Donald Trump serves the best food in Washington. The residents of DC won’t say so, but it’s true. America’s capital has a lively food scene, with many excellent restaurants. None is better than the two that are in the soon-to-be-sold Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue: Sushi Nakazawa and BLT Prime by David Burke.
Burke’s joint is absolutely my kind of place. It’s in the hotel lobby. The building used to be a post office before the Trump family converted it. The enormous glass-roofed lobby area is a marvel: put politics to one side and admit that it is an extraordinary achievement. DC snobs sniff at the garish presidential blue chairs, the elaborate marble and the glossy wood paneling. But if the Obama family launched exactly the same hotel, the same people would fall over themselves to say how beautiful it was. Who cares about taste anyway? A stay at the Trump hotel offers something better: a strangely old-fashioned, 1980s sense of fun.
The most amusing part, for me, was having lunch with Burke himself in his restaurant. Born in Brooklyn, raised in New Jersey, Burke is today a famous reality-TV chef and a legend of the New York food scene. He’s completely unpretentious. He was given the chance to open a restaurant in Trump’s DC hotel because another business dropped out, fearing association with the President’s brand. David had no such misgivings. He’s known Trump since his good ol’ Real Estate Mogul days. He likes the guy.
David regales me with Trump anecdotes. On a recent visit, the US President wanted a different steak to his usual, though still well done, which is how he likes it. But then he sent it back. David was in that night, ‘and I knows the guy, so I go up and I say, “Mr President” — you have to say that — “what’s the problem?”’ Trump said he wasn’t sure about the meat. After some awkward back and forth, Trump ate the food. David was perturbed, then as he left that night one of the hotel managers passed on a message: ‘Hey, President Trump says, “Tell David I’m just busting his balls!”’ What japes. It sounds like Goodfellas without the ultraviolence.
David treated me to a proper feast. We began with ‘clothesline candied bacon’, so-called because you clip it off actual clothes pegs. Then we had a lobster bisque, followed by some outrageously good medium-rare (sorry, Donald) porterhouse steak. It came with a lovely, large fluffy popover — what Brits like me call Yorkshire pudding.
For actual pudding, we had cheesecake lollipops. I ate three and nearly passed out with joy.
This article is in The Spectator’s February 2020 US edition.