Friday, April 3, 2015

Beefsteak Food Review

Kimchi-wa with Chips & Lavender Lemonade

José Andrés is back at it again; although this time, it's all about the veggies. Beefsteak opened last month in the middle of Foggy Bottom; and the response has been nothing short of "complete and utter victory." How victorious? Try 900 covers a day, and word (already) of a second location... just north of Dupont Circle. Impressive, to say the least; but is it good enough to win over a meat-lover like myself? Let's dig in, and find out.

Warning: Be careful not to walk straight past the main entrance. Beefsteak certainly blends into its surroundings (GWU's new Science & Engineering Hall building) although it's hard to miss the constant stream of customers filing in & out. Once inside, prepare to be blown away by the restaurant's creative/playful interior. It's definitely aimed at a younger clientele (i.e. tier seating) but even I was able to find a quiet table towards the back. It's also fast-casual; so those of you in search of the next Jaleo or Zaytinya, may need to rethink their lunchtime strategy.

Meat-lovers too; as Beefsteak sells very little of it (roast chicken, salt-cured salmon.) Not one to be deterred, I placed an order for one of Beefsteak's "Favorites," Kimchi-wa ($7.99) rather than try my hand at assembling my own bowl (it was intimidating enough, as is.) What's in it? Better yet, what isn't? Try bok choy, cabbage, carrot, corn, edamame, rice and roasted garlic yogurt sauce with (yes, there's more) kimchi, roasted chickpeas, scallions, sesame seeds and soy ginger dressing on top. It's assembled by a crack staff of employees who somehow manage to make you "feel individual/special," despite the cavalcade of fellow diners in front of and behind you. This type of superb customer service can't be easy to maintain; but if it does, 900 daily covers could fast become a day-in/day-out ritual.

Prices are more than fair for generous Bowls of food; but $3 is a bit hard to swallow for a bag of Jose Chips... bags I might add, that are close-to-impossible to open. The ones made with Himalayan Pink Salt were greasy (lots left on my fingers) and very light on saltiness. I can stand $3.50 for a cup of Lavender Lemonade; although I'd prefer to taste lavender and not just lemonade. FYI: Juice drinks change daily.

Menu: Click above to enlarge

As for my Kimchi-wa, the bowl had its plusses and minuses. Favorable flavors included kimchi, corn and chickpeas with nicely-cooked rice to boot. There's definitely a lot going on in each bite (perhaps too much) but the various textures are terrific; and some bites are pure Heaven (especially those with kimchi in them.) Not so nice? Watch out for excess amounts of an overwhelming garlic yogurt sauce... a curious combination, given its significance in the dish. Consider asking for half the normal amount.

Poached egg is available as well (for an additional $1.59) but it's hard to fathom yet another dominating ingredient on top of what's already in there. To be frank, I'd probably order roasted chicken next time... and pass on some of the many Asian flavors (bok choy, scallions, soy ginger dressing.) Keep in mind, there's a ton of choices; and finding your perfect combination is probably going to require some trial and error.

That said, it's hard not to get excited over a veggie-centric eatery with a big name (Andrés) behind it. I'm bound to get over my initial fears of ordering (no fall-back options such as meatballs or pork carnitas) and I'm looking forward to finding my perfect combo. Until then, here's to keeping up with the Joneses Andréses.