It hasn’t even been a week and I saw myself back at Claudia’s Steakhouse, this time not just to nibble on canapés and hors d’oeuvres but to have the “full experience, “ as one would say. So here’s what happened.
My colleague and I arrived exactly at 7 p.m. and were welcomed enthusiastically by the host staff and by Marlon, the restaurant’s general manager. We were seated at one of the large circular booths in the middle of the dining room and were promptly greeted by our server. We were given a couple of glasses of champagne, on the house, and we got to chat up Executive Chef Brad Race himself. He provided us with his personal recommendations, a couple of which we ended up ordering. They included the ceviche mixto and the mojarra frita. In addition to those two dishes, we also got an order of pork belly with chimichurri and a side of llapingados. For dessert, we opted for the gianduja mousse.
There’s something to be said when a restaurant with a classy reputation can make you feel like you’re enjoying a meal in someone else’ dining room. By the time I left that evening, I found out that Marlon’s truly a steak man and that Claudia has been to Panama City and Lima. Our server was definitely friendly, attentive (though not to the point of being annoying) and welcoming, but I do think that there are a couple of opportunities that still need to be addressed. First, as a restaurant of such caliber, I expected my server to answer with gusto and provide assertive food recommendations when asked. I understand that the restaurant just opened but thorough knowledge of the food you’re serving is key to providing guests with a great food experience. It sets the tone. The second is more of a pet peeve but should be pointed out nonetheless. A damp rag is always better than a wet one when wiping crumbs off the table.
As mentioned earlier, we took a couple of Chef Race’s recommendations and a couple more of our own choosing. I’ve sampled the pork belly at the pre-launch party and enjoyed it thoroughly so we got that to start with. It was just a tiny bit overdone but the flavors were still robust and the accompanying chimichurri remained the perfect dressing. Then came the ceviche. The seafood was fresh, the corn mixed in added a bit of sweetness to the taste, and the citrus marinade was on point. It was very good, I thought. The third course was our main dish, the mojarra frita, and the fish was red snapper. I’m not sure what or if any seasoning was added, but the fish was definitely fresh and fried to perfection. It came with a small side of rice and sliced peppers that were soaked in spicy vinegar. Both were great accompaniments.
The fourth and last course was a mousse made with gianduja chocolate and accentuated with red wine sauce and bitter orange ice cream. The mousse was light and smooth to the taste. Its hazelnut flavor was palpable but I wasn’t a fan of the bitter orange ice cream that came with it. It might go better with a dark chocolate mousse but I felt that the bitter orange aftertaste took some of the flavors away from the gianduja.
This was the most surprising of all. Apart from the private event and the enthusiastic party seating behind us, there were hardly any other parties at all, and it was Thursday night. I think there were more servers than actual customers. To be fair, the location does not exactly get a lot of foot traffic after office hours and it’s only been open a week. Claudia’s Steakhouse sits on 15th and K Streets, right in the middle of downtown Washington, D.C. This is the type of restaurant one seeks out and not one that you just casually walk into. With that said, the empty restaurant was a bit of a downer.
I would have to say that my second experience here was enjoyable overall, though it was dampened by the minor service misses and the lackluster ambiance. I remained very pleased with the food and I certainly liked the fact that they have a small plates option on their menu. It’s tough to compete with just good food in D.C., especially at these prices, but what sets Claudia’s Steakhouse apart is genuine interest in their customers; a personal touch. I watched Claudia converse with the table across from us, and it certainly erased my initial doubts. Everyone who dines here will really be treated like they are part of the family, and that, in my opinion, is the restaurant’s strongest advantage.