Next Steakout

5 Sept 2017

La Boucherie on 71

Monday
Jun182012

#24 Wolfgang's - Beverly Hills

Rating: 3.75 cows

 

When you hear about a restaurant in Beverly Hills named Wolfgang's, you might wonder if Mr. Puck really needed to open another restaurant in Los Angeles. We'll have to leave that question for another time, because Wofgang's is the eponymous steakhouse of Wolfgang Zwiener, though the similarities of the name are not lost on either of them.

Situated on Canon Drive in the heart of Beverly Hills, the atmosphere at Wolfgang's is inviting as it is unassuming. A large bar greets you when you walk in, with a few flatscreen TVs tuned to ESPN or the Sport of the Day. Behind the bar area sits the main seating area of the restaurant, and while it's separated from the bar, it feels like one large space. This probably helps, since the place itself isn't remarkably large. The bar is well-stocked and even carries a quality gin (Plymouth) aside from the Sapphire and Tanqueray staples.

We sat at a large round table, which was just perfect for our group of 6. The waitress seemed to be a bit frazzeled at first, but we later found she was more than up to the task and did an excellent job.

The prices at Wolfgang's, to say nothing of its prime location, suggest a top class dining experience, on par with the best of the best. The menu features a tantalizing 16-oz filet for $48 as well as a porterhouse for two that runs $45/person. There's also an 8-oz filet and NY Strip. Curiously absent was a Rib Eye, but Wolfgang's instead served both lamb and veal chops.

The most surprising item on the menu was the "Sizzling Canadian Bacon" appetizer. Dave had a similar item at Peter Luger in New York (where Wolfgang Zwiener cut his teeth), and after some ribald joking about Zwiener's meat, we found ourselves ordering "a round of bacon for the table." If you've never ordered a round of bacon for the table, give it a try, it's liberating and delicious. The bacon was a revelation. Why more steakhouses don't offer meaty strips of bacon as standalone appetizers we'll never know, but thank you to Mr. Zwiener for filling this unmistakable gap. Other steakhouses are on notice: start serving more bacon, Canadian or otherwise.

The other appetizers we got were the wedge and caesar salads and the lobster bisque. All were good, but nothing was a standout, except perhaps for the bisque, which was very tasty.

So let's get to the meat. The steaks arrived with a nice sear on the outside. The 16-oz filet was extraordinary, and it was cooked to perfection. The flavor was ample, though a touch more seasoning would have really elevated this steak to another level. The porterhouse turned out to be a tale of two steaks. The filet portion was quite good, while the strip seemed a bit lacking. The steak arrived pre-cut, and while it was good overall, we found the size to be on par with what similar restaurants would serve as a porterhouse for one. Given the price, we were expecting more. The 8-oz filet and strip were both very good as well.

The side dishes of french fries, creamed corn, broccoli, and lobster mac-and-cheese were good. The fries were billed as steak fries, and while we take issue with how they were advertised given their size, they were nonetheless very tasty. We topped off the evening with an ice cream sundae which was very satisfying.

Wolfgang's is a very good place to eat. The atmosphere and service are great, as is the food. The steaks here are solid, but they don't seem to quite reach into the upper echelon, which is perfectly fine; we just wish the prices were about $5-10 lower to compensate. If you happen to be in the area and have a chunk to drop on a steak, you will not be disappointed. However, in our humble opinions, you'd do better to take that cash down the street to Cut or Mastro's

Wolfgang's Photos

Thursday
Apr192012

#23 Musso & Frank Grill - Hollywood

Rating: 2.5 cows

 

When one thinks of old Hollywood, Musso & Frank captures the time period perfectly.  But has its own reputation preceded it?  We've generally heard good things about this restaurant and were excited to go, but we're seasoned diners and we know when something isn't as good as it should be. 

The atmosphere at Musso and Frank's evoked the classic Hollywood you see in the movies. The restaurant opened in 1919 and they proudly wear that history on their sleeves, all the way down to the bartenders who are there to make what you ask, and to not waste much time in doing so. Their demeanor leaves something to be desired, but it's all part of the charm, remember? Musso and Frank's is known for their martini, but the purported "best martini in Los Angeles" is also probably the most inelegantly-made drink you're likely to find. The lack of artistry is apparently the trademark.

The table service we received was passive, nonexistent, and just lacking in every which way. The food took a long time to arrive. It took half an hour to hail someone down to get the dessert menu. It took about that long again to get the check.  Did we mention that we were a party of twelve?  Is it possible for the wait staff to avoid us entirely? We are no strangers to the service difficulties inherent in serving large parties, but details like that are what separate the good from the great. And while our expectations for Musso & Frank's were not on par with Wolfgang Puck's Cut or with Mastro's, their failings in this area cemented their place in the lower half of the places we've tried. Bottom line: there is no excuse for the wait staff to not pay us attention even if they cannot control the speed at which the food arrives. Service is more than speed. 

But really, who cares about sub-par service if the food is amazing?  Too bad it wasn't.  Steaks were ordered all around from Porterhouse to Filet to Strips. The cooking varied, and most steaks were a bit overdone, with one of them leaning on the medium-well fence which is awfully close to steak treason. This was unfortunate, but as a large party it was impractical for time and other reasons for us to return our food. The quality of the meat was good however, so the steaks were still tasty, though not as tasty as they should have been, sadly. The side dishes were unremarkable, but certainly not bad. A side order of fries actually came undercooked. Undercooked. 

Needless to say our experience at Musso & Frank's left much to be desired. But you get the feeling that the entire lack of apology in the experience is part of the vibe. They do their thing and you're free to accept or reject it. There's no question this restaurant has staying power, but we have to wonder how much they are riding on the coattails of their previous success. You either like it or you don't, and nobody will try to convince you otherwise.

Musso & Frank Photos

Sunday
Jan222012

#22 The Buggy Whip - Westchester (closed)

Rating: 3 cows

 

The Buggy Whip has been on our list of steakhouses to try for a while and we thought it would be a great place to start to our new year of reviewing steakhouses. The Buggy Whip is a steakhouse from an earlier decade, featuring dark decor, red booths and in their main dining room paired with a live piano player (Wed-Sat). As you enter the Buggy Whip you are greeted with several framed magazine articles listing the Buggy Whip as one of the top 10 steakhouse in Los Angeles. Obviously, we saw this as a good sign and we anxiously awaited our steak dinners.

Our visit to the Buggy Whip was on a Sunday night which sadly meant no piano player and also that half of the restaurant was closed. We were sat in the main dining room at a long table pulled up against a half moon both to fit our party of 11. As we ordered drinks we discovered the bar was very much a “no thrills” type of bar. The bartender was not familiar with their wines and in addition nothing was available on draft. The drinks that we did order, however, were priced very well as we soon found out was a trend for the entire menu.

Together. we ordered a variety of steaks including porterhouses, rib-eyes and filets. Each steak came with either a house salad or a cup of their clam chowder in addition to a potato side. Most of our group chose the house salad which arrived with an odd green “Greek Goddess” dressing. Despite the color of the dressing the salad was good but nothing spectacular. Those that received the clam chowder found it oddly spicy and left them expecting much more in their clam chowder. Despite having a large group our steaks all arrived around the same time. The steaks looked delicious and each person paired their steak with a large baked potato topped table side with your choice of butter, sour cream or chives. Upon cutting open our steaks we found that all of our steaks were not cooked evenly. All steaks were ordered medium-rare but only some portions were the desired medium-rare. The rest of the steak was over cooked to medium. In particular, the porterhouse suffered the most while the rib-eye was probably the most evenly cooked of all the steaks.

The resounding verdict of the steaks was that they were good but nothing spectacular. The steaks were seasoned with salt and pepper but despite the potential, none of that seasoning penetrated the surface of the steak. Only the rib-eye was served with a side of an onion based gravy, which was never used as to not spoil the steak. Despite the size of the steaks listed on the menus (22oz Rib-eye, 28oz Porterhouse) everyone managed to finish their steaks without a problem. As par for the course, we even ordered several deserts which like the steaks were found to be appetizing but not anything special.

In the end we gave the Buggy Whip an average rating of 3 cows with the high votes coming in on the rib-eye and the lower votes coming in with the filet. It is worth noting that the special of the night was two 1.25lb lobster tails for $40, and that the menu of the Buggy Whip offers a lot of different seafood selections. Some of our guests who dined with us ordered fish for their dinner and found it very delicious. This leaves us to believe that perhaps the Buggy Whip is no longer destined to be a great steakhouse in Los Angeles but instead more of a seafood focused restaurant. Perhaps sometime when we are not on a quest for steak, we may stop by the Buggy Whip to taste their seafood.

Buggy Whip Photos

Note:
As of September 2013, the Buggy Whip has closed its doors after 64 years in business. Although the steaks did not live up to today's top quality steakhouses, it's always sad to lose an historical icon. Rest in peace, ye olde buggy. 

Friday
Dec092011

#21 Sizzler - Atwater Village

Rating: 1.75 cows

 

We had to. It was sitting there on our list, staring us down like a boxer at the weigh-in. Laughing as we tried the mid-range and high-end steakhouses, it sat and waited, knowing its day would finally come. We tried every excuse we could think of: "They don't have table service!" "They don't have a filet!" "They're not a real steakhouse!!" But we soon realized there was no avoiding the one thing we had dreaded perhaps more than any other: The Sizzler.

Known for its all-you-can-eat shrimp and salad bar, Sizzler is certainly not the paragon of steakhouses. But importantly for us, it proffers the irresistible lure of steak with a low price and convenient location that appeals to many steak lovers who are too far from or can't afford the more serious players. And so whether or not it falls into the category of a "steakhouse" rather than just a restaurant that has steak on the menu, it's on our list because of those reasons, and because while their options may not be diverse, they market steak as their primary entree. The salad is there to maintain a veneer of healthiness and to pacify those vegetarians.

Passing by the iconic Tam O'Shanter in Atwater Village, we arrived at the Sizzler on a bustling Friday night. The modest parking lot was nearly full as we made our way inside. Normally we like to grab a drink at the bar before digging in to our slab of meat, but tonight things would be a little different. Queueing up along the left wall we eyed the colorful menu. We put aside the obvious comparisons to dining at Wahoo's and got to work on our orders. There are two types of steaks: the top sirloin, and for an extra $10 you can have the Rib Eye. The salad bar was certainly ample but also decidedly mediocre in quality. The food looked fresh and healthy while also being somewhat banal, but since we didn't come for the salad it wasn't a problem.

The steaks arrived shortly thereafter (except for Brent's, which arrived much later) and surprise of all surprises, they actually tasted alright! It's true that our expectations were low, and we wondered more than once whether this would lower the floor which has so far been Black Angus'. But for the most part the rib eye steaks, while thinner and fattier than we would like, and certainly not aged or the most prime cuts, were modestly enjoyable. Flavor was adequate, and the steaks were cooked reasonably well; certainly better than we had hoped. So while not as much of a surprise as Outback, we laud Sizzler for delivering a basic low-end steak. In the grand scheme of things, we feel that spending a bit more on your steak can get you a substantially better meal, but this was not the experience we feared.

Sizzler Photos

Monday
Nov212011

#20 L.A. Prime - Downtown

Rating: 3.5 cows

 

High up on the 35th floor of the Westin Bonaventure, boasting spectacular views of the downtown Los Angeles skyline, is LA Prime. You might be thinking, "hey, I've heard that place rotates - I don't want a moving floor to harsh my vibe while I'm enjoying some delicious steak." Fear not—it is the 34th floor, home of the Bona Vista Lounge, which rotates (and is easily accessible via a staircase next to the host station for your pre-dinner cocktail enjoyment). Your seat at LA Prime rests comfortably on a fixed floor, providing a peaceful place to gaze at the lights while enjoying your meal. The obvious question is: how much are you paying for the view? And is it worth it? 

Reaching the restaurant is a bit of an adventure, for which the agoraphobic need not apply.  Access is via glass elevators which cling to the outside of the building and move swiftly.  You may remember the scene in True Lies where Arnold Schwarzenegger rides up a glass elevator—on horseback—in pursuit of a terrorist who is riding a neighboring glass elevator.  That scene was filmed at the Bonaventure, and is even commemorated by a plaque hanging between the elevators in the lobby.  I'll admit to feeling a little apprehensive on the ride up, but the ride back down went much more smoothly, thanks to a belly full of wine and steak.

The restaurant offers a good selection of wine, with good prices, though not quite as good as we initially thought. We ordered a 2006 Turley Juvenile Zinfandel, but we wound up receiving a 2009. While the price was still good for a 2009, it wasn't nearly as good as it would have been for a 2006. We went ahead and enjoyed the 2009, and later enjoyed some free desserts to make up for the confusion.

The side items were mostly disappointing, with one exception. We sampled the vermont white cheddar macaroni, creamed corn, and spinach. All except the spinach were quite underwhelming. That goes double for the vermont white cheddar macaroni, which definitely failed to live up to the expectation of its appetizing description. The diamond in the rough was the spinach, which was combined with smoked bacon and caramelized shallots. It was fantastic, though adding bacon to anything makes it better, so this might be considered cheating in a side dish that is primarily a leafy green vegetable.

Our steak selections ran the usual gamut of filet, ribeye, strip, and porterhouse. The porterhouse was wet aged, and both the ribeye and the strip were available both wet aged and dry aged. We all prefer dry aged, and chose that option. The cuts were good and free from excessive fat, though one of us found his filet a bit on the thin side. The cooking and flavor were also good, very good even, but didn't quite make it over the line into "great" territory. Seasoning was subdued, as we prefer, so as not to overwhelm the flavor of the steak.

So, was it worth it? The price was definitely high for the quality of the steak, but the wine prices were better than average and the view was much better than average. Therefore, from a purely steak standpoint, the answer is no. However, from an overall restaurant experience standpoint, the answer is... maybe. If the view has some value to you, whether it be for a romantic dinner or to impress a client, and you're planning to enjoy some wine, then the price is not unreasonable. If you're looking for a great piece of steak, LA Prime won't be at the top of your list.

L.A Prime Photos