Sunday, April 12, 2009

Steak With a Side of Ostentatious

Buzz has been spreading lately about a fairly new steakhouse in Center City. Ever since Craig Laban, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s rather rigid yet informed restaurant critic, wrote a bashing review on it, not hesitating to comment on the restaurant’s substandard food, I have been curious. Do these professional restaurant critics even attempt to relate a layperson’s experience at these dining establishments? Or are they required to follow some sort of industry standards that requires them to taste, smell and experience things completely different? I read Craig Laban’s reviews every week, having read them for quite some time, and am pretty shocked if I actually come across a positive one. The dining experience tends to be primarily subjective in nature, hence how can one accurately rate the food and the ambience? So I was anxious to compare my experience at the highly-touted Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse. As I noted in my review of Butcher & Singer, I am not a huge steakhouse lover, but for reasons of pure curiosity, I needed to know what my beloved Butcher was up against.

I had some preconceived ideas of Del Frisco’s prior to even entering the doors that did not stem from Craig Laban. A friend of mine had recently commented that Del Frisco’s was turning in to the new hot-spot bar scene on the weekends. He said the girls gussy themselves up so they can sit at the bar, looking pretty, sipping their martinis, in hopes of attracting one of the many wealthy patrons who are just finishing dining on their ribeyes and lobster tails. When I walked in the door, I was greeted by 3 hostesses and 2 coat girls, all garbed in low-cut, sexy black dresses. I decided to keep my coat on in order to hide what I was wearing because I felt like a total frump standing next to these girls in my oversized cardigan and black tights. It was becoming clear to me immediately that the restaurant was catering to the politicians, lawyers and bankers who all inhabit offices in the immediate area, thus my friend dining with me would fit right in. The dining room was a sea of suits, primarily filled with men, feasting on huge cuts of meat that their respective firms would comp. It was a Monday night, so I was surprised to see the lack of empty tables. Clearly these people were not taking heed to Laban’s review. The space was rather breathtaking – cathedral ceilings, gorgeous mahogany bar and a balcony of tables overlooking the entire restaurant. The waitstaff was attentive, too attentive at times, but in defense of the establishment, lawyers do like to have their asses kissed.

We started with the Shangai-style fried calamari, sweet and spicy, teasing the palate, but tasty on all fronts. The portion was more than enough for two to share. We were invited to dismiss all rules of etiquette, and rip the bread apart with our hands, which was fresh and soft as it is advertised to be baked daily and served piping hot to the table. Now normally if I am attending a steakhouse, I would order a steak, just as I would order fish at a seafood restaurant. On this particular occasion, I was watching my diet (which I will expand on in another blog post), so I decided to stick with a healthier option and order the one thing on the menu that I normally wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole – the salmon. In retrospect, this was a ridiculous idea, as salmon is my least favorite fish, but the error was made and the damage done. The salmon was served in a Tschoupitoulas sauce, which was a somewhat spicy, creamy tomato-based sauce. Apparently Tschoupitoulas is a street in New Orleans, hence the dish was Cajun in nature. The sauce was good, the salmon not so much. It was pretty dry and rather bland. My friend was the smart one and ordered the boneless prime rib. I have to admit it was delicious – the spices on the outside brought out the flavor of the beef and made me wish I had not been so health-conscious. The highlights of the meal, however, were the side dishes. The macaroni and cheese was a delight – not quite as good as Parc’s version, but would give it a run for its money. My favorite of the night was the skillet potatoes and onions. I am a potato chip junkie, and these came very close to resembling that of a potato chip so, needless to say, I was eating them like I would if I had a bag of Herr’s on my lap in front of the television. They were a tad greasy, but I didn’t care, the more grease the better at the time. On the other hand, my stomach was not thanking me later. We were going to forego dessert, and were surprised when a sinful slice of strawberry cheesecake was placed in front of us. Fortunately my dining companion has friends in high places, thus compliments of this considerate friend, we stuffed our already full stomachs with dessert. The cake was creamy and perfectly-textured, and drizzled with a sweet strawberry sauce.

Overall the experience was enjoyable and the food was very satisfying. As I mentioned previously, dining out is so subjective. My personal preference is to not sit in a room full of pretentious lawyers and politicians who ogle the teeny bopper hostesses in their skin tight dresses and argue over who is going to pick up the bill in an effort to prove who makes more money; rather, I tend to lean more towards the comfort of a quiet, comfortable atmosphere like Butcher & Singer, where I can talk to my dining companion without worrying if I’m in the waiter’s way while he’s trying to fill up my water glass for the hundredth time of the night. Craig Laban was not entirely amiss in his review, yet, still much too harsh in my opinion. My advice, however, is when your lawyer invites you to dinner at Del Frisco’s, by all means, accept the invitation because when is the next time you will get to eat a $10 bag of potato chips while watching the mayor lick lobster off his fingers at the table next to you?


  1. I've been wondering about this place. Good to know it's a potential go-to spot for late-night drinks. (since I can't afford dinner!)

  2. Great post! Well written and an interesting comparison to Laban's review. You have a real talent for this kind of writing. Keep it up!


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