Celebrity chef and James Beard Award-winner Jose Garces entered the gluttonous glory of the current D.C. restaurant scene July 3 with Rural Society (1177 15th St. NW), an Argentine steakhouse anchored at the Loews Madison Hotel.
Inspired by the traditional parrilla -- fire -- cuisine of South America, as well as Argentina's annual agricultural and livestock show La Exposicion Rural, Garces combines the bristling, flame-inspired food with the refined yet rugged style of the gauchos -- South American cowboys.
"I've always had the urge to explore Argentine cuisine, particularly the parrilla aspect that's so ingrained in the culture," Garces said. "We want the fire to be a presence, the way it was during so many of our experiences during our trip to Argentina. We're going to cook as much as we can over that flame."
The flame Garces refers to at Rural Society is the wood-fired parrilla grill and pizza oven at the heart of the restaurant, producing Desde la Parrilla: grass-fed Uruguayan rib-eye, prime dry-aged New York strip, Jidori free-range chicken and jumbo cardinal prawns all cooked over the flame.
House-made accompaniments for these top quality cuts of domestic and imported meat and fish include salsa criolla, merken aioli and chimichurri.
Verduras (vegetables) are flame-fresh and include zanahorias: wood-grilled carrots with thyme, fennel seed and whipped goat cheese.
For those who are adverse to meat, fish or vegetables, Garces has added an Italian element to the menu to celebrate the blend of Argentinian and Italian cultures that is prevalent in Buenos Aires due to a wave of Italian immigrants in the 19th century.
Housemade pastas such as the Sorrentino (ham and cheese ravioli tossed in Parmesan cream) and Fugazza (thick crust pizzas) are certainly alternatives.
Specialty cocktails will incorporate locally popular ingredients such as the bitterly aromatic Fernet Branca, as well as a South American beer selection that includes Quilmes (from Argentina), Pacena (from Bolivia) and Xingu (from Brazil). Try them out at the daily happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m.