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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Mon–Thu 11:30am–11:00pm
Fri 11:30am–midnight
Sat 1:00pm–midnight
Sun 5:00pm–10:00pm

Features Date-friendly, outdoor dining
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


1112 19th St. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 466-1100
Smith & Wollensky
Splurge on a midnight dry-aged meat mass

None of the latest branches of Smith & Wollensky boast the nostalgic patina of the Midtown Manhattan branch, which dates back to 1977.

That one alone has the distinct air of an old, top-end steakhouse, but the entire chain generally delivers a decent-to-good dry-aged Prime steak at high cost and circumstance. The environment, you might say, is refined but hardly exclusive; some touches are amusing (vintage clocks and copper-shaded lamps), others more Disneyish (plaques bearing names of wealthy patrons above a sort of marble frieze). When it’s empty, though, it really feels empty.

Even if the out-of-the-oven pan of bread that comes out in advance of your meal is a cheap trick, it’s a good cheap trick. It’s cooked in a bath of butter, rendering it more tart than bread, and it’s intentionally slightly undercooked and doughy—a good call. Add in the delightfully soft tub of butter and dare to see how much fat you can possibly ingest in one bite. The “Wollensky Salad” is less impressive, done with boring Romaine, an aggressive slab of bacon, mushrooms, and out-of-place potato cubes that get cold and gross in about four seconds. A nicely balanced Dijon vinaigrette lacks the acidic bite of a French vinaigrette but, refreshingly, doesn’t overemphasize the mustard.

The dry-aged Prime steaks are beyond reproach. These are well-marbled, well-prepared pieces of meat—even the filet mignon (which can so often be a disaster). On the plate, they’re absolutely drowned in butter—another good cheap trick—and can (should, actually) be accompanied by a dreamily textured creamed spinach. The pricey wine list is heavy in California Cabs, and glasses often come from bottles that have been open too long—there’s no excuse for this at a top steakhouse.

Desserts are marginally acceptable. Cheesecake is competent, though with a lower graham-cracker-crust-to-cream-cheese ratio than we favor. Whipped cream is a granular farce, and strawberries and blackberries are underripe and no fun. Houston should expect better dessert than this. Come for the steak, though, and it’s hard to go wrong.

What really shocks us is the fact that, for half the week, they actually serve the full menu until 1am. There is certainly nowhere else in Houston to get a dry-aged steak after midnight, and for that, Smith & Wollensky deserves a hearty salute.

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