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Sunday
Mar302014

#32 Bourbon Steak - Glendale

Rating: 3.75 cows

 

The talented chef Michael Mina was set to open his signature steakhouse right here in Los Angeles. Yeah, we were pretty happy about that. Trying to make a reservation for a restaurant that has yet to open and one that doesn’t have a website or any other publicly available contact information became a rather difficult undertaking. But after some failed attempts and false leads, we were able to secure a spot during Bourbon’s opening weekend.

Wanting to break out his Justin Isosceles Reserve, Rick decided to called to learn they have a reasonable $25 corkage fee. We were set and ready to go.

The restaurant is located on an outside corner of the Americana at Brand, a very pretentious name for what is nothing more than an outdoor shopping center with a trolley and a fountain. Inside, the atmosphere is busy but not too bright. There’s an outdoor patio and a decent-sized bar with a very healthy bourbon menu. The bartenders were hit and miss, at one point mixing a delicious Basil Hayden Old Fashioned, an adequate Angel’s Envy Manhattan, and a rather disappointing Four Roses single barrel on the rocks, which sat for far, far too long before being served. But they were new and relatively busy, and so for that we can give them a pass. And although bourbon is in the name, it’s not why we made the reservation

There were 13 of us dining together in the semi-private room at the back of the restaurant. It was nice and sectioned off from the rest of the diners but not so cut off that you didn’t get the feel of being part of the restaurant. Upon discussing our wine with the sommelier, we were informed that the corkage would be $20 per bottle (yay!) for the first two bottles, and $40 for the next two bottles (boo!) and that the limit was 4 bottles (double boo!). Normally this is probably not such a bad deal, but for a group of 13, it’s not hard to go through 4-5 bottles or more. They also restrict BYOB to bottles that they don’t carry themselves, which is not unusual, but it also wasn’t mentioned to us when we first inquired. All in all, the communication was poor and not up to the standards we were expecting.

Before our steaks arrived, a few of us partook of the Bourbon Flight, where a cart is brought by with various bourbons to taste, after each is smoked in a glass that’s been torched with a particular herb or spice which enhances the flavor of the bourbon. It’s a bit of a gimmick, but the bourbons were delicious, and it was a unique way to taste them. The different aromas were not insignificant and complemented the bourbon quite nicely.

They started us out with some complimentary duck fat fries, which were delicious. There were three types of fries matched with three types of sauces, but this wasn’t explained very well so we just polished them off. Also complimentary was a homemade cinnamon roll that was just the right amount of sweet.

The side dishes were par for the course. We ordered the potato puree, mac and cheese, creamed spinach, and the mushroom risotto. We sound like a broken record saying this, but everything was good; nothing was great.

To add some greenery we had the beet, wedge, kale, and Caesar salads. They were well-made, but once again nothing here stood out exceptionally. The Caesar had a healthy component of anchovies but seemed to be more about presentation than taste. We also tried the lobster corn dogs which were unusually good and among the best non-bovine food we had.

Bourbon has a healthy menu of meat, escalating from the rather pedestrian Black Angus at $40 up to the Japanese Wagyu at $32/oz. Between our group we tried the American Wagyu Ribeye, the Prime NY Strip, and the Filet. While all were good, the American Wagyu was head and shoulders above the rest. It had the superior cut and was cooked pretty much just to our likings. The New York was tasty and well-seasoned, but decidedly overcooked and thus drier than we would have liked. Not quite as bad as the Filet however, which came out well done when it was ordered as a rare-plus. That was sent back and returned as a medium-medium well, but the quality of the meat and the seasoning made it more than edible.

There’s no questioning the quality of the steaks at Bourbon, and we certainly gave them a challenge with a party of 13 less than 5 days after they’ve opened. But at the same time, when you’re charging these prices, there’s an expectation of quality that was lacking just a bit here. It seemed that there were the “right” and the “not-so-right” when it came to what to order, and that should never be the case at a place of this caliber.

We finished off the meal with a number of desserts, among them a root beer float which was exceptional, although all of the desserts were very delicious.

In summary, Bourbon steak does make a pretty mean steak, though our experience certainly left some more to be desired. It’s likely that our double whammy of a large group dining on opening weekend had a significant impact on our overall experience, but it’s impossible to tell without a follow-up visit. If you dine here, don’t waste your time with anything but the American Wagyu, or the Japanese Wagyu if you can afford it. The others are certainly good, but trust us—it’s worth the extra few bucks. Your wallet won’t mind and your stomach will thank you.

Bourbon Steak Photos

Tuesday
Dec102013

#31 George Petrelli's - Culver City

Rating: 3.5 cows

 

Nestled in the heart of south Culver City right next to a Del Taco is the famous yet seemingly unknown George Petrelli Steakhouse. Owned by the Petrelli family since 1931, this landmark has a loyal following of satisfied patrons. Unlike some of the other historic places we've been, it's clear that Petrelli's has been updated over the years. The interior is reminiscent of a hotel restaurant. High-backed booths fill out the dining area, the walls are off-white and the carpet is dark. The bar is adequately stocked and the tender will make you what you want but this is not a place to indulge in cocktail exploration. Stick to the basics and you'll do fine.

Petrelli's prides itself on offering high quality steaks at "family prices". Indeed your wallet will thank you after a visit here, steaks range from about $30-40 and all include a salad, soup, bread, potato, and veggies. Suffice it to say you won't leave here hungry. Among the 4 of us we ordered the NY Strip, the extra big Porterhouse, and the Cowboy bone-in Rib Eye. We all started with the Ceasar salad, which while certainly not in the upper echelon of salads, was more than adequate and would prove to be an early indication of what was to come.

The steaks were generously portioned and came with sauteed vegetables and potato (we all ordered the baked potato). Normally at a mid-range establishment, our experience has found the steaks to be overcooked, if slightly. Not the case at Petrelli's. We all ordered medium-rare, and every one arrived closer to rare than medium. This was a pleasant surprise, since there's just no excuse for an overcooked piece of meat. It would have been nice if the steaks were a bit hotter; while they were cooked just as we liked, they were without the nice char that you get from a really nice searing. So they don't grill their steaks in an 1800 broiler like Peter Luger's, but they were very good, surprisingly so. The baked potato was served piping hot (hotter than the steak) and our server personally topped each potato with our chosen mix of fat and cholestorol. The vegetables were flavored but overcooked and unremarkable.

Another nice surprise at Petrelli's was the hot fudge sundae on the dessert menu. Perhaps the most classic dessert, this gem is not often on the steakhouse menu. We jumped all over this one, and soon after regretted our choice to do so. The fudge was sitting in a pool around the base of the ice cream instead of being poured on top, the ice cream had freezer burn, and they charged $0.50 extra for a tablespoon of peanuts sprinkled on top. Not exactly the experience we hoped for.

But thankfully for Petrelli's, the sundae was but a sidenote. The steaks were good and priced well. Of all the historic Steakhouses we've been so far, George Petrelli's is one of the best if not the best. We were a little disappointed that the decor wasn't original but we can't really blame them for updating their look over the years. And in terms of a budget steakhouse, you'd really be hard-pressed to do much better than Petrelli's. We would certainly eat there again.

George Petrelli Photos

Tuesday
Oct012013

#30 The Capital Grille - West Hollywood

Rating: 4.25 cows

 

Attached to one of Los Angeles' more monolithic shopping malls is the location of Steakout XXX: The Capital Grille. The interior is befitting of an upscale steakhouse with a dark, yet comfortable bar area and personalized wine cubbies for those who just can't afford to store their Veuve Clicquot at home. The dining area is a bit brighter, with white tablecloths and visibility into a part of the kitchen on one side.

We arrived on a Tuesday night with a smaller party than usual — just four of us — and the place was modestly occupied. The service was quite good, with a single knowledgeable waiter attending to us. We began with the Caesar salad and a spinach green salad. The Caesar was excellent, with a tangy homemade dressing complimenting the fresh lettuce, cheese shavings and croutons. The spinach salad was also tasty, though it arrived with ample mushrooms which were not on the description. It was sent back and the replacement was much improved.

We each ordered a different steak: the Delmonico Rib Eye, Filet, Porterhouse, and the Wagyu Filet. All steaks were cooked expertly and plated while still hot. Let's get right down to it though: the Wagyu was in a world unto itself, with uncompromising flavor and texture. It was easily the star of the night, especially with its price compared to similar offerings at CUT, Mastro's, or Larsen's. The Rib Eye (bone-in) showed exceptional marbling and was cooked to perfection, juicy and with lots of flavor. Both the traditional filet and the porterhouse were also excellent.

The side dishes were all good, but as usual there was nothing spectacular. Standards like truffle fries, creamed corn (with bacon, naturally), and sautéed spinach were all pretty much what you'd expect. The scalloped potatoes were done a bit differently with a crumble on top, but otherwise it's your typical dish.

For dessert we were craving some ice cream and chocolate, and asked our waiter if we could order a hot fudge sundae even though it wasn't on the menu. He returned to tell us they did not have any fudge, but they were able to put together a respectable showing (though the off-menu sundae ordered from Larsen's remains our favorite).

During our meal we asked our waiter if we would be able to visit the area where the steaks are aged. At first we were told we wouldn't be able to view the aging room, but that we might be able to see the kitchen. By the time we had finished our food it was late and most of the guests had left, and we were allowed behind the curtain to meet chef Brent Jaeger and get a tour of his domain. Lots of delicious steaks-to-be were stored under refrigeration, waiting 21-28 days for their time to be cut, cooked, and served. No photos allowed, but you can take our word for it that these guys know how to prepare their meat.

Overall, The Capital Grille delivered a great experience with some very worthy cuts of steak. It's not going to be an inexpensive meal when you dine there, but that is often the case with great food. And if you've still yet to try your first Wagyu-style steak, this is probably the best deal you're going to find anywhere. Bon appetit!

Capital Grille Photos

 

Monday
Aug192013

#29 Billingsley's - West LA

Rating: 2.5 cows

 

Established in 1946, Billingsley’s is a West Los Angeles steak house with a décor and atmosphere exactly as you’d expect from a restaurant of that era. If you’re thinking Musso & Frank’s or The Buggy Whip, you’re in the right frame of reference. At the entrance hangs a signed picture of Barbara Billingsley of “Leave it to Beaver” fame as her sons were the ones who started in the restaurant business in nearby Van Nuys before opening this location.

The setting is old but comfortable and the service friendly and prompt. The clientele: mostly older, mostly regulars. We thought a place with as rich history as Billingsley's would be busier, but the place was rather empty. There’s a bar area where you can grab a very inexpensive drink and watch the game. The drinks won’t be the most amazing but for the price, they're certainly decent.

A glance at the food menu shows that there’s plenty of cuts to choose from, all modestly priced. Most everything is about $30 and that includes a soup or salad, side dish, and garlic cheese toast. As usual we ordered a number of different steaks including the New York, Filet Mignon, and the Porterhouse. All cuts were cooked exactly to order (medium rare) but severely lacked any distinguishable flavor. For an additional $1.95 you can add a bleu cheese crumble or other sauce, but none of us took this option. If this is the only way to get a decent flavor on a steak, perhaps the server should have let us know. We tend to not recommend returning to locations where steak sauce is necessary.

The side dishes were not spectacular, about average or maybe below that depending on what you order. For the same price, North Woods gives you a colossal sized baked potato and unlimited (and much tastier) garlic cheese toast. One of the more disappointing aspects of the meal aside from the flavorless steak, was the Caesar salad. The dressing is clearly bottled and wasn’t even tossed into the salad. The croutons were easily the best part of the salad, which is saying something. Those who chose the split pea soup fared a little better.

When all is said and done and you need a steak to fill your empty stomach, Billingsley’s can do it for not too much money, but the question of flavor comes to mind and there are quite a handful of places that can provide that for the same price. Billingsley’s seems like a place that is resisting change in order to satisfy their older loyal customers, but what it’s clearly not doing is winning over the younger “foodie” generation. With so many choices out there, Billingsley’s needs to try a little harder… especially with their steak. And that Caesar salad.

Billingsley's Photos

Thursday
May232013

#28 The Palm - Downtown

Rating: 4 cows

 

The Palm is a fairly large national (plus London) chain restaurant specializing in steak. Sitting at the higher end, The Palm competes with the likes of Morton's in the upscale steakhouse category. Los Angeles has two franchises, one in West Hollywood and the other in Downtown. For Steakout XXVIII we dined at the Downtown location.

This was the first time any of us had been to a Palm Restaurant before. The ambiance is reminiscent of early 20th Century restaurants; the kind where you'd probably wear a suit and a bowler. But of course times have changed, and it was no surprise that the bar was packed with patrons wearing LA Kings jerseys in anticipation of the Western Conference Semifinal game being played just a few hundred yards away at the nearby Staples Center.

The dining area at The Palm is large, and with 20-ft ceilings the room feels even larger. Caricatures of celebrities adorn the walls up and down and the place is bright and airy with tile floors and white tablecloths.

Service by the waiters was adequate and perfectly respectable, but it was not a highlight of the evening. But that's ok, because that's not why we were there. We ordered a mix of filet, NY, and rib eye. Both of the filets were cooked to perfection, though they were a bit drier than we'd like. The New York was certainly above average, but not as flavorful as we would have liked, and it was fattier than it needed to be. The bone-in rib eye was especially delicious, exceeding our expectations in both cut, cooking, and flavor. It was also a healthy size at 24 oz and provided some leftovers for another day.

While the steaks were certainly above average, the side dishes were certainly more modest. We ordered the spinach and the au gratin potatoes along with the "half-and-half' which was a french fry/onion rings combo. All were adequate, with the potatoes being our overall favorite while the half-and-half was too greasy for our tastes. The caesar salad was good, but far from the best we've had.

We ordered a bottle of wine to share for those who weren't drinking cocktails. The wine list at The Palm is both extensive and expensive. They have comparatively few wines under $100, and most are well above that. This is not uncommon by any means, but that doesn't make it any less noticeable.

Overall we enjoyed our steaks at The Palm, though the value wasn't quite where we hoped it would be to give it our heartiest recommendations. That said, if you dine here you are not likely to get a bad meal, and a steak almost certainly should be your entree.

Palm Photos