Food

January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

A slickly designed steakhouse that draws plenty of big names.

No. 12: Charlie Palmer Steak

The sleek dining room with its clean lines puts you in mind of a cool and elegant lounge. It’s a sensibility so austere and Asian that if not for a glimpse of the glowing Capitol dome through the windows, you might forget you were in a DC steakhouse.

The cooking follows suit, with a menu that takes a modern approach to the idiom. Instead of the customary shrimp cocktail, there’s a robust tuna tartare with avocado and house-made sesame crackers. Roasted foie gras, dressed with first-harvest apples, is presented in a steakhouse-appropriate slab. A truffle-basted porterhouse for two comes with truffled potato purée and bacon-and-chive popover. No massive stalks of broccoli here—try the seared Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and acorn squash with pomegranate instead.

Chef Bryan Voltaggio was handpicked by celebrity chef Palmer. Like his boss, Voltaggio prefers his flavors big and bold, sans fussy adornments. A crusted salmon with corn ravioli and a corn ragoût is hearty but full of finesse. But beautiful hunks of Prime house-aged beef are still the main attraction for the pol-dominated crowd. Room for dessert? Try a hazelnut pyramid with warm chocolate ganache, or there are ice creams and sorbets in a triangular egg carton.

Some steakhouse traditions die hard. That pampering-yet-unobtrusive service is a marvel—until you realize that a second bottle of sparkling water you didn’t order has nearly been drained. And though you can drink as well as you can eat, thanks to the all-American wines housed in the dazzling glass cube that anchors the dining room, the markups are among the steepest in town.

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