On Steakhouses

I am a committed carnivore, an unapologetic flesh eater. I don’t care the animal, I don’t care how cute it may have been. I will cook it and I will eat it. Pig, lamb, cow, fish, fowl, no species is safe. Except dog. Who in their right mind would ever eat man’s best friend? Oh, right…..moving on.

I’ll eat any part of an animal if it’s well prepared.

All that said it will come as no surprise to any of you that I love,

…..love,

….LOVE….

….steak.

I do not, however, love steakhouses. In fact, I can barely say I even like them. Does that seem an odd disparity? Allow me to explain. Steakhouses are not about food, they’re about excess. Giant slabs of beef, often not even prime, sizzling in enough lard or butter to turn your arteries into stickball bats. Big enough to ensure a lousy night’s sleep after, tossing and turning and oozing the meat sweats. And expensive. So expensive. I don’t mind paying a pretty penny for high quality, exciting food, but for a good but not great steak? And how expensive are they? Well, to illustrate the point I wanted to provide figures. None of the steakhouse websites I visited listed prices. Not one. Not Peter Luger, not The Benjamin, not The Palm. What does that tell you? And it’s not just the steaks and hugely marked up wine lists, it’s everything. If someone wants to charge me $18 for freakin’ creamed spinach he should at least have the decency to grin sheepishly and apologize profusely. Steak restaurants remind me of the Champagne Rooms in strip joints (or so I’ve heard…..), you get led in there thinking it’ll be expensive and get led out in utter shock. The strip joint analogy was also just used by Josh Ozersky in his Time magazine article, “The Problem With The American Steakhouse.” He equates the bathing of the steaks in butter to padded bras. Nice, but not real. And really, the steakhouse is the restaurant embodiment of machismo, hence the ease with which borderline sexist examples are used in comparison.

This brings us to the next problem. I constantly differentiate between expensive and rip-off. The line can, of course, be a matter of opinion, but there is a line. Expensive costs a lot but you get value for what you pay. A rip-off is, well, a rip-off. And then, of course, there’s the little matter of fraud. That brings me to the brutal two part article in Forbes, Food’s Biggest Scam: The Great Kobe Beef Lie. (Get part 2 here.) Ever eaten at a restaurant offering Kobe, Kobe Style, Wagyu, American Wagyu or Domestic Kobe Beef? Yeah, scam. You’ve never had Kobe beef unless you’ve been to Japan as Kobe beef is illegal to import in America. And yet, those words are everywhere. From Balducci’s offering Kobe Roast Beef to the absurd like Kobe Hot Dogs, those words are everywhere but they have no meaning.

Really, what it comes down to for me is this: I remember the best steak I’ve ever had. It wasn’t at a steakhouse. Was yours?

 

 

 

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