Sunday, November 16, 2014

Medium Rare (Barracks Row) Food Review

Culotte Steak & Hand-Cut Fries with Secret Sauce

It's almost impossible to miss Medium Rare walking along 8th Street, Southeast... That neon sign over the front door screams "Get your butts in here: The food is delicious." Take it from me: That's sage advice. A trip to Medium Rare allows one to break down dinner into four basic food groups (bread, salad, steak and potatoes) plus a fifth (dessert) if you're so inclined. Who needs more, especially when it's this delicious? Certainly not me: Last night's dinner was one of my 10 best meals of the year.

Yesterday's feast was my first visit to Medium Rare's second location (in Barracks Row.) Normally I dine in at their Cleveland Park establishment (a short 1½ block walk from home, sweet home) but curiosity got the best of me, so I ventured out of my comfort zone just a little. Curiosity may have killed the cat; but I now have a new favorite dinner spot in Capital Hill, that takes reservations (you won't find me standing in the freezing cold, to squeeze into Rose's Luxury.) Trendy is bad/overrated. Steak-frites is the very definition of what fine dining should be. Call it a no-brainer: I choose Medium Rare 10 times out of 10.

Artisan Rustic Bread

Adam Petyo does a great job of managing a hipper, slightly more user-friendly Medium Rare than what I'm used to. It was at full capacity (just like Cleveland Park) but the spacing and overall vibe was significantly more inviting... Where else can you enjoy a music playlist that includes Incubus, Madonna and The Knack, back-to-back-to back? Steak and Fries is fantastic. Steak and Fries with "My Sharona" is pure bliss.

The staff here is terrific (special thanks to our lead server Sean) and the pace... nothing short of perfect. It begins with water, then moves quickly to drinks and MR's unbelievable Artisan Rustic Bread. As for drinks, skip the soda and run (don't walk) towards a Hot Apple Cider that's so creamy & delicious, you might just shed a tear. Seriously, it's fabulous; and I didn't even have the adult version with bourbon tossed in for good measure. The secret? It's way thicker than most ciders, and best served piping hot.

Mixed Green Salad

With my thirst quenched, I turned my undivided attention to the bread (you get four slices, and they offer seconds.) Paired with a generous knob of creamy, soft butter, you may run the risk of never putting your butter knife down... at least until that inevitable moment, when you concede to move on to salad.

For the record, MR's Mixed Green Salad is plenty fine; but I'm all about the steak, fries and bread (in that order, and that order only.) The salad (which comes with freshly ground pepper and four juicy quarters of tomato) is tasty enough, and helps lessen the level of guilt when you're offered seconds on the steak and fries. It also buys you a little extra time, to digest all that amazing bread from earlier in the meal.

Six-Layer Carrot Cake

Next up: Steak and fries. The former was sublime, cooked perfectly (MEDIUM) and covered in a rich, decadent secret gravy. I'm usually happy with just steak or Worcestershire sauce; but this is one of those rare times, when I like to go all out and live a little. When you get seconds, you even get a small cup with extra gravy (they think of everything.) On a scale of 1-10, the steak is a 9.9 (only Bourbon Steak is better, and by the slimmest of margins.) Keep in mind, an entire prix fixe dinner at Medium Rare costs only $19.75. An 8 ounce filet mignon at Bourbon Steak sets you back $48 (with another $11 for a side.) If you need help with the math, you can borrow my calculator.

Fries were good, but a lot crisper and hotter the second time around. I remember the thrill I got, the very first time I had seconds at MR years ago. Guess what? The thrill is still there: How do you top more steak and fries? Perhaps with a towering dessert. For me, that meant a Six-Layer Carrot Cake that can feed two with absolute ease. Fortunately for me, my dining companion had her own Hot Fudge Sundae to fawn over; so the carrot cake was all mine. I cleared my plate; and didn't feel the least bit guilty about doing so. This carrot cake showcased the perfect balance of moistness and sweetness, and leaving even one crumb would have been criminal. For the record, the carrot cake was recommended (as was the Hot Apple Cider.) If you're keeping score at home, count Adam & Sean a perfect two for two.

Bottom line: I can't find a bad thing to say about last night's dinner; and if you know me well, you know I can always find something negative to say (grin.) Visit Medium Rare's website, and you'll find a quote by the great Leonardo da Vinci, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." Nobody does simple like Medium Rare. Nobody. To be fair, there's nothing simple about a flawless dinner. The components may look common at first glance; but certainly not the ingredients, nor their preparation. Topped off with excellent (really excellent) service and an exciting atmosphere, it's easy to understand why they're tops in Barracks Row... something their older sibling (our favorite dining spot in Cleveland Park) already knows. Brunch is next. The only question is... Where to have it? Decisions, decisions.