Food

Our First Impressions of the 3 Celebrity Restaurants at MGM National Harbor

Our First Impressions of the 3 Celebrity Restaurants at MGM National Harbor
Fried soft-shell lobster at Fish by José Andrés, rack of lamb with curried jus at Voltaggio Brothers Steakhouse, and deviled eggs with duck salami at Marcus.

Voltaggio Brothers Steakhouse 

101 MGM National Ave., Oxon Hill; 301-971-6060

Another celebrity-chef steakhouse in Washington. Sounds boring, right? Anything but. Maryland-born brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio’s first joint restaurant is a stylish, impressive debut—and is about more than just steak. Both siblings lean modernist at their own spots. (Bryan owns Volt in Frederick and Range in Friendship Heights; Michael has Ink in Los Angeles.) Here, they offer plenty of twists that invigorate chophouse classics: a wedge salad showered in Gorgonzola “snow” or poached shrimp and shrimp chips with a kimchee-like cocktail sauce. We could make a meal of stellar appetizers—don’t miss creamy golden rice with uni and sea beans—though items from the wood-fired hearth are worth exploring. Beautifully charred dry-aged steaks, yes, but also lamb chops in curried jus. For all the avant-garde touches, a “cold fudge” sundae armored in a house-made magic shell makes for a sweet throwback. Very expensive.

Fish by José Andrés

101 MGM National Ave., Oxon Hill; 301-971-6050

José Andrés’s seafood restaurant channels a cruise ship. Servers in nautical attire cater to an aquatic-chic dining room whose windows overlook a gleaming white patio. Thankfully, the food is far superior to that of any mega-vessel we’ve been on. Live scallops make a delicious crudo with watermelon radishes. Many of the share plates are marked with Andrés’s whimsy, such as golden hushpuppies with honey butter and briny bursts of trout roe. Other dishes do Maryland proud, including a meaty crabcake brightened with pickled mustard. You’ll want to arrive early for family-style lobster jambalaya; only a few servings of the paella-like dish are available each night. Fried whole lobster, cracked for easy eating, is a divinely sweet substitute—if a bit light for $40. Granted, seafood of this caliber never comes cheap, and as with a cruise, casino prices are built for captive audiences. For a more wallet-friendly bite, head to the fishnet-draped bar for a po’ boy and a rum cocktail. Expensive.

Marcus

101 MGM National Ave., Oxon Hill; 301-971-6010

“Inside or outside?” asks the hostess at New York chef Marcus Samuelsson’s dapper restaurant, MGM’s only celebrity-chef-driven option for all-day dining. There’s no escaping that you’re in a casino—here, “outside” means a string-lit patio enclosed in an atrium—but the menu features plenty of personal twists from Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden. Our favorite items offer an unusual glimpse into haute-Ethiopian cuisine, such as kitfo-style steak tartare vivaciously dressed with berbere spice and served with fried injera. Soul food also stands out. Go for the spice-crusted fried “yardbird” with caraway-spiked collard greens, a direct pull from Samuelsson’s Red Rooster in Harlem. Sticker shock may ensue for the homey dishes—$55 for short ribs with mashed potatoes?—until you realize the plate could easily serve two, even four. If you need a wake-up, drop by stylish Sammy’s lounge for an aquavit-spiked Swedish coffee. Expensive.

This article appears in the March 2017 issue of Washingtonian.

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Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.