Rural Society: not the best thing for your blood pressure

When skimming the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s list of Restaurant Week participants, Rural Society caught my eye. This Latin steakhouse, located in the Loews Madison, is Jose Garces’ first restaurant in DC. I became a fan of Garces during a trip to Philadelphia a couple of years ago when I tried Amada, his Spanish tapas spot in Old City, and have been meaning to try Rural Society since it opened this past summer. Restaurant Week seemed like a good opportunity, and I made a reservation for four girls. Some people may hate on Restaurant Week, but in my opinion, it can be a good deal if you pick the right restaurants. Rural Society is a relatively expensive restaurant (meats on the wood grill range from $32-$55), so RW seemed like the time to good deal on the food.

We arrived on a Monday night and they seated us in an cozy little nook that looked out to the dining room. When scanning the RW menu, which was separated into four courses, we were confused about how the options were going to work (did we really have to pick between strip loin and mashed potatoes as the third course…..?). The waiter then explained that they would serving the food family style and we would receiving everything on the menu (so eight different dishes in total). Well, no complaints here.

To start, we enthusiastically dug into their bread basket containing foccacia and some kind of delicious cheese ball. The bread is served with chimichurri, red salsa, and a wine-seasoned butter. I inhaled a piece of foccacia slathered in butter as SM recalled the last time she had eaten at Rural Society while on a horrible first date that involved her date chugging four vodka pineapples throughout the course of the meal. Our server then brought out the first dish: fire roasted peppers topped with anchovies along with goat cheese. We ate this with grilled bread, and I happily took care of all the anchovies that SM rejected. The second “first course” was pulpo carpaccio (octopus, sundried tomatoes, toasted malbec chips). The thinly sliced octopus was slightly sweet and tender while the tomatoes and malbec chips gave the dish a slightly tangy flavor.

Next up was the chorizo gaucho: two huge pieces of slightly spicy, grilled traditional Argentine sausages. The meats at Rural Society are grilled in the middle restaurant on an open wood-fired parrilla grill, resulting in a wonderfully smoky flavor. I really enjoyed the chorizo, but it was a little salty and I was guzzling water which was starting to fill me up. Plus I knew that we had another “second course” arriving, as well as the strip loin coming up so I tried to restrain myself from polishing off the last few pieces. Thank goodness I did not come here while on paleo because the fourth dish to grace our nook was one giant slab of dairy and carbs. The fugazza, or traditional flatbread, was served in a large iron skillet and came out of the kitchen onto our table piping hot. It took a lot of self control to wait for this to cool down, and we grabbed a slice as soon as it seemed relatively safe to consume. I would say that in general, anything with a large quantity of melted mozzarella cheese and hot pepper flakes tastes good, and this flatbread was no exception. It was crispy at the bottom, fluffy and doughy in the middle and oozing with cheesy deliciousness at the top.

Then, we made space for the star of the show, the lomo (strip loin), dry aged New York strip. The tantalizing smell and the sizzle of the meat made me a little lightheaded and I started salivating. Then the waiter brought in two large bowls of garlic whipped mashed potatoes, and two plates of grilled mushrooms topped with parsley and truffle. He wished us good luck and left us staring at the mountain of food on the table in front of us. Did they really put their best, most expensive cut of meat on the $35.15 menu? With two sides? I straightened up to allow for more stomach space, and proceeded to pick up my first piece of steak. This bite was one of those close-your-eyes-as-you-swallow experiences (that’swhatshesaid). The flavorful charred crust with  the oh-so-tender meat just melted into my mouth and caused me to quietly utter what I believe is an inappropriate sexual noise. I tried the mashed potatoes next, which were so creamy that S said she wished she could suck it all up with a giant straw. Then I moved onto the mushrooms, which were so fragrant (no such thing as too much truffle) but also, so salty. As we made our way through these three different dishes, we all agreed that while everything was good, the kitchen was quite heavy handed with the salt shaker. By the time dessert arrived (flan), we were stuffed and could only make a small dent into our two plates. This was definitely an indulgent meal in terms of food quantity, salt intake, meat intake, and butter. While I cannot eat like this every day, it was an awesome way to start the work week.

I also want to note that the service here really ramped the experience up another notch.  Our waiter was knowledgeable about food served in the restaurant and perfectly attentive. Other members of the staff checked in on us periodically (which was good because we constantly needed our water glasses refilled) without being overbearing.

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