Next Steakout

22 Jan, 2017

Colombo's

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Wednesday
Nov302016

#44 The Arthur J - Manhattan Beach


Rating: 4.75 cows

 

Manhattan Beach is known for many things, most notably its pier and relentless beach culture. We’re not saying these are incompatible with great steak, but it’s certainly not the first thing that comes to mind. There are some classic steakhouses dotting the beach cities of Southern California, most of which cater to the beach bum or tourist crowd, but which don’t really take their steak seriously. The Arthur J is not one of those places.

Set amongst the posh retail district and restrictive parking meters—other things Manhattan Beach is known for—on Manhattan Avenue, The Arthur J carries the name of the man who spent much of his time in this part of town and founded local favorite The Kettle. His children run the business now, and have tapped Devid LeFevre to run the steakhouse kitchen.

As you enter the small space, the bar is immediately in front of you, with two large TVs behind the bar that seem even bigger given the diminutive space. Their glow evokes a slightly more casual vibe than we were expecting, but it was a little reminder that, yes, we’re still in a beach town.

The cocktail menu features house twists on classics, though we found the Brannigan’s Boots—their version of the Old Fashioned—to be hit or miss.

The dining room is about the same size as the bar, but with more seating. The service arrived quickly and attentively. It was a taste of things to come. While working through the wine list to make sure we got the right bottle, the waiter deferred to the sommelier when our initial choice was unavailable.

Let’s get on to the food. We started things off with the caesar salad, mushroom soup, and bison & pork chili. All three were fantastic. The caesar was exceptionally fresh and they get extra points for what tasted like a homemade dressing and real anchovies. It’s not often that a caesar salad stands out, but this one did. The only drawback was the price, which for $14 was perhaps the most expensive caesar we’ve had thus far. 

The steak menu is more than adequate, featuring Angus and USDA Prime cuts, as well as a tomahawk and porterhouse for two, and of course a Wagyu option (Kagoshima prefecture). All the stars are here, and we partook of the filet, strip, and rib eye, all cooked “rare plus”. For the side dishes we went with the mashers, brussels sprouts, mac and cheese, and of course the fries.

Steak is the reason we came, and the steaks definitely stole the show. They had fantastic charring all over, and the flavor was absolutely outstanding. All of us were impressed with the tenderness, and expert cooking. Each steak comes with a sauce of your choice, but we all felt they were really just novel distractions. We’ve said this before, but a great steak needs no sauce. None of the steaks we ate were enhanced by the sauces. 

The only blemish on the steak came with the rib eye. It arrived decidedly overcooked, and while it was still tasty, it wasn’t living up to its potential. We commented to the waiter, and he insisted on a replacement, and even let us keep the first steak while the other was cooked up. It arrived quickly and was every bit as delicious as the others—and that’s saying a lot.

The side dishes were also very good. Of particular note were the mashed potatoes, so drowned in butter that you could barely eat more than a few bites. We shared one order amongst the 4 of us and only just managed to finish it. The brussels sprouts were quite good too, and while the mac and cheese was good, it was the least interesting. What about the fries, you ask?

We have a bit of a history with steakhouse fries. They’re on just about every menu, and they are always a disappointment. Always. Every time. But we order them anyway. And so the fantasy of paying $8-10 for sticks of fried potatoes that we actually want to order again remains as elusive as ever. Until now. Ladies and gentlemen, these ARE the fries we’re looking for. Cooked in beef fat and dusted with malt vinegar, these steak fries are flat out delicious. They have a perfect ratio of surface area to volume, with a deep salty flavor courtesy of the beef fat. Oh yes. We finally found steakhouse french fry nirvana!

We weren’t all that hungry for dessert, so the plan was to split the apple tart, but we were surprised with a trio of ice cream and sorbet as compensation for our wayward rib eye. The salted caramel and mango sorbet were delectable, while the chocolate sorbet was a little less so. Maybe there’s a reason that sorbet is typically reserved for fruit (it was still pretty good).

All told, this was a fantastic experience and none of us would hesitate to come back if the opportunity arose. The food was incredible and the service was great. As for the value, you’re definitely not dining here if you’re on a strict budget, however their prices ($45-55 as of this writing) are comparable to most, and we enjoyed our food here more than most. Do your stomach a favor and get yourself over to The Arthur J.

Arthur J Photos

 

 

Tuesday
Sep202016

#43 Monty's Prime - Woodland Hills

Rating: 4.00 cows

 

Monty’s Prime Steakhouse sits just south of the bustling 101 freeway in Woodland Hills. It’s been there for over 70 years, offering steaks to hungry Angelenos.

We’ve been to a number of classic steakhouses, and the recipe is usually the same: dark wood, naugahyde, geriatric wait staff, moderate prices, and relatively mediocre food. Monty’s broke the mold and set a new precedent for how an old restaurant can age gracefully without falling prey to the crippling nostalgia that we’ve seen too often.

Walking into Monty’s, you can tell this place has been here awhile. It’s dark, yes, but there are plasma TVs all over the bar area, which is not terribly separated from the dining areas. The bar acts as sort of a centerpiece, and it’s here we get our first sense that this might not be your typical old-world steakhouse.

The drinks were hit and miss. Hit the generously-poured manhattans but miss the orange-muddled and watery old fashioneds. Beer and wine are on offer as well for those less adventurously-minded. There’s no cocktail menu, and while it’s clear that the bartender knew what he was doing and had been there awhile, you’re not going to get an expertly-crafted libation at this joint.

The dining room was cozy and our waitress was attentive and kind. We even got a visit from the owner, who took interest in our humble endeavor and spent some time chatting with us. It was a wonderful gesture and he seemed like a genuinely nice person.

Given our experiences with older steakhouses, we weren’t quite sure what to expect from the food. There were a number of bone-in options including a filet and rib-eye as well as a porterhouse (natch). Prices at Monty’s are higher than most, but not outrageous. We ordered our steaks “rare-plus” across the board, among them the NY Strip, petit filet, bone-in filet, porterhouse, and bone-in ribeye.

In short: these steaks were fantastic. Rare-plus is probably a tougher cook than medium-rare, and these guys nailed it. All of our steaks were cooked right and exhibited lush flavors. The blue cheese butter was a bit much on the bone-in filet but it wasn’t hard to brush it aside. The steaks came with a great crust, mildly seasoned to really bring out the flavor of the meat. Each one was delicious.

To start we had the caesar salad, pear & goat cheese salad, and the classic wedge. The caesar was quite good; among the better ones we’ve tried, but not in the highest echelon like Nick & Stef’s. The others were fine, but not particularly standouts. With our steaks we ordered the creamed corn, broccoli, spinach, au gratin potatoes, and french fries. The creamed corn was the standout here, while the garlic spinach was also very tasty. The others were perfectly fine, except for the $8 french fries which once again were a disappointment. The serving size for the fries was bigger than we’re used to, but they just weren’t that good. I wish I could say we were surprised.

For dessert we ordered the classic sundae, a chocolate fudge cake, caramel brownies, and a berry plate with ice cream. All of these were very good as well, with the brownies being the standout here. Nothing too fancy, just good flavors all around.

We arrived at Monty’s with some questions, and the answers we got were very satisfying. There’s no question the steaks they’re serving now are of much better quality than the ones available 70 years ago when they first opened their doors. And hats off to them for evolving with the times instead of maintaining the status quo of what they’d done in the past. Many old steakhouses suffer because of that. If you find yourself in the Woodland Hills area and you got a hankerin’ for a steak, you should do your tastebuds a favor and drop in for a meal. 

Monty's Photos

Monday
Jun202016

#42 Baltaire - Brentwood

Rating: 4.00 cows

 

When it comes to steak, Los Angeles has plenty of delicious options. For the most part, the best slabs of meat are concentrated in two areas: downtown and Beverly Hills. Both of these locations have a reputation for fat wallets and satisfied diners so this comes as no surprise. But way out west of the 405 freeway, (but not as far as Santa Monica) lies the neighborhood of Brentwood, and the site of Steakout XLII: Baltaire.

You'd probably miss it driving by, without any street-facing signage, Baltaire exists not for you to stumble across it, but because you sought it out. Through the oversized wooden doors the airy bar greets you warmly. Off to the left, the dining area extends out from under the roof into an open-air table arrangement in the courtyard. Beams of afternoon light pour in from the large front windows next to the lounge that flanks the bar. Style and comfort are the main themes here.

The bar menu is predictably expansive (yes, Pappy is here), with a generous selection of all your favorite liquors. Our bartender mixed up some excellent drinks for us while we waited for our party to arrive. No worries about maraschino cherries in your Old Fashioneds at this place.

The steak menu at Baltaire is befitting a restaurant that charges $50+ per cut. they have filets (boneless and bone-in), a strip, Kansas City, porterhouse, rib eye, and the ever-so-chic Australian Wagyu for $25/oz as of our seating.

We started off splitting an array of salads including the Caesar and the Bibb. All were well made, though one of our half orders took conspicuously longer to arrive than the rest. That turned out to be a considerably minor hiccup however, since we later learned that the Bibb salad contained candied walnuts, though it wasn’t called out on the menu nor was it mentioned by our waiter. Since one of us his allergic to tree nuts, this was a rather unwelcome surprise. When confronted with the oversight, the staff was very apologetic, and our waiter even claimed he had no knowledge of the walnuts. They comped the salad and offered to bring a replacement. Outside of that, the salads were quite good, but nothing we would describe as best-in-class.

We ordered a bottle of wine for the table to go along with our meat and sides. When the waiter came to bring our wine, he apologized for not having the vintage shown on the menu, and offered the same wine from a few years later. This happens from time to time, but we asked for a comparable replacement from the sommelier, which we later found out did not exist. Not every steakhouse employs one, but we were surprised not to find one here. As the replacement wine was brought, the manager came by to apologize for the incident with the walnuts and offered to comp our first bottle of wine. It was a generous offering which we appreciated.

Ok so let's get to the main course. Between us we ordered the 8-oz filet, the 12-oz filet, the rib eye, and the strip. No Wagyu for us this time. To accompany our slabs of cow we had the Brussels sprouts, asparagus, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and of course the obligatory pomme frites. All sides were $12, so this may be the most expensive order of french fries we've ever had. And, like every other order of fries, while they were tasty enough, they continue to be the biggest sham in the steakhouse sides business.

And yet.

The Mac and cheese was especially delicious, one of the best we've tried. The vegetables were well-seasoned and tasty too, while the mashers were bland and uninspiring.

The steaks themselves have a nice char on the outside and an excellent texture. We ordered temperatures ranging from medium rare to rare+, with the latter yielding especially flavorful results on the 12-oz filet, which was definitely a highlight. One of the rib eyes came noticeably overcooked, and though we never enjoy sending back a steak, this one went back to the the kitchen. The NY strip was good, but not what we'd consider great unfortunately. It was drier than we'd like and just didn't have the flavor we've been accustomed to at place of this caliber. The replacement rib eye was a huge improvement over the first one and immensely satisfying. This is how you do a rib eye ladies and gentlemen. Bummer it took them two tries, but it was worth the wait.

To finish our meal, we ordered the key lime pie and peach crumble which was their special of the night. We wanted one each for us all to share, but somehow our order was misinterpreted and they brought out two of each. I think the waiter could tell by the confounded looks on our faces that something was amiss, and he offered immediately to not charge us for the extras. So what's a few hundred extra calories when you've already stuffed your face with steak and sides? We couldn't let that food go to waste. The verdict was clear this time: the key lime pie was just fantastic while the crumble was good, but not great. Maybe it was still a bit too early in peach season.

It's hard to summarize this place. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, the service had a few hiccups, and the steaks were mostly very good, occasionally great and sometimes missing expectations. Even the dessert and sides seem to be split. We feel there's a really great end-to-end experience just waiting in there, but it didn't quite come together for us this time.

Baltaire Photos

Sunday
Apr172016

#41 Meat District Co. - Pasadena

Rating: 2.50 cows

 

Australians have a reputation for knowing a thing or two about meat. Yes, we know that Outback isn't really Australian, but it's actually [pretty good] for a budget steakhouse. Also, outside of an Australian Wagyu it's the closest we'd gotten to an Aussie experience until we arrived at Meat District Co.

Hailing from Down Under, Meat District Co's first stateside establishment arrived not too long ago in Pasadena, California. It's laid back and casual which is probably what you'd expect, though they do not feature the words "shrimp" and "barbie" in the same sentence, thank goodness. 

The good thing about a place without a lot of pretense is you get right down to business. Pouring over the menu we pondered our choices until we saw one item that grabbed us and just wouldn't let go. The MDC Platter was a monstrosity. It came with a NY strip, 2 racks of ribs, and two “Hooks” which were chunks of meat and vegetables. It was a fierce debate on whether to go traditional and get our own personal steak, or indulge our animalistic tendencies with a smorgasbord of meat laid out before us. We compromised. Sort of. We ordered the MDC Platter and another rib eye to boot.

Most of the time when you get a lot of meat for a ridiculously low price (the MDC Platter itself was the same price as a single steak at Alexander's, you end up full, but not necessarily satisfied. Meat District Co was no exception here. All of the meat was cooked more than we'd like, and it was fairly tough to boot. Steak sauce, that spicy bastard, once again helped us get through this meal.

We skipped out on dessert and took some time to walk around downtown Pasadena to get that peristalsis going. Sometimes you just want to move on to what's next. Sorry, Meat District Co. Hooroo!

Meat District Co. Photos

Friday
Jan222016

#40 Taylor's - La Cañada Flintridge

Rating: 2.50 cows

 

When we last visited Taylor’s Steakhouse in Koreatown, it was 2010 and we gave it 3.75 cows, a relatively decent rating considering how many steaks we’ve covered. This year we decided to give the other Taylor’s location in La Canada a visit to see how it measured up to the original. Well, nostalgia wasn’t as kind to Taylor’s as we had hoped. The restaurant itself had a rather confusing entry that wasn’t exactly welcoming, but once we sat down, the classic restaurant charm startled to settle in. The lighting wasn’t as dim as the Koreatown location, which is actually nice, but dim just enough for a nice evening out.

Service that evening was pleasant and friendly. The place wasn’t packed nor was it dead, but it was reasonably busy and we were taken care of well enough. If you’re looking for a good cocktail, you won’t find it here. Old Fashioneds are of the muddled fruit & soda water variety, so safer to go with a beer or wine. We began with a basket of onion rings to share and a few salads. Where the previous Taylor’s seemed as if they served us frozen rings, the ones here certainly looked and tasted fresher. There wasn’t anything particular about the salads to note, just what you’d expect from a restaurant.

There’s a rather large variety of steaks offered at Taylor’s, most within the ballpark of $25. They’ll come with your choice of two sides, so for the money, it’s still quite reasonable. The steaks were cooked decently overall, but not quite as well as we preferred (the oft-elusive medium rare). Seasoning might not be the strong suit as the steaks simply tasted okay. Sides were also fine, but the special side of the day was corn, and it was a rather disappointing dish of sliced corn in a sauce. It really was a complete waste of a side order. 

Room for desserts is always in question, but none of the steaks here will set you back too much nor will they fill you up too much. We ordered a round of desserts for the table and all are about $8. To be honest, nothing memorable with these either. It was a decent meal overall, but it may be another six years before we feel the need to return. Outback is still our go-to for budget steak. 

Taylor's Photos