Iron Chef Jose Garces’ first D.C. project, Argentinian steakhouse Rural Society, brings gold-medal refinement to flavors of the land of silver. Not afraid to get ‘Messi,’ this new eatery has shot its way up the District’s culinary field with juicy, wood-grilled meats and bold flavors that are far from second place.
The wait staff stayed true to the Argentine spirit, embracing my fashionably late appearance and seating me right away. The server was friendly and engaging, making an effort to initiate conversation, and was eager to provide much-needed suggestions about the menu.
The dim lighting and calm ambience of the restaurant resembled a meditation classroom, except nirvana comes in the form of a steak cooked to a perfect medium-rare. Many small tables populate the restaurant, orbiting an enormous wood-fired grill that serves as the focal point of Rural Society’s decor. An odd dividing wall filled with logs splits the large space into smaller dining rooms, making me feel like I was intruding on an elaborate Paul Bunyan fantasy. The crowd, however, left their red-checkered flannel at home. Consisting of D.C. yuppies and socialites, and well-dressed families, the high society customer base was anything but rural.
My server suggested the Picada as an appetizer, which consisted of three different meats. Owing its name to the verb picar—to nibble—this Argentine, tapas-style starter was the perfect dish to pick at while I waited for my main course. The cold cuts paid homage to Italian influences in Argentinian cuisine, reminding me of Italian prosciutto and salami. Paired with the meats was a delicious dip which had a slight sweetness that perfectly complemented the saltiness of the meats.
For my main course, I ordered double-cut lamb chops with wood roasted carrots and garlic-whipped potatoes. Despite the small portion sizes of the lamb chops and the sides, they packed walloping flavor. The lamb chops were a study in the art of roasting, succulent with fall-off-the-bone tenderness, validating the steakhouse experience and bringing me toward the carnivorous nirvana hinted at by the decor. The cider-glazed carrots turned out to be the highlight of the meal. If it weren’t for the fennel and goat cheese that covered the dish, I would have been convinced that I was eating candy.
Rural Society is not the the kind of place where you and your roommates can chow before a Friday night out. That said, if you need to be spoiled, this smoky Argentine steakhouse will certainly lift you above the inevitable Leo’s blues.
1177 15th St., N.W.
11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.