Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's vibrant cuisine excites palates in our nation's capital headed by scintillating seafood: 1. Crispy Calamari; 2. Salmon Tartare; 3. J&G Crab Cake with Pea Shoots; 4. Sichuan Peppercorn Crusted Tuna; 5. Steamed Shrimp Salad; 6. Sautéed Lobster with Butter Cabbage, Green Chilies, Scallion, and Ginger.

UPDATED (September 2012):

UPDATED (August 6, 2012):

“Joy of Fine Dining Guide” is Martial Foodie‘s in-depth reviews of very favorite restaurants around the DC area and the nation in order to help diners maximize their culinary experiences.

What makes it fine: Chef/Restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten brings his trademark ‘vibrant cuisine’ of his NYC flagship to his DC branch via J&G Steakhouse.  While J&G Steakhouse serves steaks and sides of its nomenclature, its intelligent Asian-infusion of spices into New American cuisine and Western comfort food through superb seafood plus outstanding desserts raises it to monumental heights!

J&G Steakhouse : Jean Georges :: Fiola : Maestro

As with Fiola and its fancier predecessor Maestro, J&G Steakhouse is a more approachable version of Jean Georges with food that my dining companion and I enjoyed more from a pure flavor and culinary execution sense.  Since Maestro and Jean Georges are more luxurious (thus, more expensive), they have more elaborate presentations and layers to each dish.  However, J&G Steakhouse, like Fiola, executes dishes that take the best elements of its more expensive predecessor without the boundaries imposed by haute cuisine.  The daring approach at Jean Georges led to dishes that had components that were at times too salty or sweet, but Executive Chef Philippe Reininger of J&G Steakhouse executes with boldness and better balance in seasonings to provide greater emphasis on the central ingredient.  Adding to the complete experience are simply elegant and bright interior as well as mind-reading service befitting of Chef Vongerichten’s 3-star flagship.

Cost: $14-$48 for breakfast, $14-$110 for lunch, $27-$115 for dinner (pre-tax/tip/alcohol per person).

The Occasion: A fine lunch on a budget to a special occasion without having to spend a substantial fortune, J&G Steakhouse is great for them all with ample intrigue for the taste buds.

Favorite Dishes: As with Jean Georges, J&G Steakhouse offers house made herbal beverages bursting with herby, aromatic goodness.  Our favorites include Iced Matcha Green Tea made of fresh leaves, Lemonade bursting with Thyme or Jasmine, and a Ginger Ale brightened by fresh rhizome.

For starters, J&G Steakhouse’s three signature appetizers—Crispy Calamari, Salmon Tartare, and Crab Cake—are dream-inducingly memorable.  The first features plump squid fried to the ideal texture—moist-tender inside with tender-crisp outside—and accompanied by cleansing daikon sprouts, gently tart and lightly spicy pickled red finger chili peppers, and zingy yuzu aioli whipped up to provide an airy texture.  After this dish arrives at our table, nary a crumb of batter or drop of aioli shall return to the kitchen!  The Salmon Tartare will please even the pickiest of raw fish snobs with its inherently bright salmon taste, refreshing and spicy radish, savory fried shallots, creamy avocados, and lively ginger-soy sauce.  The added plus is its substantial portion size—plenty to savor and share with a companion.  The Jumbo Lump Crab Cake is delicately seasoned crustacean on a bed of sugar snap pea remoulade scented with celery.  The best part may be the lightly bitter and pleasantly fragrant pea tendrils and leaves that surround the crab.

J&G Steakhouse has everything covered from burgers to fascinating desserts: 1. Soy-Glazed Short Ribs with Carrots; 2. Flank Steak Sandwich with Salad; 3. Raspberry-Rose Pavlova; 4. Summer Berries in Sangria; 5. Mango Upside Down Cake with Basil Ice Cream; 6. Salted Caramel Sundae.

For entrées, our favorites include the Sautéed Lobster, Soy-Glazed Short Ribs, Seared Atlantic Halibut, Sichuan Peppercorn Crusted Tuna, and Steamed Shrimp Salad as well as Flank Steak Sandwich, Tuna Burger, and J&G Cheeseburger.  One the most impressive was the lobster, a sheer layer of crisp outer layer leading to the supremely tender and sweet meat for sheer textual bliss like no other Maine Lobster I ever experienced.  Not to be outdone were the green chilies, scallion, and ginger topping, which dazzled a trio of gentle heat, savory, and fragrant flavors to heighten the lobster’s inherent flavors.  Instead of the having a heavy inert starch like potato, the dish had buttery Napa cabbage to provide a refreshing and less starchy balancer of the spiced flavors as well as to gently take on their essence.  While beef short ribs have become a staple across many restaurants, none have I enjoyed as much as J&G Steakhouse’s rendition—such a perfect balance of tender, well-rendered meat that is beautifully lacquered on the outside yet flavorful and moist on the inside!  The accompanying carrots were not only striking in its hue, it was bright with a citrus infusion and pleasing to the tongue being both in puréed and tender whole forms.  Tying together this surprisingly light version of the hearty short ribs were more (wet) spices and artful contrast of colors and shapes via chervil and carrot leaves.

For a lighter selection, the shrimp is a well-harmonized lunch salad of sublime crustacean topped with champagne butter on a bed of peppery and lightly bitter greens, creamy avocado, and Enoki mushrooms.  Refreshing yet satisfying!  The Halibut is seared to a wonderful crisp outside and meaty if a bit dry inside with an assertive sauce made of chilies and scallions, balanced by gently cooked celery and basil oil.  This dish paired perfectly with our mind-reading server, Terrant’s suggestion of the Grilled Asparagus with Lemon Zest and Olive Oil, which was delicately sealed on the outside and finished to a moist, plump inside.  The tuna is meaty and crusted with a milder version of Sichuan Province’s signature chilies that results in a very flavorful and fun dish, which by the end, leaves a pleasant tingle of the tongue characteristic of the Sichuan chilies.

Among the sandwiches, the Flank Steak tops the list: the perfect harmony of ample tender sliced beef, sweet balsamic caramelized onions, bitter watercress, and intense honey mustard between the perfect baguette that is crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.  An all-time amazing sandwich!  The Tuna Burger has a moist medium texture with a delicious bite of ginger.  What made it standout were the shiso leaves that provided its distinctive cool-savoriness for added depth.  For those wanting to shun the bun, wrap the tuna in the soft butter lettuce and add the shiso to enjoy like a Corean ssäm.  Not to be outdone is a top-notch rendition of the Cheeseburger featuring a very flavorful beef patty, lightly sharp white cheddar, butter lettuce, tomato, and cucumber pickled in fish sauce.

J&G Steakhouse is ideal for an excitingly tasty celebration: 1. Sampling of House Made Sodas; 2. J&G Cheesecake with Blueberry Sorbet.

Strong from start to finish, J&G Steakhouse excels at desserts, from a timeless Cheesecake with Blueberry Sorbet and Lemon Cream, colorful Mango Upside Down Cake, refreshing Raspberry-Rose Pavlova and Summer Berries in Sangria, to a decadent Salted Caramel Sundae.  Their signature cheesecake has a light texture with medium body, tart lemon cream, cooling blueberry trio of sorbet, compote, and fruit.  The mango cake is full of nuttiness—deeply almond-flavored cake made of almond flour and slivers—and herbiness from the entrancing basil ice cream atop lemon crumbles.  The Pavlova is a crisp big ball of meringue that requires a little poke to reveal its interior of raspberry sorbet nestled on rose cream.  The Summer Berries (blue/black/rasp/strawberries) swim in a gently sweet burgundy subtly spiced with an aromatic blend of cardamom, clove, cinnamon, and star anise, glittered with crunchy violet meringue bits, and topped with a sorbet creamy with strawberry and mellowed by lychee.  The Sundae is a party in a bowl: rich salted caramel ice cream with caramel tuile, caramel popcorn, and peanuts in a pool of dark chocolate generous enough to Mocha their nice coffee.

What to Avoid:  Nothing to note.

Special Tips: When ordering a burger or sandwich, opt for the generously portioned and wonderful salad over the rather plain fries.  Also, ask for the sauce and dressing for accompanying salad on the side.  Since they provide generous amounts of each, you can calibrate to your own taste.

For more information on J&G Steakhouse, click here.

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