I have never seen the appeal of high-end steakhouses. Don't get me wrong; I love a great steak and potato dinner. I have just never understood paying an astronomical price for a meal that it fairly easy to replicate at home (sorry!). Sure, you might not have an oven or grill that can sear to the unbelievably high temps that a restaurant can do. But, I would wager that in today's society, many of you do have the necessary equipment (and really, at home...is it necessary for a good meal). Sure, you might not be able to get dry aged thick cut steaks but again, I suspect that many of you can and do (but do you have to for a wonderful meal?). Regardless, steakhouses seem to be gaining in popularity not only within the United States but all over the world. Dear Husband still rants about the best steak that he ever had and it wasn't at one of the standards. It was at a restaurant in Frankfurt, Germany.
It has been nearly four years since I dined at a high-end steakhouse and just last night, Dear Daughter and I were given the opportunity to stop in one of Pittsburgh's best steakhouse chains. It was early and we asked if we could sit in the dark bar at one of the small tables in the corner of the room. I wondered from time to time if someone would break out a cigar. It just looked like that sort of room. I had a fleeting thought to order a martini. Isn't that what you do in the bar of a steakhouse?
The menu was fairly short but listed some interesting possibilities. Steak Tartare was compelling but since I would probably have steak for the main course...well....that is a bit too much beef...even for me. Oysters, crab cocktail, prosciutto and mozzarella salad seemed all too ordinary. Then, there were various salads and of course, the steaks plus the not included side items. Even with the small menu, it was a bit intimidating not only from the price but from the size of the steaks! The smallest steak was the filet at 10 oz and the largest was the porterhouse at 24 oz! Wow!
In the end, DH and I decided to split an appetizer, a steak and a side dish. For the appetizer, we selected the lobster and crab cakes. At one of the more pricier appetizers, I would have appreciated larger crabcakes. Two cakes the size of half dollars appeared along with a tasty corn relish and tarter sauce. Seriously, lobster and crabcakes with tarter sauce...maybe it should have been called a remoulade sauce. I was expecting more. However, in the end, they were quite tasty (if small). When I asked for a glass of Chardonnay to accompany the dish, our waiter explained that he had three Chardonnays by the glass...an unoaked, a slightly oaked and a heavily oaked. Ok, I know about unoaked and oaked Chardonnays but I had never heard of slightly and heavily. I went with the heavily. As the waiter turned away, he told me, "Now you can tell your husband that you bought a Ferrari." The wine was a Ferrari and was wonderful...and pricey! Ouch.
For our main, we shared a 14oz dry aged NY Strip au Poivre with Courvoisier Cream and Parmesan Truffle Fries. They did a wonderful job of plating the steak onto two plates. We ordered the steak medium rare and both commented on how precisely it was cooked. The "au Poivre" was a bit overpowering even though it is supposed to be. The fries were devine. Having lived in Belgium, we love frites...and these were amazing. That being said, even with sharing, we brought home 1/3 of the steak and nearly half the fries. The Argentinian Malbec that I requested complemented the dish well and was more suitably priced.
So what is the verdict? In our case, our food costs were $77 and frankly, while that served two in the restaurant, we still had enough for a third meal at home. Wine was expensive but wine always is expensive (and really, it is embarrassing to tell you how much two glasses of wine cost there). We enjoyed the atmosphere and we could have a normal conversation. So many places today almost require yelling across the table.
But in the end, if I am going to have steak, I will just have it at home. We can whip up a small creative appetizer such as salmon tartare or seared tuna over arugula and serve it with a Spanish Cava. Dear Daughter can make her amazing potatoes au gratin and we can grill any cut of meat we desire. Perhaps we will grab a bottle of red from our European stash or try something new. In the end, it will be an extremely satisfying meal.
Now, what I would do is visit the steakhouse for lunch. At $18, you can have one of three appetizers followed by a choice of Steak Frites, or Mini Tenderloin Sandwiches with the wonderful Parmesan Truffle Fries, or a Lobster Roll with Chips. Now that is a bargain even with the Ferrari!
So why were we downtown on a school night anyway? Well after being on the waiting list for Pittsburgh Penguin Hockey Tickets for nearly a decade, we finally came up on the list this year. Last night, DH and I were in attendance for the season opener. Great fun and great memories! It is always fun to do something different on a school night!