Tuesday, April 5, 2011

First Bite - Medium Rare

Medium Rare is a rarity, in both concept and execution. How many other restaurants in D.C. can you think of that not only exude a fine-dining confidence while offering a single item on the menu? None come to my mind. And so it is the brain trust behind behind the new bistro, opened up shop in Cleveland Park.

The premise is simple: once seated, diners are served bread, a mixed-green salad, and slices of sirloin cap steak paired with frites. Half of your serving of the steak and frites arrives immediately after you've finished your salad, while the latter half delivered to the table later to ensure you're always eating hot food. This alone is a brilliant touch.

But the prix fixe menu is tremendously liberating. You walk in with really only two decisions to make: how you'd like your meat cooked and whether or not you'd like additional items like wine or dessert. Because the restaurant is called Medium Rare, it seems like that first question is off the table. Therefore, you're free to enjoy the evening without all the self-doubt inherent in selecting from an over-packed menu. By deciding to dine at Medium Rare in the first place, all of the pressure's relieved.

Beyond that? The food rocks. Everything's incredibly delicious. Even in the restaurant's first week of operation, the recipes are delicious. Utterly perfect, even. I guess that's another benefit of only providing a handful of dishes. The bread was right out of the oven, crispy and delicious. The salad wasn't drowning in vinaigrette. The frites were everything that frites ought to be. And then there was the meat. Dear God, what a delicious steak. Cooked perfectly, topped with an amazing house sauce, and so tender I barely needed a knife. Elyse looked at me midway through the meal and asked, "Is this your new favorite restaurant?" And it just might be.

As much as I love the D.C. restaurant scene, and as much as I've grown as a foodie (both in waist size and in scope of taste), the one thing I've really been missing is simplicity. This restaurant is a temple of simplicity. It recognizes that no restaurant can be everything to you every day; no establishment can carry the full arsenal of whatever any person might want to eat at any given moment, even though some misguided operations try. Medium Rare is the confident operation that says, "You're not always going to be in the mood for steak, and that's ok. When you are, come visit us, and we'll take care of you." At $19.50, it's hard to argue with the menu, and if you want to splurge on the dessert or alcohol, those are dandy to0. I nearly went into a coma after eating the chocolate cake; one of the managers told us he found a nearby bakery that makes a tw0-layer chocolate fudge cake and simply asked if they could double the number of layers. You gotta love that kind of imagination, don't you?

In the end, it's hard to oversell the quality of this place. The wait staff was stellar, the ambiance was chill and inviting, and the food was fantastic. What more can you ask for just over twenty bucks? So head up (or down, depending on your geography) and give this place a shot. You'll be glad you did. And if you're not, that's fine. More for me.


  1. I've lived in the neighborhood for about five years now. I was glad the restaurant came into the old Yannis. However, I had brunch and my eggs were cold after a 25 minute ticket time. Beyond that, my server couldn't tell me where the eggs were sourced from. Go to the other reputable establishments in CP and they'll be able to tell you, because they're proud of their source. Also, no one could tell me where their beef was sourced from, which is a big deal to most in the neighborhood. Especially since other restaurants in the neighborhood highlight a local, sustainable, humanely raised menu. People want quality food and when they catch wind that they're serving potential factory farmed, grain fed animal, some might not want to support them.

  2. I had brunch there on Sunday and was very happy with the service and delivery time. I think they'll work the kinks out as far as the sourcing of meat and dairy, and training of the servers.

    My eggs were poached PERFECTLY, and really everything else was outstanding too. The coffee was good and strong and the bathrooms played French translation tapes on how to pick up ladies which was clever and hilarious. My husband and I look forward to going back in the evening to sit and sip Delirium Tremens with the pink elephant beer taps at the bar :)