On Wheeled Meat Dispensers' and other things that don't seem right but are …
By Jared Andrukanis, Segment Producer
If someone was to ask you if you preferred to see your steak wheeled out to you in a bizarre cart that is a cross between an aluminum mini-zeppelin and a tiny coffin, or, if you preferred to have it come out on a plate with veggies and a starch neatly spaced as per normal, which one would you choose?
Some (most) would think this a very bizarre query. But let’s just say it is now an important query for me…and all it took was one night at House of Prime Rib in (kinda) sunny San Francisco to forever alter my ideals on proper steak service.
And this is a good thing.
Now for the digression (you saw this coming, right?)…
As we travel, we begin to get a different take on what is “right” or “wrong” when it comes to proper food service. We have done entire shows where every restaurant we go to has no refrigeration. Where there is not a recognizable gas range in sight. And where the best service is waiting patiently in line for a newspaper-wrapped sandwich made with meat that has been sitting out in the sun all day. It gives a whole new spin on the term “open kitchen.” Sometimes the only way to tell if a meal is truly exceptional is if you can get it on the street and you survive the battle. It’s a different yardstick out there in the world as opposed to the Zagat-rating jungle (which drives me f***** crazy, by the way) we weed ourselves through time and time again to find that perfect “experience” here in the States.
Don’t get me wrong…I love a perfectly executed meal at a US (read: traditional) style restaurant. Each course properly spaced by the server, cooked on-point by the kitchen and matched with a nice glass of wine. This is our standard. This is how we judge things.
And on that note, it is a rare thing to be surprised in your own backyard.
I am no restaurant reviewer, but here is what I would lay down if someone asked me about one of my favorite meals while in the shadow of the Bay Bridge.
Why This May Be My Favorite Restaurant Ever
By J. Andrukanis
Rating: 5/4 Stars
“From the minute you walk into this place, it is a battleground. You can feel the energy around you as flashbulbs pop and muted voices singing Happy Birthday rattle through the overall cacophony of the place. Servers weave through the dining room floor with an inherent grace, ducking around giant steel carts that look like they are from the early days of the Industrial Revolution being wheeled slowly through the main seating area by persons in chef coats wearing red neckerchiefs. The lighting is low but inviting and there is always a wait. While doing so, you can hear shakers of martinis being made at the sizeable bar to your left, and this rhythm of 80 proof spirits and ice will eventually drive you to down a few of them while relaxing in the lounge for your table to be ready. Speaking of the lounge/bar…unlike other restaurants, there is no dining whatsoever in this area. It is simply a well-appointed corral where expectant diners stare eagerly at the main dining room watching for other diners to stand and head for the door, hoping that it was your table that just finished and it is your turn to sit. When you finally cozy up to your table, a menu the size of the New York Times is handed to you by the hostess. Although daunting at first, the minute you open the massive document, you begin to see even more of the genius of this place. There are literally less than 10 choices, all emblazoned on the paper in fine gothic print. You focus on them, eyes a little shaky from the aforementioned martinis, and realize it is only a formality to look at the list of items for sale here…you just have to decide how hungry you are, and let your server know. I choose the namesake cut of beef. My server takes away the menu, and smiles at me as if she knows that the ride is about to begin. The next 45 minutes are a blur of amazing service and spectacular food cut right from the bone less than 36 inches from my smiling face. I am speechless…”
OK – Any real restaurant reviewer would take at least a few more paragraphs to describe how it may very well have been the best steak of their life, and how the horseradish could strip paint off a brand new Mustang, but I am not one, so I will spare you the extended hyperbole.
Let’s just say that some things are true for me by default-
1.) Seafood tends to taste better with sand between your toes.
2.) If there is a line wrapping around the block at a potential eating-place, it is probably a good choice to grab a spot and wait (caveat – this rule does not apply to any fast food chains at lunchtime).
3.) Prime Rib hacked off the bone tableside by a chef wielding a massive carving knife who pushes a giant galvanized wheel-cart full of beef and creamed spinach around a restaurant all night is about as close to a 30/30/30 Zagat Rating as I could hope for.
Yikes…re-reading that last rule, I just realized how much I must like steak.