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.