The sleek new Charlie Palmer Steak restaurant opening this weekend at 101 Constitution Ave. NW should have no problem appealing to the patriotic palates of the Capitol community.
After all, its signature 7 1/2-foot-tall reclining wine tower will house 3,500 bottles of strictly American selections ranging from Oregon pinot noir to California cabernet.
“Charlie [Palmer] and I talked about it six months ago,” said master sommelier Keith Goldston, explaining that the decision to serve only U.S.-made vintages occurred long before some Americans drained their Bordeaux in protest against France’s opposition to U.S. military action in Iraq.
However, as time went on, Goldston admits, the idea just seemed to get better and better.
To date, Goldston has succeeded in securing wines from 30 American states and hopes to eventually include a representative from each of the union’s 50 members.
For techier wine lovers, selections can be made via eWinebooks — much like oversized Palm Pilots — offering a catalogue of the restaurant’s 10,000 bottles of wine, as well as write-ups on featured wineries and advice about what to drink with a given dish. The eWinebooks can even be used to write personal notes to the chef.
CP Steak is chef and restaurateur Charlie Palmer’s 10th restaurant but his first in Washington — a location he’s long had his eye on. And despite the United States’ dim economic outlook and ongoing international tensions, Palmer remains optimistic that Hillites and company will soon warm to CP Steak’s hip, modernistic take on the traditional American steakhouse.
“I opened Aureole, New York, just after the stock market crash of 1987,” he says, adding that his focus — irrespective of broader societal vicissitudes — remains the quality of the establishment.
Following a culinary philosophy of “the best [ingredients] and as local as possible,” Palmer’s “Progressive American” cuisine has attracted devotees across the country from New York to Las Vegas to Los Angeles. Just this month, he opened his latest boîte, Kitchen 82, on the Big Apple’s Upper West Side.
With Executive Chef Bryan Voltaggio serving up appetizers such as a lime-green chilled English pea soup with blue crab, smoked Idaho rainbow trout, and East Coast oysters and cucumber jelly topped with black tobikko, diners at CP Steak may have a hard time moving on to the main courses. One look at the grilled beef filet mignon with roasted shallot and cabernet sauce or chipotle-glazed smoked squab should be enough impetus to charge ahead, however. And don’t forget to complement the culinary ensemble with an eminently esculent side of roasted morels or goats cheese tubetti gratin. For dessert, try a triangle of freshly made ice creams and sorbets.
But dining out is as much about style as substance, and CP Steak more than earns its aesthetic credentials. Designed by architect Martin Vahtra, the restaurant is a hybrid of the traditional and the contemporary. Stainless steel coil draperies and silver-dipped lightbulbs will mingle with leather club chairs and winged-back banquettes. Its 240-person capacity dining room and alcove — in addition to a piano lounge and bar with seating for 60 — fans out around an enormous glass cube-like wine tower hovering above a pool of pebbles, feng-shui style. For the peeping Tom within, ultra-modern restrooms feature see-through keyhole designs on the dividing wall, where the genders can sneak a peek at the hand-washing activities of the other sex.
With its three private dining rooms — one of which will feature a 5-by-12 pastoral scene by landscape painter Willard Dixon — CP Steak aims to redefine the power lunch. All three rooms boast an LCD screen for PowerPoint presentations, high-speed Internet connections, and audio-visual access.
Guests will also be able to reserve 101 Constitution’s rooftop terrace — with its panoramic view of the Capitol dome and the Reflecting Pool — for group events of around 400 people.
The restaurant will host two (invitation-only) grand opening parties to benefit the National Military Family Association this week, before debuting to the public May 3.
CP Steak will be open Monday through Friday for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and for dinner from 5:30 to 10 p.m. On Saturday, dinner will be served from 5 to 10:30 p.m. Dinner appetizers range from $10 to $25, main courses $17 to $35, and desserts from $5 to $7.50. A prix fixe is also available for $58.