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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

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