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BLT Steak -- B Forewarned

I am not a beef eater but my GF is and occasionaly she hankers a steak. One of the few restaurants in Washington at which we have never eaten was BLT Steak. Washingtonian rated it as #53 (of 100) in the metro area and I repesct Laurent Tourondel as a chef so we thought we would try it tonight. It has been a long time since we were so disappointed.

The ambiance is that of a sports bar. The bar (which features large screen TVs and a noisy crowd) is separated from the dining area only by the four foot high banquette on which many diners sit. This is not a place for a quiet conversation.

This is the 7th of Laurent Tourondel's mini-chain of restaurants (in New York, Washington, and Puerto Rico). I doubt if he has been to BLT Steak inWashington since it opened, if then. I cannot believe that a chef of his caliber would have allowed our meal to be served or would have eaten it if it was served to him.

The meal begins with a small container of warm chicken liver pate and toasted bread. This is one of the highlights of the meal. It was very good.

Feeling veggie-deprived, my GF and I both ordered a "chopped vegetable salad." The salad was 90% chopped iceberg lettuce, with a few hearts of palm, chopped olives, and cherry tomatoes thrown in. Hardly what either of us expected from the description. They were huge. If you ignore my advice and go to BLT Steak, order one, and share. Neither of us finished even half. This theme of quantity over quality continued. We were given two enormous "signature" popovers. They were too large and by the time you split one, the other was cold.

For an entree, she ordered filet (medium rare). She is petit but it was amusing watching her try to saw her way through the filet with a steak knife. It was cooked medium rare but it was also only medium warm and unexplainably tough. She also ordered a baked potato. It was the largest potato I have ever seen. It would have fed three people easily, if they all like luke-warm potatoes.

I ordered swordfish, hashbrowns, and roasted trumpet mushrooms. The swordfish was luke warm and dripping in lemon juice. I hate lemon juice on seafood. The description did not mention this, the server did not mention this, and I could barely eat it. The hashbrowns were awful. They were put in a small cast iron skillet and, apparently, stuck under the salamander (broiler). The top (crust) was overdone and the inside was raw potatoes. It was also large enough to serve 3-4 easily. The roasted trumpet mushrooms were good but obviously rpoasted in advance and re-heated when ordered. Sauteeing to order would have been a better choice.

During this meal, not one person (including the server) ever asked how it was or if we enjoyed it.

Despite our experience, we forged ahead and ordered dessert. It was described as "blueberry lemon merginue pie." In fact it was a small lemon tart with blueberries on top and a few minature marshmellows that were browned with a torch. And a quenelle of very tart lemon sorbet. It was pretty good.

With the dessert, the server gave us two tiny, very dry, chocolate brownies "compliments of the chef" and the bill ["no hurry"]. She then returned to pick up the check mid-dessert before I had taken out a credit card. I haven't felt so rushed since I last ate at Denny's [whose hash browns, by the way, are far superior to BLT].

Two things are certain: (1) we will never eat at BLT Steak again and (2) someone will post that they ate there and it was the best meal they ever ate. If you go there, I hope your experience will be better. For a $200 meal [before tip], there are very many restaurants in the area that offer better ambiance, better service, and far better food at a comparable price.

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  1. This is one of those experiences that makes one appreciate Morton's or the Prime Rib. You know exactly what to expect and it is almost certain things will meet expectations. Not very exciting, but not disappointing either.

    1. I ate there last night - I liked it. I loved the atmosphere, very young and clean and stylish. I hate the atmosphere at the Palm, so for those of you that like the Palm you probably wouldn't like BLT. We had decent service, but I'll agree with you that no one ever came back to check on us after we got our food and one person in our party had to chase down the waitress so that he could return his steak to have it cooked more.

      I thought the popovers were really nice, and the butter was soft. I didn't know what the stuff was that came with the toasted bread but it had lots of oil on top and it looked awful so I didn't try it.

      My margarita was mostly lime juice, I didn't detect much tequila in it and the glass it came in was extremely small. I switched to wine after that.

      My friend ordered the swordfish, and we were pleased to see that it was a normal human being sized portion. It wasn't dripping in anything either and she said it was excellent.

      The guys ordered a huge steak to share and they liked it. I don't eat beef so I can't say. I had the wedge salad, which was actually three little wedges of iceberg covered with blue cheese and nice big pieces of bacon. The presentation of it was lovely, so much better than getting a giant half a head of iceberg on a plate. I also had the mushroom risotto which was good, but maybe a tad salty. The grilled asparagus was really good - and the asparagus was cut into nice sized pieces.

      About 6 people came over to serve our food to us, and like I said no one ever came back. But I don't like being bothered anyway.

      All in all I really liked it and would choose it over the Palm anyday. Maybe its just that I'm sick of Gigi salads.

      1. You should have read my post from 3/12 on the "BLT Steak" thread. I would link it but I can't figure out how to. That was probably the worst dining experience I've had in DC in years. Either they are remarkably inconsistent, or there is something else behind the few raves I've read.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Pappy

          Pappy's excellent post (link below) is near the bottom.




          1. re: Pappy

            Thanks to both Pappy and Dakota Guy for entertaining, insightful posts that were a pleasure to read.

          2. As a final note: After our unpleasant experience at BLT STeak, I wrote a very polite email to the manager explaining why I was dissatisfied with the service and the food. I never received a reply, not even an acknowledgement. That seems to rather sum up their attitude toward clients.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Dakota Guy

              Welcome to the state of the restaurant attempting to be higher end in DC right now. I've had the same experience with more than one restaurant. One note though: you should print out the e-mail and send it via regular mail. If there's something I've figured out about writing letters about terrible experiences it's that restaurants are more responsive via regular mail than e-mail for some reason.

              1. re: Dakota Guy

                But Washingtonian rated it #53 out of 100. If that doesn't say "mediocre" I don't know what does. For once, I have to agree with Washingtonian.

              2. "This theme of quantity over quality continued. We were given two enormous "signature" popovers. They were too large and by the time you split one, the other was cold."

                if you didn't think they were "quality," why did you want another one? and, if you were so worried about something getting cold (did you want it to be scalding hot?) you should have each taken one and then only eaten the one half of each.

                i dont know, i just dont really understand some of your complaints at all. i went to blt steak a few months ago and had a SUPERB tuna tartare and a quite well prepared steak. its not the best restaurant in the world but some of your complaints are a bit strange.

                6 Replies
                1. re: hungeegirl

                  I think with every restaurant - there are good and bad experiences. I happen to be like hungeegirl and have had positive experiences at BLT. While I will agree the bar area is loud, I do like the wood inside and the lighting. The tuna tartare appetizer, which I have had a numebr of times, has been wonderful. The popovers, despite there size, are also great. I have made them at home using their recipe. The cheese cart is also quite impressive.
                  I had a less than memorable experience at CityZen where I think I should have been seriously wowed - by both service and the food. Disappointing dinner experiences bring me down but in my experience all restaurants have good nights and bad nights.

                  1. re: alexfoodie

                    Sorry for going off topic but alexfoodie, would you be able to post the popover recipe? I went to BLT Prime in NYC and lost the little recipe card I got from there.

                    Also, Dakota Guy, thanks for the review and sorry that it was a bad experience!

                    1. re: gyozagirl

                      Please post recipes on the Home Cooking board: http://www.chowhound.com/boards/31 That way, everyone can enjoy a good home-made popover! Thanks.

                      1. re: gyozagirl

                        I'll see what I can find this weekend and will post, as requested, on the home cooking board. It came on a little piece of paper with them (both of them).

                    2. re: hungeegirl

                      Hunqeegirl I didn't "want" another one. We were given two; we didn't order two.

                      I can't respond to your comment that my "complaints" were "strange" without more specifics. But as I said in my post, as much as we disliked BLT Steak, someone else would write that it was "superb" and "well prepared." We are both right; we just have different tastes and expectations.

                      1. re: Dakota Guy

                        The popovers are complimentary, you don't order them. You get one for each member of the party.

                    3. I would of sent the steak back..you should never have to "saw" your way through a steak..And a filet of all of them

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: BaltimoreBoi15

                        anyone who complains about the ambeince or the volume clearly doesnt get the concept. its a BISTRO. Its not meant to be like Mortons or Prime Rib, that is actually part of its appeal to me and others whom i know enjoy it very much.

                        1. re: elegantelliot

                          Actually, it was the bad food, the bad service, and the bad prices that we "clearly don't get."

                          To each his own.

                          1. re: elegantelliot

                            That's not the issue. It has a sports bar ambiance not a bistro ambiance. I am glad that you enjoy that ambiance; not everyone does and those who do not should be forewarned. The prices, by the way, are not that of a bistro.

                            1. re: Dakota Guy

                              i have had good service and good food everytime i have been there. i cant argue with the prices as they are a little much. i would also hardly call it a sports bar ambience. it has been packed every time i have been there, so clearly they are doing something right.

                              1. re: Dakota Guy

                                It definitely didn't have a sports bar ambiance to me. Have you ever been to a sports bar? What exactly about it makes you think sports bar, or are you just referring to the noise level?

                              2. re: elegantelliot

                                BLT Steak may be many things to many people, but what it definitely is NOT is a bistro. A bistro, whether it is in Paris or in DC, is a small restaurant serving moderately priced simple meals in an unpretentious setting, usually specializing in simple classic French dishes. $92 American wagyu ribeyes, large-screen HDTVs and suede uphostered seating, put it solidly in the DC expense account restaurant category, even if the interior decorator was going for a younger "vibe" than The Palm or Prime Rib. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

                                1. re: crackers

                                  Well, I think you and the owner's will disagree on the definition of "bistro" because the "B" in "BLT" stands for "Bistro." But what else do you expect when chefs put a chicken breast on a bun and call it a "burger?"

                                  1. re: monkeyrotica

                                    Calling it a bistro doesn't make it a bistro. "Factory Laurent Tourondel" wouldn't have played as well with the hip young swells.. btw: "Cheesecake Bistro" wouldn't be a bistro either. Bistro d'Oc is a what comes to mind when I think "bistro" in DC.