We went to see Cirque du Soleil's OVO Sunday night at the National Harbor. The show was great (as usual) and afterwards we headed to the waterfront to have dinner. We went into the Gaylord National Resort to eat at their steakhouse - Old Hickory. The inside of the Gaylord is amazing - a huge glass atrium with a fountain light show. Old Hickory looks out onto the atrium and, more importantly, onto the Potomac river. The decor is GORGEOUS - room after room of clean, white, square architectural details on dark blue paint. I loved the bar area especially with it's white marble bartop and modern glass doors. We were sat with a view out to the river, it was dark already but the view was still lovely.
For my first course, I had the beef tartare. It came with crunchy potato strings, a gorgeous fried egg coated in a crispy batter, and a sprinkling of fluer de sel. Cutting into the egg and having the warm yolk drip all over the beef was wonderful. The meat was bright red and very tender - just right. Jasper ordered the warm Maryland blue crab on recommendation of our waiter. It was a large portion of lump crab meat mixed with a mustard aioli and topped with crunchy cauliflower. I managed to steal a bite and it was very good. For our entree, we both ordered the grass-fed tenderloin (medium rare, of course). Oh my goodness - tender, tender, tender, and packed with flavor. It didn't need the sauces we ordered, but I am glad we ordered them. Jasper said his peppercorn sauce was the best he's ever had (and he has had a lot), and I could have eaten my Bearnaise with a spoon - creamy, lemony perfection. We opted out on dessert in favor of a cheese course, for which the Old Hickory is famous. They have a special case calibrated to keep the cheeses at the perfect temperature. The Maitre D'Fromage wheels out a case filled with cheeses and explains each one. We opted for six cheese selections, since we like different kinds of cheeses. Jasper picked a cheddar, a pecorino, and another sharp hard cheese. I selected a smokey blue from Oregon, a fragrant triple creme, and a gorgeous taleggio. The cheeses were served with pickled raisins, dried apricots (of which I wished there were more), and Marcona almonds.
The restaurant also has a cigar terrace with a cedar humidor, should you be a fan of after dinner cigars.
This Italian restaurant in McLean is the sister to Assagi Mozarella Bar in Bethesda (#90 on the best of list), and also Open Table's winner of Diner's Choice 2010. But the reason we decided to eat there was because we missed Italy. We were sat in the private-ish wine room at the back of the restaurant, which fills up pretty quickly. The view out of the large windows was, unfortunately, of the Irish Pub next door. Other than that, it was a very nice table. The outdoor sitting at the front of the restaurant looks lovely, though.
We were served fresh bread accompanied by some FANTASTIC olive oil that needed no salt or vinegar added to it. The Sommelier recommended a fantastic Super Tuscan (Il Solissimo Lucignano) based on our description of wines that we liked. We decided to start in the traditional Italian way with some fresh burrata cheese with baby tomatoes and basil. Fresh, creamy, with a juicy tang from the tomatoes - this is the perfect way to start an evening (or morning, or afternoon...). For my primi piatti I had the butternut squash soup with crispy prosciutto. It was very good, just right for a squash soup - but nothing extra special. Jasper had the scallop risotto, which he found tasted too fishy. For our secondi piatti we both had the special - a veal ravioli with mushrooms and sage. This was excellent (Jasper is still talking about it weeks later). The veal was moist and flavorful and rich, and the sage flavor was very present without being overpowering. The pasta, of course, was the perfect texture. If this was a regular menu item, we would go back all the time. For dessert we had the signature zeppoli - Italian doughnuts served with a sabayon sauce. One word: heaven.
While there were some missteps, the overall experience was very nice and we will likely return. Based on other reviews I have read, I definitely want to try the beet ravioli stuffed with goat cheese. It is purported to be a winner. But oh, those zeppoli... I will be thinking of them the entire dinner.