Rating: 4.75 cows
When we heard that Alexander’s Steakhouse was opening a restaurant in Los Angeles, we were eager to give it a try. Alexander’s is a well-known Japanese-influenced steakhouse from Silicon Valley, boasting a Michelin star and quite possibly the most extensive menu of authentic wagyu beef on the west coast.
Alexander’s took over the space in Pasadena previously occupied by the far less exciting chain restaurant, McCormick & Schmick’s. Even if you are truly insane and prefer seafood to steak, Alexander’s is a big upgrade in every way. Well, other than number of seafood options. But we’re not here for seafood.
Our first stop was the bar, and it was a fantastic first impression. The staff was very friendly, very knowledgable, and mixed some kickass drinks. The old fashioneds were just right (no cherries, thank you very much) and came with what could only be described as a hunk of ice. Macallan-style ice balls are cool (no pun intended), but these just felt right. The manhattan came with a cherry three ways. The “irish wristwatch” was a unique mix of whisky, smashed berries, and basil. Talking up the bartender about their way-above-average whisky selection scored us a free taste of Black Bull 12 years old, a blended Scotch whisky that he claimed was the hidden gem on their menu because the youngest whisky in the mix is 19 years old. We of course have no way to verify this claim, but the dram was very nice even accounting for it’s low, low price.
Back to the whisky selection. This place had it going on. Everything from bourbons to Japanese, blends to single malts, Highlands to Lowlands—it was impressive. To top it all off, a display case at the entrance to the bar contains the ultra-rare stuff, including a bottle of Very Old Fitzgerald, a predecessor to Pappy Van Winkles that can be had for the princely sum of $600 per glass.
When we moved to the dining room we found a very tasteful and modern decor, with high ceilings and a monochromatic color palette. The tables had a very generous amount of space between them, which was appreciated even though there were only a few other parties dining at 6pm on the first Sunday that the restaurant was open.
First up was an amuse-bouche, followed by an impressive bread basket. Three types of breads were offered, including a unique bread made with squid ink that was, not surprisingly, nearly black. What really made the bread stand out though wasn’t the bread itself but rather the selection of three butters that accompanied it, including one that was infused with beef fat and was served stuffed into the middle of a bone. It tasted how you would imagine that beef butter would taste—which is to say, amazing.
For the salad course we tried the “little gem”, which is Alexander’s take on the classic Caesar. It was composed of romaine lettuce, fennel, onions, squid ink crutons, and furikake, topped with miso anchovy dressing. It was fresh and different and good but didn’t knock anyone’s socks off.
Before we get to the steak, a word about the service. That word is “spectacular.” On all fronts. Not only did our waiter have an outstanding knowledge of the menu for a restaurant that had only been open for a week, but the table service was top of the line. If you’ve ever wanted to be served like the Crawley’s in Downton Abbey, this is the place to go. Each course was placed on the table in front of half of us at the exact same time, and then the other half received their plates at the exact same time. Very classy, and yet somehow it did not come off as snobby or pretentious. Bravo.
For side dishes, we ordered the mac and cheese which we can’t seem to resist ordering at every steakhouse, creamed taro, and truffle fried fingerling potatoes, which may or may not count as the fries that we also order off of every menu. The mac and cheese was made with udon noodles for a japanese twist. The creamed taro was something we had never seen before and was thus the one that we remember the best. The potatoes were unremarkable. Overall a nice diverse variety, but no threat to the main course unlike some other restaurants with truly fantastic sides like Mastro’s.
Steak is offered at three levels—“regular” steaks at the $50 price point, dry-aged Omaha prime at $80, and wagyu which covered the spectrum from expensive for Los Angeles all the way to “oh my god.” There was also an eight-course tasting menu if your budget truly knows no bounds. The steak was both the high point and the low point of the night, so let’s get the low point out of the way first—three of us attempted to order the dry-aged bone-in filet, and somehow they only had two available, even though we were dining on the very early side. One of us was forced to downgrade to a “regular” boneless filet. To add insult to injury, while one of the bone-in filets was cooked perfectly, the other was surprisingly overcooked. We decided not to send it back because we knew they didn’t have any more, and it still tasted better than most steaks—albeit not enough to justify its high price. It didn’t help that there was a perfectly cooked example right there on the table for comparison. Elsewhere around the table, we had two ribeyes and a bone-in New York. The ribeyes were both very flavorful and cooked to perfection. The New York had a smallish bone and the first few bites were simply above average, but working toward the bone the steak just kept getting better. All of the steaks were light on seasoning, so the flavor of the beef was the star.
The astute reader may have noticed that nobody ordered wagyu as their main course. Fear not! The prices were more than anyone wanted to pay for the entree, but in the name of science we went ahead and split 6oz of wagyu among the six of us as a sort of pre-dessert, yielding a single ounce for each of us. They went ahead and plated it separately for us, so we were each (elegantly) presented with a small plate with an even smaller portion of steak on it. The menu offered 4 different varieties of true japanese A5 (the highest grade, but of course) wagyu, priced in 3 ounce increments. Each had a unique description on the menu, some of which were a sort of steak version of terroir—“warm mild climate / ideal conditions for raising cattle” (Miyazaki) and “farmed in below freezing temperatures” (Hokkaido) being the highlights. There was also one Australian wagyu, one domestic wagyu/angus cross breed, and a two pound domestic dry-aged tomahawk that tipped the scale at 20 ounces and tips the wallet at $315. That is the most expensive single steak that any of us has ever seen on a menu, though the Japanese wagyus would put that price to shame if someone were to actually order 20 ounces of it. The Hokkaido, for example, was priced around $50 per ounce. You do the math. We went ahead and ordered the Miyazaki, which was priced in the middle of the pack. Besides, it was raised in ideal conditions, so it had to be good. And it was. True wagyu is just out of this world, and this was no exception. Loaded with flavor, tender, perfectly seared, and delicious. There were only a few comments that could be construed as negative—one of us thought that this example was a little bit too fatty and therefore too rich, and none of us were willing to rank this as the best steak they had ever tried. When those are the only faults that a group of steak fanatics can come up with, you’re doing pretty well.
We went ahead and leveraged the overcooked filet into a free dessert, called “chocolate.” This consisted of various preparations of chocolate, including a bone marrow chocolate (surprisingly good) and various other textures, from a dense and moist cake to a sherbet to name a few. The whole thing was delicious, though perhaps not delicious enough to make up for the loss of a dry-aged filet. On top of that we were served complimentary cotton candy with a few other chocolatey treats. Those were a nice tough, but one can’t help but think that cotton candy feels out of place in a restaurant of this caliber.
Overall we had an amazing experience. The only thing holding us back from a perfect 5 cow rating was the filet situation, and deservedly so. Everything else was among the best we’ve ever experienced, so we’re willing to write that off as a fluke and heartily recommend Alexander’s. The food and service rank up there with the best steakhouses in LA, on top of which you get a unique Japanese influence and an unparalleled selection of wagyu.