Story by Matt Ross and Photos by Lauren DeSantis
Jakob Esko, executive chef of The Grill Room, the sleek dining room in the Capella Hotel in Georgetown right on the C and O Canal, has created a prix fixe holiday menu for Christmas and New Year’s regardless of whether you’ve been naughty or nice. We got to taste the opulent New Year’s menu at lunch, and it may be one of the best we’ve ever had.
To start, we enjoyed grilled tuna, smoky and smooth with charcoal aioli, served medium rare on a sliver of grilled baguette and topped with a soupçon of herbed crème fraiche.
This was followed by robust and meaty “Sweet Jesus” oysters from Hollywood, Pennsylvania made festive with lush raspberry foam. This sweet and lightly briny treat was chased perfectly by one of The Grill Room’s sparkling selections from their Taittinger trolley.
After the passed hors d’oeuvres and bubbly, we sat down in the private dining room on plush violet velvet and were treated to bone marrow with bread crumbs – delicious and decadent – served with a round sourdough loaf.
We then had the opportunity to view and taste one of the most impressive mise-en-place presentations in recent memory – fresh California sea urchin with crab salad.
The whole sea urchin was cut open and the meat was topped with lime pearls injected with brine, sturgeon caviar and pea shoots.
All of this was laid atop creamy garlicky crab salad with a hint of cayenne and served in the bottom half of the spiky sea urchin shell. The smoothness of the urchin paired with the light brininess of the caviar and the rich and creamy crab salad made for one of the most delicious and unique shellfish dishes in DC.
The urchin was succeeded by lobster salad with porcini mushroom risotto and crispy veal sweetbread. Tender, creamy and perfectly cooked, the firm but soft risotto benefitted from depth and richness from the porcini, wine and sweetbread and paired nicely with our California Chardonnay.
On then to the main event: Wagyu tenderloin with marrow and parsley sauce, oxtail stew, black mushroom paste and flash fried celeriac. Mated with a 2011 Joel Gott Cabernet, it made for a delectable main. Our well-massaged filet was perfectly cooked. It was almost like sashimi – flavorful, meaty and tender and melted in your mouth. Well worth a splurge.
For a sweet finish, Chef Jakob presented one of The Grill Room’s signature dishes: Baked Alaska. Ours was layered with green apple sorbet, vanilla ice cream infused with cinnamon, nutmeg, and Christmas spices, and embraced by meringue. The entire sweet loaf is then baked and torched to achieve its smoky, sun-kissed appearance. And unlike the urchin, these spikes are meant to be enjoyed.
So, if you haven’t yet decided what to do for a special and memorable Christmas dinner or a New Year’s celebration, consider one of the elegant all-inclusive menus at The Grill Room.