Over the vacation Matt took me out for a very fancy Christmas date. The week before we went home we started the search for the perfect location. Matt’s criteria was simple…steak, steak, and more steak. Mine was predictable, it needed to be blog worthy (i.e. not your run-of-the-mill cookie cutter steakhouse.) As I was engaging in my standard “active viewing” of Top Chef that week, (meaning I watch it with my computer on my lap and google all the names of dishes and ingredients I don’t know, as well as the names of chefs I’m unfamiliar with) I came across the perfect restaurant. The chefs on the show had to visit famous New York restaurants and try to imitate the cooking style and philosophy. Now I’m proud to say that I had heard of all the chefs and their respective restaurants but I decided to google David Burke because I seemed to remember hearing that he had a restaurant in Chicago as well. I was right and a few clicks later, I had secured us an OpenTable reservation for the following Monday night.
Dale Levitski from Top Chef described Daivd Burke’s cooking style as “food with Jazz hands.” This could not be a more spot on description. Overall the meal was a perfectly decadent steakhouse classic, with some flair and flash thrown in to spice things up. Let’s start with the appetizers, no wait let’s start with the drinks. I’ve been trained from a young age that pre-meal cocktails are an important part of the overall dining process. I knew my mom’s drink order by the time I was six and I was probably the only first grader who could spit out “Chivas on the rocks with a twist” like I could say my ABCs. When I became a grown up lady, I came to have my own drink, a dirty Kettle One martini with extra olives (the extra olive part came after I started dating Matt because he always steals one.) It was made perfectly, and the waiter brought blue cheese stuffed and regular olives. “These people are on their game” I thought.
Ok, now we can talk about the appetizers. I’ve come to live by a general rule that if foie gras is on the menu, and I’m not at a Dennys, I’m ordering it, hands down, every time. There are few things as purely satisfying in this world as foie gras. If you’ve never had it, fix that, immediately. It’s literally like eating a stick of butter…but with more flavor. This particular foie came with spicy duck prosciutto. Like the proud adventurous eater that I am, I order first and asked questions later. When the dish was placed before me I timidly asked “um…what exactly is duck prosciutto?” The waiter launched into a full blown explanation about how they take a fattened duck breast, cure it and age it in-house, then slice it paper thin, and serve it alongside the foie for a sort of duck two-ways match-up. (See…it’s foie gras with jazz hands.) Now, I try hard to keep the blog free of any foul language because A. I think it makes me sound smarter and B. my grandmother reads this, but in the spirit of full disclosure I feel the need to tell you that the first words out of my mouth after one bite of this heavenly dish were “holy…crap.” To describe the flavor I can only say this, it’s just like it sounds. Think of how duck breast tastes, that slightly game-y, yet rich deep flavor, now think of prosciutto and the intensely salty melt in your mouth paper thin slices. Put them together and that’s it. If I were blindfolded and fed that, even though I had never heard of it before, I think I would have been able to identify it as duck prosciutto, and like I said, holy crap, was it good…sorry grandma.
Now onto the steak. Primehouse is famous for it’s dry aged steak. In fact the 55 Day Rib-Eye was voted the best dry aged steak by Chicago magazine. As our waiter described the “deep, concentrated flavor” of this bone in monstrosity my eyes grew wider than a kid on Christmas. He boldly stated that it would be the best steak I ever had. When I mentioned that he was talking to two steak loving New Yorkers and that that was quite the promise to make, he stood by his declaration. “Better than Lugers?” I asked. Yup. “Better than Delmonicos?” Easily. “Better than Barclay Prime?” Undoubtedly. “Better than Craft.” For sure. “Better than BLT Steak?” Yes mam. With some urging from Matt, I bit the bullet an ordered the seemingly over priced steak. Matt ordered the bone in filet, and we paired our steaks with a side of creamy spinach (Matt’s fav) some truffled asiago fries, and Primehouse’s take on the classic steakhouse baked potato. Instead of a baked potato loaded with bacon and cheese they swapped out the spud for soft pillow-y gnocchi and then topped that with all of your favorite fixins, creamy cheddar, chives, and thick cut BBQ bacon…so inventive and so well done.
When the steak arrived, I was skeptical yet immediately seduced by the look and smell of 16 ounces of beef placed before me. I realized as I raised my fork and knife that I was kind of nervous. Would it live up to the hype? Would it taste like every other steak and massively disappoint? Would it be fantastic and ruin all other steak for me for the rest of my life? Only one way to find out…As the piece melted in my mouth and that “deep concentrated” flavor engulfed every taste bud, a huge smile spread across my face. The waiter was right, it was the best steak I ever had. And yes steak is ruined for life, but it was totally worth it. It was like steak, turbo charged, like someone had flipped a lever and turned it’s flavor up about 17 notches, it was beefy and smoky but delicate and perfectly cooked. I ate the entire thing, no leftovers, no doggie bag, I couldn’t stop, it was intoxicating, it was addicting, it was the best steak in the world.
I didn’t think anything could top the main course, nor did I think I could eat another bite of food for the next 12 days. But when the dessert menu arrived and a little dish called “Kickin Donuts” was staring up at me, I couldn’t resit. I had heard about this at other restuarants and I had been dying to try it, I love interactive food and who doesn’t love donuts. A few minutes later out came a big basket overflowing with a dozen donut holes. Alongside came these adorable little squeeze bottles filled with vanilla, salted carmel, and apple ginger filling. The concept is simple. You stick the nose of the bottle in the donut, squeeze, and enjoy. And did we ever enjoy.
I absolutely loved this restaurant it was the perfect experience begining to end. It was inventive and unique yet still retained all the classic integrity of a truly great steakhouse. The service was first class and the steak well, let’s just say it’s a good thing they have a sister restaurant in New York, Lord knows I can’t go a whole year before having that again.
So gimme some comments, I like being validated. What’s the best steak you’ve ever had?