Well Dined

20Apr/120

Bourbon Steak (top 100 – 2010, 2011, 2012)

We had been meaning to try out Michael Mina's signature restaurant, Bourbon Steak, for quite a while, and when we finally did we were not disappointed - except by the steak.

We started out in the lounge, where we perused their massive and innovative cocktail list.  I had the 1919, with aperol, grapefruit bitters, prosecco, and a sugar cube - a perfect aperitif.  There were many more drinks on the list that I would love to try as well; we might have to come back for an evening at the bar.

We were seated in what some may consider a less-than-prime spot at the back of the restaurant, but I loved it!  We were right next to the kitchen and could see what was going on, plus I had this lovely view out the window; and the A/C vent that the waitress said some people complained about was perfect for me, I am always too warm.

The meal opened with complimentary duck fat fries from the chef.  Many people rave about these in their reviews, but I found them to be just good (not outstanding).  This evening, the flavors were herb, paprika, and cheddar with homemade sauces: sweet ketchup, thousand island, and BBQ.  Of these, the thousand island was the standout sauce; and the cheddar fries were tasty, but the sauces overwhelmed them.  Still - a nice way to open the meal.

The other complimentary item was the truffle butter rolls, served hot in a mini cast iron pan (typically after the appetizer course).  These are worth the hype - hot, soft, buttery, with distinctive truffle flavor.  I could have eaten about a hundred of these.  Diners note - the server will bring you more if you ask for them!

Foie gras "pizza": this appetizer was one of the standout dishes of the night.  Cold torchon is thinly shaved over warm, toasted brioche to form a melt-in-your mouth combination.  The pickled strawberry and rhubarb accompaniments provide sweetness and tang, while the fennel provides a refreshing and herbaceous crunch.  I normally prefer foie in it's seared form, but this was fantastic.

Another outstanding appetizer (that I didn't take a picture of, unfortunately) was the caviar.  Bourbon Steak serves Black River caviar that is sustainable and organic.  It is buttery, fresh, and clean and served with popovers, creme fraiche, chopped egg, and chives - outstanding.  Normally they serve it with a shot of vodka, but we requested champagne instead.

The soups at Bourbon Steak consistently receive good reviews.  I ordered the seasonal Spring carrot soup with sweet pea agnolotti, crispy ham, and cumin scented cream.  It was perfectly balanced between heavy and light, with rich depth of flavor.  It was really pretty when it was served too - with all the components stacked in the bowl, then the server poured the soup over the top.  I love it when soup is presented that way.

We had been walking around in the sun all day, so I wasn't feeling up to a full entree.  Instead, I ordered the beet and potato gnocchi appetizer as my main.  The presentation was just gorgeous, as you can see, and the sweet flavor of the beets came through nicely.  Rich, creamy goat cheese, tangy mustard greens, and buttery pine nuts balanced out the sweetness.

We got a side of truffle macaroni and cheese to share, and (aside from the random piece of broccoli) it was fantastic.  Creamy, silky, and with good truffle flavor - this is just what we were expecting.

The one disappointment of the night was the actual steak.  I had read reviews saying to stay away from the steak here (how ironic), and I have to say that they are correct.  I don't know why the worst thing at a steak restaurant would be the steak, but it is.  Jasper ordered the triple seared wagyu steak, coated in salt, then soy, then a sake-mirin glaze.  It was overcooked (he ordered med-rare, and got med-well), not at all tender (as wagyu should be), and had no flavor - not even the soy, sake, mirin flavor described.

Stick to the appetizers and sides here. Or try the veal schnitzel (which I've heard good things about) or the infamous lobster pot pie - deconstructed tableside for you and recently reduced from $85 to $68.  Also, the pulled pork "cupcake" (cheddar scallion biscuit) and oak-fired prime steak burger served in the lounge sound amazing.

We did get dessert, but again I forgot to take photos.  I ordered the butterscotch pot de creme, made with 18 year aged scotch, based on rave reviews but vastly preferred Jasper's dessert.  He ordered the brown sugar bananas with banana cake, peanut ganache, and fried captain crunch flavored ice cream.  It tasted like childhood - amazing.

We will definitely be returning, and learning from our mistakes next time.

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