Lawry’s (Beverly Hills, CA)

Lawry’s The Prime Rib
100 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Dining date: 8/12/12

DSC_0272

Lawry’s an institution in L.A., nestled in the middle of La Cienega’s ‘restaurant row’ since 1938. That location was the first of many for the chain, which now has restaurants internationally. Growing up in San Francisco, I visited the House of Prime Rib a number of times and always heard comparisons when I moved to Los Angeles. I first came while in college with my dad and found the restaurant eerily similar to my S.F. comparison. For what it’s worth, Lawry’s opened first.

The food at Lawry’s is not complicated or fussy. Sure there are some fish and other meat options, but most people opt for a slice of prime rib (sizing varies from a petite boneless cut to an almost obscene bone-in chunk of meat), served with horseradish, Yorkshire pudding, and mashed potatoes. Sides such as creamed spinach, creamed corn, sauteed mushrooms, baked potatoes, and asparagus are extra.

One of my favorite parts about Lawry’s is waiting for a table (imagine that!). In the waiting room are meatballs in a marinara sauce and house-fried potato chips. I must say they’re pretty tasty and it’s always a struggle not to eat too much. I always end up with a couple of small plates, though.

DSC_0274

DSC_0277

Famous Original Spinning Bowl Salad crisp romaine and iceberg lettuce, baby spinach, shredded beets, chopped eggs and croutons, tossed with exclusive vintage dressing

DSC_0302

A large salad bowl is put on ice and literally spun, as dressing is poured into the bowl from high above.

Whipped Cream Horseradish grated fresh horseradish and seasoned whipped cream

DSC_0308

When it’s time for the main course, large silver carts are wheeled around filled with racks of prime rib. Yes, please.

DSC_0313

Five ‘sizes’ of prime rib are available ($35-$53); below are the three largest.

The Lawry Cut traditional and most popular cut

prime rib

The Diamond Jim Brady Cut an extra-thick portion that includes the rib bone

prime rib

The Beef Bowl Cut a double-sized cut with the rib bone

prime rib

A large slab of beef is put on each plate, topped with au jus, and served with the sides of choice. It’s quite a sight, for sure. I think the cooking temperatures were pretty spot-on and consistent (easier to do with prime rib than steaks), and I found the prime rib to be tender and juicy. There was a good beefy flavor and I particularly liked their au jus (ask for extra on the side). Total comfort food for me, particularly with the creamy mashed potatoes and gravy.

Lobster tails were available to add to the meal – $16 for one and $24 for two.

lobster tail

While I thought the lobster tails were reasonably priced, I didn’t think they were anything special. You get what you pay for, I suppose. Save the money and upgrade for a larger cut of beef.

Similar to previous visits, I left my meal at Lawry’s content and full. Prime rib and mashed potatoes happen to be two of my favorite foods, so it’s hard to go wrong. However, prime rib is a relatively easy thing to make at home and I wouldn’t say the beef here is that much better than what a typical home cook can do. But hey, it’s still pretty delicious, good for large groups and has a sense of timeless nostalgia; for that, I’ll be returning here for many years.

DSC_0365

Sous Vide Flank Steak with Arugula Chimichurri

Dining date: 4/9/12

The latest in my experimentation with sous vide has been beef. Actually, the first thing I cooked was beef (a flat iron steak) and I moved over to chicken, pork and lately, I’ve been cooking a lot of fish. Some duck was a gateway back to red meat, and I’ve been playing with a bunch of steaks (short ribs soon to come!).

The thought came to me while I was planning what to bring to an Easter BBQ potluck. I could cook the flank steak sous vide ahead of time and bring the vacuum-sealed bags to the BBQ to be finished on the grill. I think flank steak is a good option marinated and then grilled, but I’ve heard that cooking it sous vide for a long period of time can slowly break down some of the connective tissue to yield a more tender meat. I was sold.

I tried using three different marinade/cooking liquids, each with one pound of steak. The first was an Asian-based marinade with soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, fresh garlic and fresh ginger. The second was definitely more Western with a reduced red wine (down to almost a syrup), minced carrots, onions, celery, and both fresh thyme and rosemary. Lastly I went with a simple blend of garlic salt and pepper, allowing the meat to bathe in its own natural juices. I sealed up the bags and plopped them into a 131F water bath for 16 hours.

I brought the first two bags (the Asian and Western) to the BBQ, where they were patted dry and finished on an open flame. Given that this was my first time making it, I was a bit nervous – surely I didn’t want to bring a dud to the potluck.

As I sliced into the steak, I breathed a sigh of relief as it yielded perfect end-to-end medium rare meat.  I couldn’t resist eating one of the slices on the spot and was rewarded with pretty good beefy flavor, with each of the different steaks subtly showing off their marinades. It was more tender than usual, having a consistency akin to a slow-cooked beef brisket. I considered it a success and hey, Wolvesmouth approved!

For the last steak, I ended up making it the following day at home. I warmed the bag up in hot water, removed the meat from the bag and patted it try. Lastly I seared both sides with a blowtorch and cut it thinly across the grain, on a bias.

flank steak

Given that this one didn’t have a marinade, I didn’t want it to be one-dimensional. A sauce to accompany the steak would be ideal, and I had stumbled upon an intriguing recipe a while back. It was an arugula chimichurri, something I thought would fit in perfectly. Garlic, citrus and arugula are all wonderful accompaniments to red meat so I figured together they’d be a sure bet.

Below is the recipe, adapted from Kitchen Daily.

Ingredients:
1 cup arugula leaves, rinsed and dried
1.5 cloves garlic, peeled, or more to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as desired
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt, to taste 

Directions:
Combine the arugula with a pinch of salt, the garlic, and about half the oil in a food processor or blender. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary, and adding the rest of the oil gradually. Add the lemon juice, then a little more oil or some water if you prefer a thinner mixture. Yields enough sauce for approx. 1 pound of meat.

The recipe was pretty flexible; it’s really about proportioning the ingredients to personal taste. Balance is key too, since the raw garlic and lemon acidity are both assertive flavors that can easily overpower.

I generously spooned the chimichurri sauce on top of the meat and was ready to dig in. I loved the colors, particularly the vibrant green of the sauce. The flavors were just as vibrant too between the peppery arugula, garlic and bright lemon flavors. It ended up being an excellent accompaniment to the flank steak! I’ll make this chimichurri again since it’s such a good pairing with a nice steak.

flank steak arugula chimichurri

CUT (Beverly Hills, CA)

CUT
Beverly Wilshire Hotel
9500 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Dining date: 9/1/11

cut menu

When asked what my favorite steakhouse is, CUT has been my answer since first dining here over 4 years ago. While it’s been years since I’ve been to CUT, I’ve been reminded of their food at each American Wine & Food Festival. They’ve always had some of the best things to eat (which is saying a lot for that festival), including last year’s American wagyu New York with Maine lobster and black truffles. Given that festival is now defunct, what better time to revisit CUT and reassess if it’s still my favorite steakhouse.

Not only do I think they have the best steak, but I’ve also found the restaurant to be surprisingly well-rounded for a steakhouse….I could see why they were awarded a Michelin star in the latest guide. The appetizer menu typically has some interesting items such as a bone marrow flan, veal tongue salad, or oxtail bouillon.

The variety of beef is also some of the best I’ve seen in an LA steakhouse.

raw meat

Various domestic USDA Prime cuts of beef are available, but what separates CUT is the American wagyu (above, left) and 100% wagyu from Australia (above, right). My last trip to CUT was actually when I got my first taste of Japanese wagyu beef. Sadly, it’s no longer available due to the disease that crippled the breed last year, but the Australian wagyu is still something special (and at $20+ per ounce, definitely a splurge).

cut interior

Breadsticks

breadsticks

Gougères

gougeres

Compliments of the kitchen, these light “cheese balls” were quite nice. The cheese was somewhat subtle but present, and was just enough to whet the appetite.

Bone Marrow Flan, Mushroom Marmalade, Parsley Salad

marrow

This sounded irresistible on the menu and it didn’t disappoint. The bone marrow flan had the savory richness of bone marrow, yet in a lighter custard form. I don’t always love bone marrow straight (too heavy), so this was an ideal vehicle for it. The mushroom sauce added extra richness and depth.

Butter Lettuce, Avocado, Point Reyes Blue Cheese, Champagne-Herb Vinaigrette

salad

Austrian Oxtail Bouillon, Chervil, Bone Marrow Dumplings

oxtail

This was a hearty soup with a deep flavor somewhere between beef and chicken. I don’t think it was purely an oxtail-based broth, but I’m not sure. Loved the chunks of rich oxtail meat, as well as the light bone marrow dumplings.

After much consideration, we opted not to get any wagyu and just stick to the domestic ribeyes.

Bone In Rib Eye Steak 20 Oz U.S.D.A. PRIME, Illinois Corn Fed, Aged 21 Days

steak1

Rib Eye Steak 16 Oz U.S.D.A. PRIME, Nebraska Corn Fed, Dry Aged 35 Days

steak2

steak3

Honestly I thought the differences between these two ribeyes were subtle. Both were excellent, displaying a wonderful crusty, charred sear as well as a juicy, pink interior. The meat was beefy for sure, succulent and tender. I enjoyed every last bite. I thought my steak was cooked just right (medium-rare, above), though one person thought their ‘medium’ was a bit underdone.

We ordered three sides to go with the steaks. These were all served family-style and portioned out at the table. I found all of them to be pretty good, but nothing special. They’re meant to be simple.

Cavatappi Pasta “Mac & Cheese” Quebec Cheddar

mac cheese

At $19, this was easily the most expensive truffle-less mac & cheese dish I’ve ever had. For sure a solid mac & cheese, but not as memorable as the price tag would suggest.

Creamed Spinach with Fried Organic Egg

creamed spinach

I don’t really recall where the fried egg was, but it might’ve been chopped finely into the creamed spinach. Similar to the mac & cheese, it was good but I’m not in a rush to order it again.

Yukon Gold Potato Puree

mashed potatoes

The last side order was a ‘must’ for me – a simple mashed potatoes (I just love mashed potatoes with steak). Very rich and creamy, there must’ve been a generous amount of butter and cream.

Dark Chocolate Soufflé, Whipped Crème Fraiche, Gianduja Chocolate Ice Cream

souffle

I thought this was quite good. Served hot, the souffle had a little bit of the bitterness characteristic of dark chocolate. The gianduja ice cream (chocolate-hazelnut) added the bulk of the sweetness and, combined with the whipped creme fraiche, created some pretty rich, creamy mouthfuls.

Mignardises

mignardises

CUT reaffirmed my opinion of it being the top steakhouse in the city. The steaks at CUT were top-notch and although the sides weren’t anything special, I don’t think they were trying to be. While many debate the merits of Mastro’s steaks, I really don’t think there’s much of a comparison. The food at CUT is much more well-rounded, and the variety and quality of beef far superior. I will say that, unfortunately, it is also quite a bit more expensive though.

Wagyu Steak

Dining date: 8/27/11

plates steak2

A good steak. I can’t think of any other food that is so delicious, yet so simple to cook. In terms of ingredients, salt, pepper and a good piece of meat are all you need. That’s pretty much all I used here.

I stumbled upon a steak that immediately caught my eye – a Snake River Farms wagyu (commonly known as Kobe) New York. Technically it’s not 100% wagyu, rather a cross-breed between Japanese wagyu cattle and American Black Angus (“American wagyu“). As far as I know, 100% wagyu beef from Japan is no longer available in the U.S. and will not be for a long time. A foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in 2010 killed much of the stock and exports are currently banned.

For me, American wagyu is probably my favorite for a steak. Pure wagyu is incredibly fatty – because of this (and the cost), it’s best enjoyed in smaller quantities. American wagyu, since it’s cross-bred, finds a happy medium between the wagyu and Black Angus, resulting in a steak that is very well-marbled and not too fatty in large portions.

Beautiful.

raw steak

I cook just about all of my steaks in a cast iron pan, searing and finishing in the oven. I get the pan as hot as I can…smoking hot (literally), sear for a couple of minutes on each side, then use a meat thermometer in the oven. Because of the quality of the meat, I was shooting for somewhere in the high range of rare, low range of medium-rare. I think I got just that at around 125 degrees.

cooked steak

sliced steak

plated steak1

Served on top of a bed of garlic-sauteed spinach. Execution-wise, I thought it was spot on. I achieved a nice crusty sear, and finishing in the oven helped me get the uniformly pink meat. As expected, it was extremely tender, juicy and flavorful. Was it the best steak I’ve ever cooked? Hard to say. It’s definitely between this one and the dry-aged, bone-in ribeye from McCall’s that I made last year. I thought that one had a beefier flavor (no doubt aided by the dry aging process), but I can’t really compare a ribeye and New York strip side-by side. I would just conclude that this was a delicious steak, and I was pretty proud of it.

Mastro’s Beverly Hills – 1/29/11

Mastro’s Steakhouse
246 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

If I were to make a list of places that I’m most often confronted with “you haven’t been there?!” this would be at the top of the list. I always hear about Mastro’s in the ‘best steak in LA’ debate along with CUT, which is probably one of my favorite restaurants in the city, let alone steakhouse. I do consider myself a bit of a “meat & potatoes” kind of guy, so this visit was long overdue.

This was the darkest restaurant I’ve ever been to, by far. I thought this had a negative effect on the experience (not just due to picture-taking) because you couldn’t see the food very well at all. While eating the steaks, it was hard to distinguish fat/gristle from the meat. Thanks to the iPhone flashlight, I was able to take some passable pictures.

We started with an appetizer.

Ahi Tuna Tartare

This tartare was made up of layers of tuna, avocado, and some kind of really crispy cracker. The tuna was good, but I was looking for more fish. Only about a third of the dish was tuna. I thought the extra-crispy crackers were a little too much texture.

Next came the steaks. All steaks are USDA Prime, 28-day wet-aged and served on 400-degree sizzling plates.

Bone-in Filet, 12 oz.


The bone-in filet is the signature cut at Mastro’s. I don’t come across too many bone-in filets, so I was glad to see one here. Characteristically tender, this was a more flavorful tenderloin cut than I’m accustomed to – presumably because of the bone. Very good as far as filets go.

“Chef’s Cut” Ribeye Chop, 33 oz.

This steak was a little disappointing. It was juicy and tender, but not extraordinarily so. I thought the quality of meat here actually paled in comparison to one of McCall’s dry aged steaks I cooked up a while ago.

Porterhouse, 24 oz.


The porterhouse was a strong effort. I tried the strip loin portion and it was juicy and flavorful.

We ordered a couple of sides, served family style:

Lobster Mashed Potatoes

The sides were served alongside the steaks, so this was what was left. One of the signature sides – the potatoes were creamy, smooth and delicious. However, I found the lobster to be way overcooked. I’ll stick with regular mashed potatoes next time.

Asparagus – Sauteed (pictured with steaks)

We wanted some type of vegetable to make the meal not so meat and carb-centric. The asparagus was simply sauteed in garlic and butter.

Warm Butter Cake


The signature dessert. The interior of the cake was pretty moist, and the vanilla bean ice cream complimented it well. Parts of the exterior of the cake were a little dry though.

Chocolate Cake

We told the server it was someone’s birthday, and they were nice enough to bring out this slice of cake. It was pretty moist with good chocolate flavor. Fairly standard, but not bad.

My assessment of Mastro’s was that it was good but not great. Admittedly, my expectations of Mastro’s were too high. It’s more casual and lounge-y than I had anticipated, and the level of service was unremakable. However, I came for some meat, and the steaks were cooked well – for the most part juicy, tender and flavorful. As chains go, I’d definitely rank it higher than Morton’s or Ruth’s Chris. Will I be back? Probably at some point – I have a lot of friends and co-workers that love this place. But for my money, I’d rather go to the steakhouse down the street, which I think is a “CUT” above (sorry, I had to say it!).

Porterhouse Bistro – 6/10/10

Porterhouse Bistro
8635 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Pizzeria Mozza
641 N Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036

I’d been to Porterhouse Bistro a few years ago, and my lasting impression was generally “okay, good value.” My friend is getting his wisdom teeth taken out tomorrow, and he wanted a steak. Combine that with a Groupon, and I have my second visit.

Porterhouse Bistro doesn’t hide the fact that they serve USDA Choice grade steaks – they actually brag about serving some of the best Choice grade steaks, promising you won’t know the difference between Prime and Choice. They’re well known for offering these steaks as part of a 4-course prix fixe menu for a very reasonable price ($43 currently).

Instead of the prixe fixe, the two of us opted for a la carte. We wanted the extra flexibility, and didn’t want dessert – we would be saving room for Mozza afterwards.

Warm La Brea Bakery baguette served with a medley of accompaniments, including our house tapenade, tomato bruschetta, a whole roasted garlic flower, and butter

This is actually the first “course” of the prix fixe menu as well, even though you get it free when you order a la carte. Kind of a cop-out course if you ask me. The bread was served warm, but it was reheated a little too long, as the exterior was a little chewy.  The accompaniments were okay though.

We went with two different appetizers.

Crab Cakes – House Cole Slaw and Tartar sauce

These were fried a bit longer than ideal, but good. The crab flavor was evident, and the exterior had a nice crunch to it.

Ravioli of the Day – Mushroom ravioli in a rich cream sauce

The ravioli was pretty good. The pasta was al dente and had a good flavor. The sauce was pretty rich, but good in small amounts. I probably wouldn’t want an entree of this.

40 oz. Porterhouse


We went with the 40 ounce, as the 24 ounce wasn’t gonna be enough for us.  The steak comes out pre-sliced in a sizzling pan. I’m a pretty picky eater when it comes to steaks, and here are the issues I had with this one:

1. The steak wasn’t really cooked a medium rare. The cooking temperature was too high and, as a result, the exterior half of the meat was a greyish well done, and the interior half was fairly rare.

2. The steak lacked a really beefy flavor, and the strip portion wasn’t too tender. I wasn’t expecting the best steak I’ve ever had, but the quality of the strip loin was pretty unimpressive. It wouldn’t be too hard to beat this at home. The filet, on the other hand, was much better – it was a generous portion and very tender.

As an overall observation, it was kind of odd to notice that the steak had been cooked, at least partially, after cutting. The meat around the bone was well-done, and the slices were lightly cooked on the sliced ends as well. I’m not sure what they did or how this affected the meat, but I thought it was odd.

Porterhouse Fries

The fries were nicely thick cut. However, they add some sort of batter to these fries and overfried them. In addition, they were underseasoned.

Sautéed Spinach

An additional side of spinach rounded out the meal and made us feel a little less guilty about what we were eating.

Having finished our meal at Porterhouse Bistro, we were ready for dessert. My friend had never been to Pizzeria Mozza, so what better way to cap off a meal than with a couple pizzas?

Ipswich clams, garlic, oregano, pecorino & parmigiano

The Ipswitch Clam pizza is one of my favorites. Not too salty and not at all fishy, the clams are a tender and flavorful topping to this pizza with just the right amount of garlic and oregano.

Bacon, salami, fennel sausage, guanciale, tomato & mozzarella

The all meat pizza. Yum. Also one of my favorites, it happens to be a greasy mess of meaty goodness. There was a little less cheese this time than I typically find, but the combination of meats is fantastic. There was also a nice smokiness with one of the meats.

I had ordered two pizzas in the hope of having some leftovers for lunch the next day. Unfortunately, we did eat both and I felt (still feel) like a fatass. Our meal at Mozza was far more satisfying than our meal at Porterhouse Bistro. Overall the meal was a bit of a letdown, but I still think it offers a great value, especially to someone not as picky about their steak.