Monday, August 10, 2009

Baltimore Restaurant Week - Ruth's Chris

To kick off Restaurant Week, Mr Minx, MinxBro and I decided it was high time we used the $50 gift cards to Ruth's Chris that we had received for Christmas. We're not steakhouse people - I know lots of folks choose an expensive steakhouse for celebritory meals, but we find them rather...boring. But we figured we could get three 3-course meals and bottle of wine from the deal, maybe even an after dinner drink, and only need worry about paying out for tip and valet parking.

Damn good thing we had gift cards, because I wouldn't have wanted to pay for the meal. Not that it was bad...it just wasn't good. And we can and have made better at home, for less money.

First bad sign: the bread had been cut up far too early in the day. By the time it arrived at our table, it was hopelessly stale. Also, the waitress seemed a bit...cold.

Ruth's Chris' Restaurant Week Menu offered two appetizers choices; MinxBro and I chose the lobster bisque while Mr Minx went for the house salad. The bisque emitted a lobster-like fragrance and had a perfect silky texture, but was without much flavor. I must be completely spoiled by the crab bisque at Louisiana, a soup that is the pure essence of crab enriched with cream. The salad was a disappointing handful of greens with red onions, cherry tomatoes, and croutons. Mr Minx said those homemade-tasting croutons were the salad's saving grace. Personally, I think it's criminal for a restaurant to charge for sad and ordinary salads for which the customer must choose his own dressing. A diner (Nautilus, Double T) includes them in the price of an entrée.

For my entrée, I chose the petit filet. I ordinarily wouldn't order such a boring, flavorless cut of meat, but I had heard lots of praise about this particular steak, and that it was cooked in butter. My Mom used to cook steaks in butter, and we would all fight to mop up the meaty, buttery, pan drippings. The memory makes my mouth water. But Ruth's Chris' filet looked like this:

photo shamelessly cribbed from Yelp, but my plate was identical.
Where was the browned butter? It looked like they just poured some just-melted unsalted butter on top. While I will admit that the steak was perfectly cooked to temperature (medium-rare) and had been allowed to rest for a bit so blood didn't spurt out when I cut into it, it wasn't all that flavorful. It was...a filet. Nothing special. The side dish of creamed spinach was nice though, not too rich, but it needed some salt.

Mr Minx and Minx Bro both chose the gristle delight NY Strip.

photo shamelessly cribbed from some dude's flickr stream
Why such a small plate for a large steak? Outback does this too, and it makes it quite difficut to cut the beast without slopping some of the butter on the tablecloth. And one is forced to eat one's side dishes directly from their serving dish...as in a diner.

Both strips were cooked perfectly medium-rare as requested, but they had not rested long enough. Soon the boys' plates looked like battlefields, with bloody pools and severed chunks of the more egregious gristle. I do expect a NY strip to be less than perfectly tender, but it shouldn't be such an unpleasant task to chew. These steaks reminded me of the ones we stopped buying from warehouse-type supermarkets. A shame, because they had been nicely seasoned and were far more flavorful than my filet.

The mashed potatoes that Mr Minx has chosen for his side were a bit thin and wan. We prefer mash with some texture.

Finally, we come to dessert, the best course of the night. My slice of bread pudding was wonderfully moist and flavorful, with a nice light custard in a puddle underneath. The boys' chocolate sin cake was rich and reminded me a little of the fabulous hot chocolate sauce that Marconi's used to serve. And both were served on ginormous round plates. Huh?

I was a little annoyed that our waitress didn't ask if we wanted coffee or a glass of wine with our dessert. And even more annoyed that she left us for dead for a good 20 minutes after we finished eating and before bringing our check. There were a few other full tables in the room, but the place was by no means busy, nor did she seem harried. Just...cold.

Perhaps she had categorized us as inferior customers because we chose from the Restaurant Week menu? And maybe she believed RW people don't want to spend extra money (even thought we did get a bottle of Kendall Jackson Merlot) beyond their $30. Whatever the reason, we're not likely to go back to Ruth's Chris anytime soon...unless someone else is picking up the tab. For free, it's a fine experience.

Ruth's Chris
600 Water St
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 783-0033

Ruth's Chris Steak House (Restaurant Row) on Urbanspoon

Ruth's Chris Steak House
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