Rating: 4 cows
Hermosa Beach is not known as a destination for great steak, but one establishment is aiming to change that perception. Tucked around the bend on Pier Avenue just east of Hermosa, the aptly named “Steak & Whisky” has both in spades. Opened in late February, this place is tiny. With only about 15 tables and a diminutive 4-seat bar area, this place is by far the smallest restaurant we’ve seen so far. But small does not mean cozy. The interior is warm bright with skylights and large windows to let that sunlight in. The decor is wood & dark leather with a patterned tile floor and a brick wall one one side. The other side is filled with whisky bottles.
We started with the whisky, of course. Though it took awhile to deliver what in most cases amounted to a glass with about two fingers of liquid, they have about 30-40 to try, the biggest portion being American Bourbon. The selection is good, but there’s a reason the “steak” comes first in the same; you’re not going to find troves of strange and/or super-rare whisky (no Pappy, for instance), but they’ve got something for anyone’s taste. They also make excellent mixed drinks; we tried an Old Fashioned and their “Bill the Butcher” which were both fantastic.
Before the main course, we sampled the seafood platter and Caesar salad. The seafood platter was excellent, with ceviche and shrimp selections, while the Caesar salad was a little less spectacular. Some of us found it exceedingly salty & peppery, while others didn’t seem to mind the taste. It’s certainly a good salad, but probably not one of the very best we’ve had.
Keeping the “small” theme, there are not a lot of steak options here but they take care of all the basics. There’s a 25-oz Porterhouse, a 13-oz filet (bone-in), a 20-oz Kansas City, and a 42-oz Tomahawk Rib-Eye. There's also a Japanese Wagyu selection for $18/oz. Lastly, if you like you can get a 6-oz petite filet as an add-on to your entree. While the portions are quite healthy, the prices per ounce are the steepest we’ve seen yet, and it’s not really close. The filet will set you back $75, the porterhouse is $95 and the Tomahawk is a cool $120. The waitress advertised them as big enough to share, and that’s mostly true, but if you’re looking to stuff yourself with steak, you’ll probably want to get one all for yourself. For reference, the 13-oz bone-in filet at CUT will cost you a comparatively paltry $58.
We shared 3 porterhouses, a tomahawk, and the filet in our party of 10. Price aside, the steaks were absolutely fantastic. The one blemish was one of the porterhouses that came out with far too much fat and had to be sent back, but they did the right thing and replaced it with another steak that was just outstanding. All the steaks are dry-aged for 30 days, and the meat was tender, juicy and very flavorful. The outer sear is not as severe as some places, but just enough for a delicious crust, and the cuts are seasoned with salt, and pepper to enhance the flavor. The one steak that didn’t quite live up to the standards set by the others was the filet, however. We found it rather bland and underwhelming compared to the rest. They offer sauces, but we chose not to partake, and that was the right move. These steaks do not need a sauce, so lay off the sucker bet and just enjoy the meat. We ordered ours medium-rare to rare+ and they were cooked impeccably. Just delicious all around.
The waitress suggested we order one side dish per person. We should have listened to her. We ordered 8 sides for 10 people, and while they were good, the portions were comically small. That’s perhaps a bit unfair, since we were told we should get one side per person, but we’ve heard that line in the past and usually ended up with more than we can really eat, especially with larger parties. But here at Steak & Whisky, a party of two should get at least two, if not maybe three sides for the table. We got the potato puree, mac & cheese, french fries, cauliflower risotto, seasonal vegetables, shishito peppers, creamed spinach, and sauteed mushrooms. The peppers and mac & cheese were probably the highlights, while the potato puree was a disappointment lacking in flavor. The others fell somewhere in the middle.
We finished the evening with an array of desserts, including the strawberry shortcake, panna cotta, and the german chocolate flourless cake. All were very tasty, especially the panna cotta and they were an excellent way to end the meal.
One last note about the service, since it was somewhat hit or miss. While they did a great job responding to our fatty porterhouse, they did things like serve half the side dishes without serving spoons. And although we were all splitting our steaks, they didn’t bring out extra dinner plates until we asked (only plates for the sides). Finally, the first round of Old Fashioneds were served with regular cubed ice instead of Macallan ice spheres. They fixed it for round two when we asked about it. Given the prices, we expected a more coordinated operation. Perhaps this is because they’re still pretty new, so we hope those sorts of issues get ironed out soon.
To conclude, the food (and drinks) at Steak & Whisky are exceptional. This is a legitimate top-of-the line steakhouse that unabashedly competes with the big boys in quality, flavor, and (most boldly) price. They even charge you $5 for bread. But if money is no object (or only a minor inconvenience), then you’d be hard-pressed to get a better steak somewhere else.