Sign In or Register here


Old Hickory: Gaylord National's Angus-fed Addition

Jordan Wright
By Jordan Wright
Posted on Mar 17,2009
Filed Under Food And Wine , Local Tastes,
Share  


LET'S TALK STEAKS: Grain-fed Mid-Western premium
Black Angus beef to be specific. They will prepare it to your
liking with six different degrees of done-ness to choose from
and the option of toppings like Maine Lobster Tail, seared foie gras
or lump crabmeat with asparagus and Bearnaise sauce.

Full disclosure:  Steakhouses are not high on my list for fine dining.

The truth is I was not overly optimistic about my upcoming evening at Old Hickory Steakhouse. I was expecting the hackneyed décor of a typical hotel steakhouse…clubby dark wood-paneled walls with pool table green felt and faux leather-bound books.

Instead I found stunning and elegantly decorated Georgian-styled rooms with dark marine blue walls set against white columns and intricate architectural trim, which give a Charleston row house feel writ large.

Mercury glass balls hang from bronzed chandeliers, reflecting the posh rooms, silk-shaded candlestick lights pour an amber glow onto the tables, and lightly patterned tapestry window treatments frame the spectacular views of the Potomac River.

Though I had visited and enjoyed National Harbor on numerous occasions last summer, sipping frosty drinks at the Gaylord National Resort’s pool bar on a steamy hot afternoon, whiling away a few hours at the piano bar on the concourse, brunching with my agent at the Italian buffet in the atrium and attending an art opening at the visionary Art Whino Gallery along the boulevard, I was surprised to discover this chic spot.

GLISTENING TARTARES OF AHI: The Tartare Appetizer
at Old Hickory. A glistening tartare of Ahi tuna, dressed with black
truffle ginger vinaigrette is topped with Sevruga caviar and a gently
poached quail egg. Look for the truffles to appear in French fries and
the penultimate side dish “mac and cheese”.

Entering the restaurant one pauses by a pretty fireplace in an intimate lounge, set with chairs and coffee table for relaxing. Further along a well-lit sleek bar transports you into the spacious dining room, where tables are placed far apart and floor-to-ceiling walls of glass reveal the river below.

From my table I saw Old Town Alexandria as never before, an osprey’s-eye view of the lovely lights of National Harbor’s riparian coastline and the new Wilson Bridge, looking so very cosmopolitan with its arched lights trimming the span. Passenger ferries ply the waters from National Harbor to Old Town and back. The mood is set.

The in-house baked breads arrive with Vermont butter and a lighter-than-air spread of crème fraiche, Armagnac and chives. I could have applauded on the spot and dinner hadn’t yet begun.

To start your meal the restaurant suggests you choose from their extensive selection of dozens of small-batched artisanal cheeses from around the world. For me the cheese course is best enjoyed after the salad course which should naturally follow the entree. It would have to wait.

Let’s talk steaks…grain-fed Mid-Western premium Black Angus beef to be specific.

START WITH CHEESE: The Cheese Selection at Old Hickory.
To start your meal the restaurant suggests you choose from their
extensive selection of dozens of small-batched artisanal cheeses
from around the world.

They will prepare it to your liking with six different degrees of done-ness to choose from and the option of toppings like, Maine Lobster Tail, seared foie gras or lump crabmeat with asparagus and Bearnaise sauce. From a list of sauces, like green peppercorn and bleu cheese, my dinner partner decided on a Bordelaise sauce with a bone-in rib-eye steak. The pairing was stellar.

Executive Chef Wolfgang Birk’s experience ranges from a Michelin-rated three-star restaurant in Cologne, Germany to a five-star rated resort in The Grenadines with stints at Miami’s five-star, five-diamond Casa Casuarina, whose swank digs were the former Tuscan-styled villa of Gianni Versace.

Nominations for Food and Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chefs” and a James Beard Foundation certificate of recognition attest to his culinary achievements, and time spent at Manhattan’s Four Seasons Restaurant show Birk’s confident and creative hand in the kitchen.

A glistening tartare of Ahi tuna, dressed with black truffle ginger vinaigrette is topped with Sevruga caviar and a gently poached quail egg. Look for the truffles to appear in French fries and the penultimate side dish “mac and cheese”.

THE FEEL OF A CHARLESTON ROW HOUSE: Here you'll find
stunning and elegantly decorated Georgian-styled rooms with dark
marine blue walls set against white columns and intricate architectural
trim, which give a Charleston row house feel writ large.

Scottish salmon with its delicious pepper-crust comes with a sauce of chanterelles and cremini mushrooms topped with crispy fried leeks, but, alas, was disappointingly overdone.

When I queried our waiter, he acknowledged that the kitchen has had to change their properly underdone preparation to accommodate the local diners who thought it was “not cooked enough.” When you order make sure to request it rare or pink inside. They are delighted to oblige.

Seared sea scallops, succulent in an aromatic fennel sauce atop butternut squash risotto, up the ante on the steaks, and savory side dishes, such as roasted asparagus, caramelized root vegetables and seasonal wild mushrooms are perfect for sharing.
The eagerly anticipated cheese course arrives from “Maitre d’Fromage,” Carolyn Stromberg. She rolls her heavily laden cheese cart beside your table to help you make your selections.

Carolyn knows the country of origin and style of each type of cheese on the extensive menu and is generous with her knowledge. When not on the cart, her wares are kept in a glass-fronted climate-controlled cheese “cave”, where the cheeses are aged on the premises, and which guests can view on their stroll into the dining room. Diners also pass a cedar-lined humidor.

With so many offerings I finally decide on an aged Gouda, with its caramelized cheese crystals, “La Peral”, a mild, creamy melt-in-the-mouth veiny Asturian blue from Spain, and a sheep’s milk “Lord of the Hundreds”, an English cheese similar to Pecorino. A quince paste and fig preserves are but two of the accompaniments I sampled.

Service here is top-drawer. Our waiter, having been recruited from Larry Forgione’s An American Place Restaurant in New York City, expertly paired our dinner and cheese course from a selection of over 130 international wines and asked after every course if we had enjoyed it.
With no appetite left for any of the luscious-looking desserts, we retired onto the brick-walled cigar terrace just off the dining room. It features a pergola, teak lounge chairs and a huge fireplace for cool nights, perfect for sipping your after-dinner cordial…very upscale and a touch temptingly decadent, like the evening itself.

E-mail the writer at Jordan.Wright@comcast.net.

If you go… (and I highly recommend it)
Old Hickory Steakhouse
Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center
201 Waterfront Street
National Harbor, MD
(301) 965-4000 for reservations



Loading Loading..


Shopping and Services Guide


Exclusive deals from the best locals!

Browse our highlighted partners
Spas, retailers, restaurants and…
so much more.