The Washington Post food staff test drives the three “decadent” new celebrity-driven restaurants at MGM National Harbor, and Ginger, TAP Sports Bar, and other bites like Bellagio Patisserie also get a review.
First up is Jose Andrés’s 268-seat Fish, where Spanish and American seafood unite. The recommendation is to start with an oyster shooter (oysters from British Columbia topped with a gin-and-tonic foam). Adding the optional trout roe to the hush puppies makes them “tiny sweet-and-salty flavor bombs.”
The lobster jambalaya has a “beautiful” tableside presentation. Also visually appealing is the Atlantic Beach Pie dessert, with yogurt-lemon cream that looks like sand. The nautical theme—which makes visitors “forget” they’re at a casino—is also evident in the decor, which includes “sophisticated” rope and netting and hanging fish sculptures.
Next is up the Voltaggio Brothers Steak House, where the chef brothers put their own “modernist spins on classic steakhouse dishes” like a “re-engineered” wedge salad and the bigeye tuna with a “flavor-packed preparation.” As for the main event, the $56 bone-in rib-eye features “all the dense, mineral-forward flavors you expect from dry-aged beef.” But must-try menu items aren’t limited to beef, noting the Thai-style Maine lobster and sides like the “umami cereal” with shiitake mushrooms, steel-cut oats and mushroom dashi.
And at Marcus, some standouts are tied to chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Ethiopian roots: The “Maya’s warm beef tartare” is “zesty yet not overpoweringly spicy” and the “muffin top pot pie” is a “stewy, fragrant filling” of chicken, liver, egg, carrots and potatoes. As for the trademark yardbird’s skin is “textbook crisp” with a side of mashed potatoes that are “ethereally fluffy and rich.” Also go for the Dunbar chocolate cake. [The Washington Post]
The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema gives BLT Prime a try, months after the brand debuted inside the controversial Trump International Hotel. He decided the steakhouse is worthy of two and a half stars, thanks in part to a mix of “terrific” service, vistas overlooking the glittery lobby, and “gimmicky” starters that work, like the “satisfying” clothesline candied bacon and grapes breaded in cornflakes and deep-fried alongside steak tartare. But “go easy” on the opening bread, he warns: While the popovers are “very good and very filling,” save room for what’s the come.
Among the hits include the prime, 20-ounce Kansas City steak with house-made Worcestershire sauce and huge burger that “juicy and well-seasoned.”
Some of the best picks are the sides, he says:
“Potatoes whipped with seemingly tubs of butter are some of the richest, stretchiest spuds you will ever eat, and the creamed spinach is noteworthy for the fact you taste first vegetable, then garlic, then cream (and not too much of it). While I really wanted to hate the “couch” potatoes lined up on a doll-size cedar banquette, each little tuber crowned with a crisp onion ring, I have to say they were model baked potatoes.”
He suggests forgoing dessert, however, as “bland orange flan and a better apple tart take a page from hotel banquets.” [The Washington Post]
For The $20 Diner, The Washington Post’s Tim Carman treks it to El Ranchero y Sus Mariachis, a strip-center taqueria in Beltsville. Upon sitting down, he notes the ambiance is dark and dim but he brightens up after finding out the corn tortillas, gorditas, and sopes are all made in house.
First on the table is an “elegant ivory plate overflowing with fresh masa-based bites,” and the gordita makes his mouth water:
“The gordita remains my preferred masa-based delivery system. The thin, crisp sope — essentially the base of a gordita without its golden lid — will suffice if you’re looking to limit your masa intake. The corn tortillas prove too thick and rigid for my tastes, the drill sergeant of Mexican wraps. The huarache, stuffed with a microscopic layer of refried beans, deservedly brings up the rear: The oblong length of fried flatbread was too flaccid to provide much support to its poor toppings.”
The thick “lava” like mole ends up having a “bitterness balanced with sweetness and spice” and livens up the “dried-out” chicken it’s covering. The restaurant manages to transform the “tough, unattractive cut” that is carne asada into a “succulent steak,” accompanied by light and fluffy rice. The Cubano sandwich was also “damn delicious,” he notes. [The Washington Post]
DC Dining’s Don Rockwell heads to Hazel in Shaw, giving props to its “smart, legible” wine list with “good bottles” starting at $40. The food menu is also “well-organized,” he notes.
His server was “delightful,” as was his first course of Atlantic Fluke Crudo with avocado, radish, shiso, and grapefruit ponzu—but he wishes it was a bigger portion. And the Rabbit Nuggets were “extremely rich,” he reports.
What went wrong with the meal had nothing to do with quality, but rather timing: his third course of Gnocchi Bokki arrived less than five minutes after the rabbit had been served, and the two dishes “clashed as much as two courses could possibly clash.” [DC Dining]
Tyler Cowen goes to Panamanian restaurant Esencias Panameñas in D.C., finding it’s “quite a charming place” despite some entrees exceeding $20. The service is also “very” friendly, he says. [TCEDG]