Steakhouses don’t usually top my list of “must go here” restaurants. Not that there’s anything wrong with steak. But I usually prefer food with a creative flair that isn’t always exhibited in even the best of steakhouses. Can DC’s new Rural Society break through my laissez-faire attitude and provide a notable culinary experience?
Rural Society, the Argentinian steakhouse in Loews Madison Hotel, is brought here by well-known Chef Jose Garces. He is the owner of more than twelve restaurants nationwide including the respected Amada in Philadelphia and Mercat a la Planxa in Chicago. He is also an Iron Chef. My interest in Rural Society has been piqued through various food photos on Instagram, laudatory tweets, and a First Look from Tom Sietsema in The Washington Post, which he titles “Jose Garces’s Rural Society Starts Strong.”
Our experience also starts strong and stays there. Empanada de Espinaca, a savory pastry with Swiss chard, provoleta, and roasted onion has a crispy exterior that gives way to a cavalcade of piping hot ingredients oozing with flavor.
“Fugazza” is Argentina’s version of focaccia or pizza. My husband and I visited Buenos Aires a number of years ago, and still reminisce about their pizza. Rural Society’s fugazza with grilled artichokes, fontina, and black olive is good but doesn’t quite live up to the Argentine pizza we so fondly recall. The crisp and spongy texture is right on, but our memory of the taste conjures up stronger seasoning. But don’t be dissuaded from ordering it. Others say it’s a don’t miss.
I briefly consider steering away from steak, but my friend agrees to share beef tenderloin, which makes the $45 entree more palatable. The Estancia Grass Fed Beef from Uruguay is simply prepared (salt, pepper, and butter) in the restaurant’s showpiece of a wood-fired parilla grill. It is simply fantastic. I don’t need fancy ingredients to mask the flavor of this impeccable steak.
Rural Society’s menu claims “we are more than just a piece of meat. Check out our veggies.” This is how we justify bringing two kosher-keeping husbands here, so we are happy to sample a variety of their offerings.
Roasted potatoes with black truffle hollandaise, grilled mushrooms with parsley and truffle, and roasted beets with orange coriander vinaigrette give credibility to Rural Society’s claim. Each one is executed with finesse by Chef de Cuisine Louis Goral. They are a fitting companion to meat but have enough character to stand on their own.
My husband goes wild over “Noqui Gratinati, ” a firm pasta with mushrooms, peas, grilled Swiss chard, taleggio, and pistachios. He describes the dish as extremely rich and fulfilling, redolent with garlic and cheese.
A gaucho- or South American cowboy- would feel right at home in the dark and woodsy environment. A meander on over to the restroom takes you on a tour past various dining rooms and cozy nooks that beg a future visit. The service ramps the experience up another notch. Our waiter is knowledgeable and attentive. Other members of the staff check in on us periodically, exuding warmth and affability, without being intrusive.
It’s easy to be a skeptic towards yet another DC steakhouse. But Rural Society turns my head with its Spanish accent, handsome decor, and personable manner. Fact is, it can now stake a claim as my new favorite place to claim a steak.
Rural Society, 1177 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC
Washington Post Tom Sietsema review: “Rural Society by Jose Garces: an urban, sleek and smoky ode to steaks and more”
My Related Reviews
Mercat al la Planxa, Chicago
Del Campo, Washington, DC