Monday, August 18, 2008

The Prime Rib- Restaurant Week

I AM Abe Froman, the sausage KING of Chicago.

Or so I needed to be to garner service worthy of the place at The Prime Rib last Wed. 

OK. I get it. Places like this HATE the crowds they get on Restaurant Week. Waiters get smaller tips, people use the wrong forks, suits contain polyester, good wine continues to age in the cellar while cheap swill is heartily consumed, I get it. But then why even play?

I was only able to get a 6pm reservation (I was originally offered 5pm, but through shameless use of a name drop was able to swing an hour later). Although the busboys were still getting dressed and the elderly couples had only started on their salad course, it was at least a somewhat acceptable time to begin eating. 

I had talked my best friend and another friend of ours (a former manager of XX in NYC) into joining me right after work. We were seated right away, and the service, while haughty, was attentive and spot on, as one would expect somewhere like here. I was put off when the waiter approached our table, and just said "tap water, not bottle, right?" It was a pretty bold assumption. The bitter swill I was offered as a first wine selection (he gave us a taste from an open bottle at the bar) was equally insulting, no less so than when in response to my comment that 'it was ok, but I think would overpower everything we ate', he noted that 'well, its the price', especially as I never gave an indication that we were limited in anyway in this regard. Once I made it clear that we were comfortable paying for something off the real wine list, we did in fact find something nice in the $70 range. The waiter also assumed we were here for restaurant week, and didn't offer us the real menu. A correct assumption, but mildly off-putting nonetheless. I get that I am young, and that I had an early reservation during Restaurant Week; the rest of the year, however, I will not hesitate to drop $200 on a great meal though, so charm me and I will be back loyally time and time again. Any good restaurant can provide impeccable service to its usual clientele; the mark of truly great restaurant service is how at home and comfortable it makes those not accustomed to such privilege feel when they indulge in it. There are restaurants that come down to the level of the dinner (we call them Applebees), restaurants that disdain diners who are not at their level (Prime Rib fell into that category) and the rare restaurant that elevates the common diner it's own level, briefly letting her escape into a world outside her own. This is the great joy of fine dining, and unfortunately, not something I saw at Prime rib.

That said, even the scraps afforded to us commoners were superb.

The food was excellent. Nothing fancy- soup/salad, steak, and cheesecake/key lime pie. The prime rib was on offer- usually, steakhouses are a poor choice for Restaurant Week because they don't put the good stuff on the menu, but The Prime Rob, true to name, did not skimp. It was a smaller portion than the normal (not only expected, but appreciated for a three course dinner at 6pm!), but delicious. The tomato soup was exquisite- not too sharp and acidic, nor so creamy that you couldn't taste the tomatoes that are so great this time of year. The Key Lime Pie was nothing special, but a nice wrap up. We did not have the salad, but from the looks of it, they toss it at the table, and it looked fresh and generous.

This is the steakhouse that others imitate- wood-paneled interior, old-school service (even in their haughtiness to those of us clearly not yet in the club), a pianist and bassist. It is the perfect place to appreciate this city we live in- where nostalgia for and a fascination with the vestiges of old-world power meet with the modern practitioners of it. The dining room is intimate, the service impeccable if disdainful of us peasants. The prime rib is out of this world. I will be back, for the regular menu at a reasonable time in a nicer suit. We will see how things go then

Until then, this is a great Restaurant week pick- it is exactly what this week is all about. It made a unique DC luxury accessible for many, and gave a few of us just the incentive we needed to go back. A 30% tip this time should help with the elevation issues next time around :-)

Prime Rib on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

I am the friend mentioned in this post and the description was spot on. I have both worked for (at the Four Seasons in Newport Beach CA and as an asst. front office manager at the Hyatt in Newport Beach) and patronized four- and five-star hotels and restaurants all over the world. David (if you insist on providing this kind of service I have no qualms about calling you out by name) was probably the most condescending server I've ever come across. I've honestly never had someone be this openly contemptuous. The other friend I we were with was manager of a very popular bar on the upper-west side in Manhattan and felt the same way about him. I am still a little torn about the rather large tip we accidentally left him. Don't misunderstand, having put myself through college by working in the service industry, I typically overtip anyway, but only if it is deserved and frankly his attitude alone deserved a smaller tip to make a point. However, I think that had I left a smaller tip it would have simply reinforced the stereotype he had in his mind of a Restaurant Week customer and continued his condescending ways. Maybe the overtip will give him pause the next time he is about to talk down to someone who asks for the Restaurant Week menu.

I will now step down off of my soapbox.

As stated, the food was very good. The soup was excellent and the prime rib was fantastic. I don't normally order key lime pie so I can't really call myself an authority, but it was among the better examples I have had. Not too tart as key lime pie often is. I even really enjoyed the creamed spinach and mashed potatoes that came with the prime rib (which was actually a pleasant surprise considering most Restaurant Week entrées are served without sides).

That said, it didn't blow me away. As someone who takes his steaks very seriously, the prime rib was obviously better than your run of the mill steakhouse, but for a self-described "world-renowned prime rib" I expected more. Maybe my memory of the food has been retroactively tainted by my memory of the service, but really the food was very good but not great. Honestly, this isn't just me being bitter. I'm sure David would chalk this opinion up to me having the pedestrian taste he assumed I had when I came in, but so be it.

This is really disappointing because Prime Rib is the kind of place I would otherwise really, really like. It had a very old-school gentlemen's club (not that kind of gentlemen's club) sort of feel with the dark wood paneling, overstuffed high-backed leather chairs, and an excellent liquor selection. The sort of place you could imagine the titans of government would come to unwind after a long day of crushing cold-war proxy nations. Instead I will go to the District Chophouse where the food is, in my opinion, just as good, half the price, and only a block from my apartment.