Words by Kaylee Dugan, Photos by Clarissa Villondo
If you want the Washington you see on TV, there’s no better place to go then BLT Steak. Mere blocks from the White House, it’s extravagant, expensive and apparently the acoustics are great. I didn’t happen to overhear any White House lawyers while I was digging into one of Chef Michael Bonk’s steak boards, but there was a mysterious guy with a lot of tattoos who was maybe in a band. Strangers kept taking pictures of him and with him. It was weird. I’d bet real money one of those iPhone photos features me stuffing my face with bone marrow in the background.
What I’m trying to say is that BLT Steak feels less like a traditional steak house and more like a liminal space where you can bounce from one horrifying plane of existence to another. When I’m not running into band members from other dimensions there, I’m drinking a glass of wine from a bottle that costs $1200 (it was a Penfolds media lunch, holding the glass made me anxious). None of this should be real. Especially when it comes to the food.
BLT Steak’s dining room may feel like it’s straight out of an episode of the Twilight Zone, but the food is different experience all together. Chef Bonk doesn’t actually seem like he should be there. As the man who helmed The Pig for many years and helped open The Bird, Bonk is kind, his food is good and it seems like he should be flexing his muscles anywhere but a boring, stereotypical D.C. steakhouse. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the meal, Bonk lead us on a culinary adventure that felt like it was going to kill me. There was prosecco and delicate melon flavored cocktails. We kicked things off small with some bites of surf and turf, featuring tar tar, a little bite of lobster and a sliver of hamachi.
It didn’t stay that way for long. Soon enough, there were huge bowls of bread, full plates of that salty, sweet and crunchy hamachi, and then there was bone marrow garnished with bits of lobster. It low key felt illegal. You can’t just throw lobster on bone marrow! That’s against the rules! But we soldiered on. There was a a little break from the insanity where we ate some pasta topped with short rib, but soon we were back into the madness. A whole board of steak appeared. There were dry aged steaks, there was wagyu beef and to be honest, I don’t remember the rest of the options because note taking had been thrown out the window.
There was a bevy of desserts and some sweet dessert wine. I shouldn’t have taken a bite of one, nonetheless a bite of each, but I did. It was an excellent meal, but it also felt like something straight out of a fantasy novel. Some sort of feast a king would have after murdering another king and his entire family. A part of me understands that people who don’t go to BLT Steak on the regular eat like this, but do some of them? How? I have a lot of follow up questions.
I enjoyed that meal the same way I enjoy roller coasters, a part of my brain thinks I’m going to die and that’s fun, but when I eat a meal like that, when I go hard with the hope to make it home alive, I don’t want to be at BLT Steak. Maybe it’s because the D.C. on TV sucks and I don’t want to live there. I don’t actively want to be apart of that world. I want to read about it until I’m bored / sad / anxious and then I want to watch The Bachelorette with my friends.
Chef Bonk is fantastic and his food is a treat, but BLT Steak is the weirdest restaurant I’ve ever been in and I have little interest in going back.