Next Steakout

April 11, 2015

Steak & Whisky

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Monday
Feb232015

#36 Shiloh's - Pico Robertson

Rating: 2.25 cows

 

Steakout XXXVI was held at Shiloh’s. Or was it Shilo’s? We’re not quite sure, and neither are the people who work there, apparently. Regardless, the only important word to know is STEAK, and that is their specialty.

Shiloh’s is unique among the places we’ve visited thus far in that it’s the only one that’s certified Kosher. Located in the heavily Jewish area of Pico Robertson, it’s not surprising that the city’s only Kosher steakhouse would be located here.

The interior is rather elegant, white linens adorn white walls around a medium-sized dining room with white tablecloths and white booths and chairs. The floor is a dark hardwood. The restaurant is purely food-focused. Although they do serve beer and wine, they do not serve cocktails and thus do not have a separate bar.

Our party of 5 was seated promptly, but when the waiter took our drink order he strangely omitted one person and took his order after delivering some of the drinks. After we ordered, it took an inordinate amount of time to receive  our salads, along with the one beer that apparently took 30 minutes to chill.

Our party of 5 was seated promptly, but when the waiter took our drink order he strangely omitted one person and took his order after delivering some of the drinks. After we ordered, it took an inordinate amount of time to receive  our salads, along with the one beer that apparently took 30 minutes to chill.

We began with the Ceasar, beet, and quinoa salads. The Caesar was decidedly sub-par; with cherry tomatoes and a creamy dressing that was far too sweet and obviously processed. The quinoa salad was similarly underwhelming, while the beet salad was adequate but overdressed.

So let’s get onto the main course. This is the part where Shiloh’s could have redeemed itself, because after all this is the reason we came. Shiloh’s prices are quite good, with steaks ranging from $35-66 that include vegetables and potato sides. Their steaks are all wet-aged for 21 days. We ordered the filet (11oz), rib eye (10oz, boneless), chef’s cut rib eye (28oz, bone-in), and the steak au poivre (14oz rib eye). The filets were large and beautiful, but unfortunately lacking in flavor. One was dry, the other just mediocre. chef’s cut rib eye was thinner than we would have expected, and overcooked. The pepper steak, which was ordered at medium-rare came out medium-well and had to be sent back. They were polite about it, but it shouldn’t have happened. Finally the 10oz rib eye was the “highlight” of the night if you could call it that. Most of it was cooked rare-plus, as requested, and was quite delicious. But a god portion of the steak was decidedly medium bordering on medium-well. Really disappointing all around.

The array of potato side dishes is ample but none really stood out except for the roasted fingerling potatoes with rosemary. We ordered two “exciting sides” to taste the steak cut truffle fries and the beef bacon. The fries were another let down. They weren’t steak-cut at all; rather they were thin-cut like you’d find at a fast-food restaurant. And while they did taste like truffles, it didn’t even come close to justifying the $9 price. The beef bacon was good, or as good as fake bacon can be. Better than turkey bacon, it was essentially beef jerky served in strips. It lacked the crispness of a good piece of bacon, and it was sweeter owing to its bovine heritage. A nice gimmick for a restaurant that wouldn’t dream of serving the real thing, but there’s a reason “beef bacon” is not a thing.

Finally, our waiter asked if we’d like to see the dessert tray. Perhaps he suspected we wouldn’t be ordering anything, because his heart really wasn’t in the presentation. We passed, and with that ended our evening at Shiloh’s.

If you are strictly kosher and want a good steak, well, you sadly don’t have many choices and will have to make do with the offerings at Shiloh’s. The food was certainly not bad, but it really left much to be desired in just about every category. It’s tough to recommend this place, so we won’t and say that you’re probably better off going someplace else.

Shiloh's Photos

Wednesday
Jan282015

#35 Spear - Downtown

Rating: 4 cows

 

Taking over the space previously occupied by Le Ka, Spear is a relative newcomer to the Los Angeles steakhouse scene. Situated in the heart of Downtown LA, Spear features a semi-open bar area lined with a row of fire offset against the evening sky. The dining area features a mix of large communal tables, some smaller personal tables and even a private dining area. The ambiance can sort of be described as business modern with a touch of classic flair. It certainly feels very much at home amidst the tall buildings and suits, but some touches like the vintage light bulbs give it a slightly more comfortable feel. And while this isn’t something we usually remark about, the music selection was absolutely on point. With selections by Thom Yorke, Muse, Broken Bells, among others, the soundtrack was exactly up our alley. The dining room was rather loud even though it was relatively empty, so be warned this is not the place to go for a quiet romantic meal.

The bar has a fair selection of homemade cocktails, and the tenders definitely know what they’re doing. The Old Fashioneds we ordered were expertly prepared, and one of the house specials “Root to your Rye” was different, but very complex and enjoyable.

On to the food. The Caesar salad (which masquerades as the “grilled romaine”) is not your typical dish. A grilled salad is unusual to say the least. The taste of wilt and char on lettuce definitely takes some getting used to, and the inclusion of copious amounts of radiccho further complicates this dish. The dressing was good, but was barely noticeable amongs the other flavors. The pea soup and clam chowder were both good in their own right, but nothing overly impressive.

But we haven’t gotten to the real meat yet, and I mean that literally. Between the four of us we ordered two filets, a rib eye, and a porterhouse. Both filets (one medium-rare and the other rare-plus) were cooked to absolute perfection (though they were delivered on the wrong plates, which was a forgivable mistake), and both were delectable and bursting with flavor. The outside char was done well and the steaks were subtly seasoned with just enough salt to really enhance the flavor, which was incredible. The porterhouse was outstanding, cooked again to perfection and everything a great porterhouse should be. It was was well-sized, perfectly-seasoned and eminently satisfying. The rib-eye was also good, though perhaps not quite as good as the others. The char on the rib-eye was overdone and overpowered the flavor of the meat. Oh, and did we mention that all the steaks come with a side of bone marrow? Yeah, that doesn’t suck.

Spear has a very good accompaniment of side dishes, and we availed ourselves of the double-cooked fries, garlic mashers, uni risotto, duck confit mac & cheese, and the creamed spinach. The clear winners were the mac & cheese and the uni risotto, though truth be told the risotto could have used a bit more uni. Mac & cheese is a steakhouse staple, but this offering goes above and beyond. The fries, as has been the case in every single steakhouse we’ve been to, were adequate but ultimately underwhelming given the fine alternatives. The creamed spinach was creamed spinach. Nothing special, and pretty much the same as all the other creamed spinach you’ve had before. And then there's the garlic mashed potatoes, which we'll just leave at that.

Spear doesn't offer an extensive dessert menu (only 3 items), but what they do offer is completely house-made, which is very admirable. We split the key lime pie and chocolate mousse. Both were quite good, but didn't knock our socks off. You know, we come for the steak, but they still have to offer dessert. All in all these were fine choices, so no complaints here.

In summary, Spear surprised us all with the quality of their meat. The prices are in the upper echelon but not at the super high-end. Thirty-six dollars for a 7-oz filet and $52 for a 14-oz bone-in rib eye is what you should expect (the porterhouse was $68 for 20 ounces), but chef Greg Paul runs a fine kitchen and you won’t be disappointed. The ambiance is appealing, probably a bit moreso than Nick & Stef’s if you’re eating downtown, and it’s hard to beat an open-air (almost) bar with fire. We’d definitely go back here again, and give it a hearty recommendation.

Spear LA Photos

Tuesday
Sep302014

#34 The Dresden - Los Feliz

Rating: 3 cows

 

Forever memorialized in Swingers, The Dresden wasn't just a cool place to get a drink and listen to Marty and Elayne sing a bunch of songs to hipsters. It's actually a full service restaurant with a menu full of, you guessed it, steaks. The Dresden is much in the same vein as The Derby, Musso & Frank's or any old style restaurant: it's like going back in time. The furniture is the same, the decor is the same, the servers are the same, the food is probably the same... only the prices have gone up (though still quite reasonable).

We started at the bar, which has a wonderful old feel. Unfortunately that’s about where the charm ended. This is not a place to order a cocktail if you have taste in cocktails. The Old Fashioned was regrettable, and the Dark and Stormy came out red for some reason. If you’re drinking at The Dresden, stick with beer or wine and you’ll be much happier.

Dining at The Dresden will certainly be an enjoyable experience as the servers are welcoming and do a fairly consistent job. The booth we sat at even had arm rests. Yes you read that right: arm rests in a booth. We hadn’t seen it before either, but somehow in a place like this it didn’t seem too surprising. You can tell by looking that the food is of good quality, but cooking it the way you want it is a bit more problematic. Every steak was ordered medium rare but they were served medium. The meat was tasty though with considerable flavor, which underscores the quality of the beef. It’s not the best of the best, but it’s far from mediocre.

Steaks came with your choice of potato and vegetables. A Caesar Salad could be added for $6 more. The Caesar was better than average but nothing exceptional. The filet was nicely sized and had more flavor than expected given the fact it was overcooked a bit. The Chateaubriand for two is an impressive display that is carved right at your table and also includes with a side of potatoes, vegetables, and mushrooms. It's too bad that since the Chateaubriand is for two, you don't actually get more potato. Included in your meal is the complimentary Garlic Cheese Toast, which is pretty much welcome wherever and whenever it’s served.

The dessert options are your typical cakes and ice cream. The selection does vary though which implies a good amount of turnover. The cheesecake was good, very good even, though nothing so outstanding that it deserves any more than a mention.

While the steaks weren't as impressive as we hoped it would be, it still is a Hollywood staple that does at least seem like it's trying to do it right. I don't think we'd be opposed to giving it another try but it may be awhile before we do.

The Dresden Photos

Thursday
Jun262014

#33 The Derby - Arcadia

Rating: 4 cows

 

On our delicious journey of steak, we’ve come to realize that just about every steakhouse falls into one of two categories: steaks priced at roughly $40+ each and served à la carte, or steaks priced at around $25-40 which include a vegetable and potato side, and often a salad as well. The former are considerably better, but commensurately more expensive. The latter are fine if you’re on a budget, but we have a hard time recommending anything in that class. We’ve visited over 30 steakhouses and have yet to find a true mid-range steakhouse that we would recommend.

Until now.

Situated in Arcadia near the famous Santa Anita Racetrack, The Derby has been around since 1922 and is closely associated with the legendary George Woolf. Most of us didn't know who he was either, but if you're a big fan of thoroughbred horse racing (or if you've seen the movie Seabiscuit) you probably know Woolf as the famous jockey who rode Seabiscuit to victory against the heavily favored triple crown champion War Admiral.  Which is great if you're into that sort of thing, but we're much more interested in cows than in horses.

The interior is very old-school, and we like it. This is a restaurant that has been open for over 90 years and still does good business. Some of the highlights are exposed brick walls, vaulted ceilings with wood beams, and red tufted leather booths. On top of that is a (very) healthy dollop of horse-racing-themed decor, as well as a large trophy case near the main entrance. There is a nice feeling of classiness without being overly formal, pretentious, or trendy.

A bar sits adjacent to the main dining area with its own dining section. Unfortunately the one thing that seem to hold this older places back is the bar staff. The Derby is no exception here, with their version of an Old Fashioned (Seabiscuit) and Manhattan (Secretariat) being drinkable, but not very good. Fortunately the food here is much better, and we were all very impressed with our meals.

As stated before, the prices are smack-dab in the middle of the board. Steaks run about $35-50 but include sides and delicious garlic cheese bread. All of our steaks were cooked to perfection. The French Cut rib eye was a standout here, with outstanding flavor and a beautiful warm red center. The filet, NY strip, and standard rib eye were all winners as well. The Derby is not a place to expect a life-changing steak; the quality is noticeably lesser than what you’ll get at the à la carte places, but this is a steak we can heartily recommend that won’t break your bank. We had a great time and would gladly come back. You should too.

The Derby Photos

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