When a maître d’ asks how I’d like my steak cooked, I always answer tartare. This usually warrants a laugh or a snarl, because no one likes an off-menu order, especially when it involves making a rare meat mush and folding in delicate herbs. So when I do find a nice tartare on the menu, I rarely (pun intended) pass it up.
After tartaring my way around the District, I have found the best version this city has to offer. It’s The Best Thing on the Menu at Restaurant Nora: Grass Fed Beef Tenderloin Tartare with preserved lemon salad, harissa and lavash crackers. Unlike other local takes on the dish, Restaurant Nora’s tartare is smooth in texture, making it easier to spread on crackers and stack on bites of salad. When steak tartare is as chunky as tuna tartare it can be off-putting. The other factor that makes this appetizer a stunner is the touch of Middle Eastern spices found in a delectable mahogany colored paste.
It’s not surprising that the grass fed cows participating in this dish lived happy lives, given that Restaurant Nora holds the honor of being America’s first organic restaurant in the country (this went down in 1999). The cattle (Scottish Highland or Ancient White Park) hail from Ayrshire Farm in Upperville, VA, where they avoid nasty habits like antibiotics and sitting in pens.
Not a meat monster? Restaurant Nora has one of the more inspired vegetarian options I’ve seen in a while: A Japanese style nabe hot pot filled with shichimi crusted tofu, soba noodles, bok choy, shiitakes and crispy yams. This is precisely what I was eating when Ralph Nader walked by, so hopefully it made a good impression. …
Great news for Nora fans: This month, the restaurant is celebrating their 35th anniversary. Not too many places can say THAT these days! Head in on any Wednesday in March to enjoy a special “retro” 3-course menu for $35. Give them a call for more information.
Beef Tenderloin Tartare not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.