Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Strip House

I've decided I'm not a fan of Steak Houses. This came as a surprise to me, because until last night I had always been perfectly fine with the idea and practice of joining my friends and family for dinner at steak places, despite my vegetarianism. Generally steak places always have large vegetable sides, excellent wines, and a number of grilled fish dishes. As my vegetarianism is more accurately a pescetarianism, I've been all right with this in the past.

Last night, at the Strip House, not so much. Before I continue, an all important caveat: my number one goal last night was for Raj to have a delicious piece of meat (because he likes that sort of thing) and a pleasant birthday dinner. For the most part, I achieved that objective, so in terms of Raj's birthday celebration, it's all good. He thought the Strip House was very much a traditional steak house which was what he was looking for, his meat was excellent, and he loved the creamed corn and pancetta side. He was a happy boy, so I was happy.

But, had it not been for my love of Raj, I would not have been a happy girl at the Strip House. First, a word about the name. It's trashy. The place itself has nothing to do with strippers - I checked before making the reservation - but I get the feeling, based on the pictures of burlesque dancers that line its walls, that it's deliberately trying to play off of the suggestion of strippers to create a sexy ambiance. Maybe I'm wrong?

Putting aside the misguided nature of this imagined intent, the restaurant failed miserably at that objective. The tables were smashed together too closely to allow for parties to maintain an air of intimacy between them. Seated against the wall on a red pleather padded bench, I was separated from Raj by about 3 feet of table, and closer to each of the couples sitting next to us than I was to him. Trying to talk to each other, we were both conscious of our eavesdropping neighbors. Not the romantic setting I would have liked, and certainly not sexy.

Our waiter was snooty, and he was a man. Normally, I wouldn't mind having a male waiter but in this particular establishment I couldn't help but notice that every single waiter was male. I'm not sure if it was an off night, or if the Strip House in fact hires only male waitstaff. I certainly hope not! When I waited tables, I saw that kind of thing often. Not surprisingly, given our still male-dominated world, the gender hierarchy in restaurants mirrors the gender hierarchies found in other professions, like law and business. Women are disproportionately represented in the lower (read: lower paid, less prestigious) echelons of the restaurants world, e.g. waitresses in diners, and men are disproportionately represented in the higher echelons, e.g. bartenders or waiters at expensive, traditional (i.e male) restaurants.

Speaking of males, there were a lot of them at the Strip House. To be fair, there were also a fair amount of mixed-sex parties, Raj and I among them, but the majority of the tables were filled with men. Very large men with big guts rubbing up against the edges of the tables. Walking advertisements for what consuming excessive amounts of red meat and liquor will do to the human body.

The wine selections were also sub par. The snooty male waiter proposed two glasses of lackluster white wine, and then, because I felt bad that I was being difficult, I ordered a glass of shiraz thinking that it was a safe bet since I generally like shirazes. It was also a disappointment - however, I kept it (Raj drank some of it for me; he's a sweetie like that). A wine connoisseur I am not, but I like a tasty glass of wine. Raj, who is something of a wine connoisseur, picked a pinot noir which was actually quite nice. He's so good at picking tasty wines. I don't know how he does it. Even given the pinot noir, 1 out of 4 are not good odds for a wine selection.

And then there was the food. As I mentioned, Raj seemed to genuinely enjoy his meal. My tuna steak, however, was mediocre at best. It was flavorless, surrounded by an unmemorable brown sauce, and served with a miniscule amount of tasteless diced veggies. The only food I actually found tasty last night were the oysters we had to start and the bread crumb topping of Raj's creamed corn side.

I should have taken Raj to Angelo & Maxie's, although I think he's already been, and I had wanted to take him to a new place. I've been there three times, and each time I've had a wonderful experience (despite that fact that it too is a steak place). The food, wine, desserts, staff, and ambiance are all great, the way they should be at any restaurant worth it's weight in salt.


Gypsy said...

I've often found that restaurants that focus on one type of food tend to do the other types of food poorly. I'm sorry your meal wasn't great, but at least Raj enjoyed his.

Since we've moved home, we've almost always been disappointed in the restaurants around here.

As for wine, I never have any idea what to pick. I usually go by the name or the label. Sad, I know.

Spill The Beans said...

The key to picking a good wine is to know a few good types and a few good labels.

Rosemont, Ecco Domani, Yellowtail, wines from South Africa: NEVER.

A few good bottles at $10 or less? Menage a Trois (red), Pillarbox (red), most chilean reds.

Almost any Cotes Du Rhone or GSM (Grenache/Syrah/Mouvedre) will be good.

My boyfriend is a wine steward and after 10 months of being served fabulous (and frequently cheap) wines by him, I'm getting the hang of it.

Sometimes, it's knowing what to stay away from. And, in most restaurants, servers aren't allowed to sample the wine, so the ones they push will be non-spectacular bottles the restaurant is trying to get rid of. There are a few exceptions to this, but it's generally true.

Buttercup said...

Trouble, I think you just helped out both Gypsy and I. Thanks for the ideas; I'm looking forward to trying them out!

Ally Bean said...

I've never been a fan of steak houses which-- are on just about every downtown block in the midwest. I refer to them as the salty beef and divorcee joints because that's what you'll always find in them.

Bean said...

The Menu looks very tasty to me! The way you described the surroundings, I don't think I would enjoy it. But I am big on if "it's not broke, don't fix it". I loved Angelo & Maxie's and I would eat there over and over again if I could!

Bean said...

P.S. It was very nice of you to try it out and go for Raj on his birthday.