Restaurant review: Lost Society lost me

July 19, 2011

Lost Society is great for drinks and a view but doesn’t distinguish itself in terms of cuisine.

Courtesy of Lost Society

Located in the long-unoccupied building at the corner of 14th and U Street NW, this new steakhouse wants to put its own creative twist on the traditional steakhouse.  At least that’s how I see it.  First, it hired former Smith & Wollensky executive chef, Joseph Evans, as its own executive chef.  Second, its decor and playful specialty cocktail menu create a vibe that is fun and funky — two words you don’t usually use to describe the Smith & Wollenskys of the world.  While it seems to have successfully created a place where I’d like to grab a drink, the food doesn’t excite me.  In fact, that air of whimsy I hinted at two sentences ago doesn’t seem to apply to the menu, which very much resembles that of a traditional steakhouse.  Last but not least, the restaurant seems to be working out some kinks at the front of the house as well as back in the kitchen.  I have confidence that these kinks will work themselves out over time.  After all, Lost Society has only been open a short time.

Lost Society’s unmarked entrance on 14th Street is one of the several whimsical touches meant to play out its “Lost Society” theme, including several booths equipped with privacy curtains, purple couches tucked away in one corner of the second floor’s main dining room, and chandeliers that are reminiscent of a time long gone.  Tip for finding the entrance to the building: Look for the gentleman dressed in the staff’s signature black uniform to open the door for you and reassure you that you’re in the right place.  Thank you, sir, for not making fun of the confused look on my face as I walked up.

I dined at Lost Society twice last week.  On a weeknight, I sat at the bar at the center of the main dining room.  I returned Saturday night for a proper dinner at a table on the rooftop deck.  On the weeknight, I found the hostess to be exceptionally friendly and accommodating.  When I walked in without a reservation on a fully booked evening and in search of my friend, she did not give me the look of disgust mixed with pity and a dash of condescension that some front desk staff have given me under similar circumstances.   On Saturday night, armed with a reservation, I found the ladies at the hostess stand seemed to be a bit disorganized and frazzled in terms of attending to multiple parties checking in for dinner within seconds of each other.  One of the ladies also made a snide remark when I requested a table on the rooftop.

My friend and I sampled two of the seafood options earlier in the week.  He ordered the mackerel and a side of the mac and cheese.  I ordered the grilled shrimp with wild rice risotto and creamed corn.  Our dishes were cooked just fine, but the mac and cheese and the risotto were appallingly bland.  Both dishes were in desperate need of salt.  The creamed corn, on the other hand, bordered on being too salty.  Now, as far culinary no-no’s go, under-seasoning is better than over-seasoning because you can easily add salt but it’s pretty hard to remove it.  Yet, I felt like we were breaking a cardinal culinary rule when my friend and I fought over the salt shaker.  (That is, most chefs would be mortified if they knew you were adding salt — or anything else for that matter — to their dishes).

When I returned on Saturday, another friend accompanied me.  This time we went full carnivore and sat on the rooftop.   I ordered the filet mignon, which was finished with a dollop of compound butter.   My friend ordered the bone-in strip topped with a blue cheese sauce and served over a mushroom and wine-based sauce.  We shared the mac and cheese, roasted mushrooms, and the creamed corn.  (The corn comes with all steak orders).  This time the mac and cheese was a bit more seasoned than the version I’d sampled earlier in the week.  However, it had another problem.  It was soupy.  My steak was cooked perfectly including an extra crispy crust — just like I like it.  My friend liked his meal, but he had one complaint regarding the pairing of the blue cheese and mushroom sauces.  He thought the dish would have been improved if the blue cheese had been incorporated into the mushroom sauce as opposed to being served as a separate sauce.  I didn’t taste his steak, but I’m happy to pass on his suggestion.

Courtesy of Lost Society

Drinks on the third-floor rooftop and adjoining indoor lounge are a beautiful thing.  That’s where I’ll be.  I mean it is my duty as a blogger to sample each of the specialty cocktail drinks and report back. Yes?

Lost Society on Urbanspoon

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