditionally garnished

Appetizers

Bibb wedge
Crispy bacon, avocado, Oregon smokey blue

Market salad
Crispy artichokes, preserved lemon, goat cheese

Root vegetable soup
Toasted chestnuts, vanilla, green peppercorn

Bigeye tuna tartare
Ancho chili, Asian pear, mint, toasted sesame oil

Jonah crab beignets
Pimenton, grilled lemon, sweet garlic aioli

Cape Cod squid
Snow peas, baby leeks, mint, lobster vinaigrette

Black truffle tortellini
Iberico ham, Parmesan, mushroom broth

Red-wine braised oxtail
Bone marrow custard, frisee, grilled country bread

American Wagyu tartare
Crispy shallots, mustard paper, olive oil powder

Lunch Salads
All served with their own unique bread

Seafood

Butter-poached Maine Lobster
Butternut squash, pumpkin seeds, mache, black truffles, warm brioche

Pecan-crusted Great Lakes walleye
Sunchokes, grain mustard, naval orange, tardivo radicchio, pecan cornbread

Crispy skin Atlantic striped bass
Red bliss potatoes, little gem lettuce, pea leaves, warm bacon dressing, potato focaccia

Meat

Four Story Hill farm quail
Spinach, frisee, shaved parsnips, organic quail egg, aged sherry-maple vinaigrette, toasted walnut bread

Duroc pork schnitzel
Caper-brown butter vinaigrette, farm egg, fines herb salad, warm pumpernickel

Elysian Fields lamb loin
Hen of the Woods mushrooms, cavatelli, Swiss chard, sweet garlic, grilled country bread

Meats & Fish
Served with chef's selection of side dishes

Oak-fired meats
14-ounce dry-aged ribeye
10-ounce skirt steak
12-ounce New York strip
8-ounce filet mignon
American Wagyu ribeye
Dakota bison tenderloin
28-ounce porterhouse

Wild fish
Sea trout
Bigeye tuna
Florida cobia
True Dover sole

Accompaniments

Marrow bones
Grilled foie gras
Maine lobster
Fresh Perigord truffle

DINNER

Shellfish & Caviar

Oysters & clams
America's best, daily selection

Marinated Nantucket bay scallops
Ruby grapefruit, juniper berry, fennel, shaved celery

Maryland blue crab
Horseradish panna cotta, tomato gelee

Four winds Louisiana Gulf shrimp
Spice-poached, Belvedere cocktail sauce

Maine lobster
Steamed and chilled, Yuzu

Ice-cold shellfish platter
Maine lobster, crab, shrimp, clams, oysters

Selection of caviar
Traditionally garnished

Appetizers


Bibb wedge
Smoked bacon, avocado, cherry tomatoes, Great Hill blue cheese

Market salad
Crispy artichokes, preserved lemon, goat cheese

Root vegetable soup
Toasted chestnuts, vanilla, green peppercorn

Marinated bigeye tuna sashimi
White soy, young coconut, fresh aloe

Jonah crab beignets
Pimenton, grilled lemon, sweet garlic aioli

Cape Cod squid
Snow peas, baby leeks, mint, lobster vinaigrette

Black truffle tortellini
Iberico ham, Parmesan, mushroom broth

Pressed Hudson Valley foie gras
Satsuma tangerine, cauliflower couscous

Crispy veal sweetbreads
Baby onions, watercress, French prune, bacon

Red-wine braised oxtail
Bone marrow custard, frisee, grilled country bread

American Kobe tartare
Crispy shallots, mustard paper, olive oil powder

Entrees


Seared dayboat sea scallops
Red kuri squash, malted milk, toasted hazelnuts

Crispy skin Atlantic striped bass
Romesco, onion brulee, chorizo crumble

Durok pork rib chop
Sweet and sour red cabbage, Macoun apple butter

Elysian Fields lamb loin
Cavatelli, sweet garlic, roasted Maitakes

Liberty Farms duck
Onion-orange marmalade, grilled endive, puffed wild rice

Michael's lobster pot pie
Brandied lobster cream, baby vegetables, wild mushrooms

Whole fried Gianone chicken for two
Truffled mac & cheese, crispy sweet onions, caramelized onion jus

Worcestershire-braised short ribs
Parsnip puree, glazed root vegetables, horseradish gremolata

Meats & fish


Oak-fired meats

18-ounce dry-aged ribeye
10-ounce rib cap
14-ounce New York strip
10-ounce filet mignon
8-ounce American Kobe ribeye
8-ounce Dakota bison tenderloin
28-ounce porterhouse

Wild fish

Tasmanian sea trout
Bigeye tuna
Florida cobia
True Dover sole

Accompaniments

Marrow bones
Grilled foie gras
Maine lobster
Fresh Perigord truffle

Classic American side dishes


Salt-baked potato, bacon-and-scallion creme fraiche
Roasted onions, sourdough, Gruyere, oxtail broth
Classic potato puree or aligot
Leeks vinaigrette, mustard breadcrumbs, parsley
Macaroni & cheese, black truffle cream
Wood-roasted "magical" mushrooms
Spaghetti squash, Virginia ham, juniper butter
Classic spinach souffle, Parmesan cream
Brussels sprouts, bacon, and apple
Tomato-dusted onion rings
Anson Mills grits, red eye gravy
Sweet-potato gnocchi, spiced marshmellows