Saturday, August 11, 2007

Porterhouse Bistro

Warning: I just recently learned that turning up the ISO on your camera and taking the picture without flash looks a lot better than a close up picture with flash that reflects off your white plates. So now that this warning is noted, these pictures are before said epiphany.

If I were to offer you: a clove of roasted garlic with tomatoes, basil, and olive tapenade to spread on fresh baguette, a delicious bowl of French onion soup , the most delicious fries you'll ever find, a perfectly cooked porterhouse steak at medium rare, a deliciously molten chocolate cake, and two alcoholic beverages would you say "I can't afford that Charlie! That just sounds so expensive! I am not a big shot lawyer at a big shot firm making the big shot bucks!"

But what if I were to say you don’t have to be a big shot lawyer to enjoy this meal? What if I could get you this meal for the one easy and low payment of $39.99!? No I’m not out of my mind!

Of course there’s a catch to this amazing price. Unlike most steak eateries that carry USDA Prime steaks the restaurant only uses USDA Choice (found in Costco!) and claim it tastes like USDA Prime. Their claim is due to the flavor injection they put into the steak while cooking. A mixture of garlic and “special seasoning” makes it so juicy so delicious that you forget its Choice!

Steak enthusiasts please don’t kill me! I know you don’t inject anything! Let the meat’s natural juices flavor the meat and your taste buds! I know I know I know! But I’m just such a sucker for a deal! And it was one of the few times I was okay with horribly slow and inattentive service!

How did I happen upon this interesting restaurant? Let me take you back a few months *twirls hands* WoooOoooo WeEEeeeeEEEee

So this summer I have been trying to get some friends together to eat steak and drink wine. From May 24th all the way till July 29th I had little success in getting any group of friends together. But as luck may have it the right combination of events allowed one of my summer wishes to come true!

A co-worker from the US Attorney's, a classmate from law school, and two friends from back home decided to join me on our adventure. Every single one of them unable to turn down combination of great wine, great steaks, and great company

My buddy Nick suggested Porterhouse Bistro in Beverly Hills. PB (porterhouse bistro)'s claim to fame is their Prix Fixe menu, a $40 delight that is sure to fulfill everyone’s need for delightful steak. Located a couple of blocks from the Maserati dealer, the restaurant is nestled in a quaint brown brick building. The great thing about the restaurant is parking! There are TONS of parking meters all over the place! And after 6pm in LA you don’t have to pay for parking! Silly people getting their cars valued for $5! (when did restaurants start charging customers to valet...).

Other than the Prix Fixe menu, the other reason we came was for the extremely reasonable $10 corkage fee! I lurveeeeee cheap to free corkage! So to accompany us on this excellent steak adventure were Mr. Sea Smoke Ten, Mr. Chateau Lagrange 1996, and Mr. Dominus 2001. Quite the nice wine pairings for what we had in store if I do say so myself! I offered some wine to the waiter, bartender, and general manager so they cut our corkage to just $10! Woohoo!

The waitress became very helpful when one of the waiters noticed some of the quality of the wines.. and.. when the waitress busted up the cork for my 96 Lagrange and then promptly blamed it on a faulty cork. The waiter got a lil contraption and took the cork off piece by piece. Suddenly multiple decanters appeared in our sights and wonderful Bordeaux glasses came from the back room. Ms. Waitress hasn’t learned yet that when you uncork the wine you don’t uncork it diagonally.

Anyways! Away with my complaining! Since this is a food blog (not wine blog) I won’t go into details on the wonderfulness/lack of wonderfulness of these wines, but do know that every single one was very well received.

Basically we ordered in “couples” *cough*. My buddy from USD Steve and I shared a 26 oz Porterhouse (filet mignon + NY steak in one giant steak!), Nick and Alex ordered the same, and since Ryan (my coworker) was all alone he upgraded to the 20oz T-bone for $10 more. The prix fixe menu for the meat is actually very interesting. For certain dollar increments you can adjust the size of your steak. The sharing 26oz is essentially two Prix Fixe orders that.. you share. Heh. You can get a 40oz to share for 20$ more and etc etc. The standard steak they serve on the Prix Fixe is the 13oz Rib Eye.

Tip: I’ve often read that when it comes to eating steaks the larger the better. This is based on the fact that a larger steak is allowed to simmer in its own juices and really cook itself to the right amount of tenderness. A lot of steakhouses suggest ordering the largest steak and splitting between 2-4 people! One steakhouse in Tampa,FL even has 70oz Steaks to split among the whole table!

They also have fish, lamb, chicken and other boring stuff on the menu for you to choose, but when a restaurant is called PORTERHOUSE BISTRO, I try to eat its namesake. Like.. Kentucky fried chicken, I don’t go in their looking for a hamburger! I know it’s their chicken (and coleslaw) that really hits the spot.

After taking a good 15 minutes for our waitress to take our order (lucky for her I opened up bottle #1 and we commenced to drinking) the first item arrived. La Brea Baguettes with homemade Bruschetta, Tapenade, and a giant clove of oven roasted garlic. La Brea is the bread that Costco sells in their “fancy” bread department. The kind that if you don’t eat within say.. the first 3 hours of purchase, it turns into a rock solid slab of dough that is considered a lethal weapon in the state of Texas. (I’m in Texas as we speak!). It’s a delicious bread when fresh, but horribly stale after a bit. The Bruschettahere isn’t your classical olive oil + tomatoes + basil.. it seems to be a blend of.. diced tomatoes.. something that looks like old basil... and garlic. Its not bad mind you, it’s just not Bruschetta. Bruschetta is supposed to be fresh, with crisp tomatoes intersecting with fresh basil. I generally skipped the olive Tapenade since.. I’m not a huge fan of olives.. but the roasted garlic. Oh man the roasted garlic is delicious. I love wrapping a clove of garlic in aluminum foil, dosing it with olive oil and tossing it into the oven. The garlic that comes out is mushy, sweet, and so oh so flavorful. I seriously just ate butter + bread + garlic. A lethal combination for my waistline and my breath. Luckily my girlfriend was nowhere around.

The next part of the meal was my appetizer. You had the choice of their house chopped salad, French onion soup, salmon quesadilla and some other selections. I chose the French onion soup. Which was an excellent choice!

I could probably say that this French onion soup was the BEST French onion soup I’ve ever had. My problem with FOS (French onion soup) is that it’s always much too salty. But this soup was just perfect. What also helped was the excellent crust they baked over the soup. They baked a large layer of puff pastry, the type of breading they put over Beef Wellington. It has a light, crispy, airiness to it that really does a great job of soaking in the soup. I was so overwhelmed by the greatness and majesty of this soup that I forgot to ask everyone else what they thought of their food... but that never stopped me from taking pictures of them! WoooOOoo Weee.

The next item to arrive was the steaks. If you’ve ever eaten a steak with me you know I’m extremely picky. I love a perfectly medium rare steak with the warm pink center. The problem is that so few places out in the steak world actually can cook a medium rare steak perfect. My solution to this problem was to tell the waiter/waitress “on a scale of 1-10, a medium rare being a 3 and a rare being a 1, I want my steak cooked at a 2.. so not rare but not quick medium rare”. Sadly it never turns out right either way I look at it, always comes out vastly overcooked to a medium. But ah Porterhouse Bistro you did not disappoint! I asked for a medium rare and I received a medium rare! So chewy and warm, just how I like it!

The next great accolade I give this restaurant is that since they know you’re sharing a steak.. they actually cut off the filet, cut off the NY steak and cut it into slices for you to share. If I wasn’t so madly in love with my girlfriend, I’d say it was quite a romantic meal for Steve and I.

The flavor of the steak is actually pretty good. It has the nice char that comes from broiled steak with the crisp little bits scattered all over the steak. There is a hint of garlic to remind you of the marinade they injected into the steak. The crisp coating of the steak is infused with cracked black pepper that offers a stark contrast to the garlic running through the inside of the steak. All in all the steak has more flavor than a standard steak house steak. But the extra flavor in the steak cleverly disguises the Choice grade meat as something infinitely softer, juicer, tastier than the grade implies. There’s a steak sauce that comes with the steak, but I didn’t try it.

Now the best part of this meal was my side dish, a basket of French fries.

Coming in a basket of thinly sliced fried potatoes, the French fries look like they are on crack. Each fry is gigantic. It’s not so much like a steak fry where it has a long width but absolutely no height. Think of a standard shaped fry and just multiple it by 6 and you have the shape of the PB fry. The best part is, the flavor is very similar to a standard thin French fry, but the interesting part is the French fry seems to be dipped in batter and then fried. A majority of French fries out there are just sliced potatoes dipped into hot oil... so the extra batter was a very pleasant surprise. The best analogy I could think of was a Tempura Fry. (heh).

The fry itself is exactly the type of fry I like. I hate heavy potato fries that completely outbalance the amount of batter/crispness of the fry. (i.e. Steak fries). Even though this fry is so large and filled with potato, the extra batter really helps improve the balance. Really crisp and fried on the outside, with a hot soft potato core. By far one of the best French fries I’ve ever had in my life. I could eat these all day!

I believe the other appetizers were forgettable. They had an assortment of grilled/sautéed vegetables, mashed potatoes, and other steakhouse necessities. But SKIP ALL THAT JUST GET THE FRIES.

The final piece of the meal was the dessert. I ordered the Chocolate molten lava cake. A small lava cake accompanied with a side of vanilla bean ice cream (my fave!). The cake itself was just okay. You usually expect motel lava cake to be very warm due to it usually being fresh out of the oven. You could tell that they had a bunch of these sitting in the kitchen waiting to be reheated. Yuck! The fudge did not erupt out like any type of lava! Of course the ice cream made up for anything lacking because it was oh so vanilla beanie!

The Crème Brulee was oh so average as well. The sugar was much too burnt and much too thick. It left a very thin crème to accompany it which really didn’t help. If I was given a choice I’d very very easily pass on this crème brulee! Sigh, the dessert was not a great ending to the evening considering all the other great parts of the meal.

But overall it was a great experience. Even though our waitress probably came to ask us how our meal was once over the course of 2 hours, the food greatly made up for it. We were so engrossed by the wine and the food we didn’t really notice how long it took the waitress to respond until we actually needed something. She was significantly more attentive to other people in the restaurant, so I do believe she was just leaving us to our own devices.

For the price it really can’t be beat, where else can you get the same quality of food for such a low price? (nowhere) I’d say it’s even better than the Black Angus dinner for two specials they send in the mail. So if you’re in town go on and visit the Porterhouse Bistro, where the Prix Fixe is actually a deal!


honkman said...

Just a short comment on Bruschetta. You are making a mistake I see often in the US. Bruschetta is not the topping on the bread. The name Bruschetta (italian for toasted bread) means only the bread by itself but does not include the topping. There is also a interesting discussion on CH about this:

Charlie Fu said...

honkman: hum good info, you are right that its a very large misconception. thanks.

but my post stillstands with a correction "the common american topping for bruschetta", which i shall correct when im not on my phone typing this message out