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Rancher’s Club of New Mexico – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Ranchers Club in Albuquerque

The Ranchers Club in Albuquerque

While the Ranchers Club of New Mexico may evoke images of J. R. Ewing holding court with fellow oil barons and business magnates in Dallas, this magnificent milieu is, at its core and essence, unabashedly New Mexican in its attitude and spirit. Don’t let its ostentatious trappings–a sophisticated big city opulence meets a decidedly westernized look and feel–fool you.  Sophisticated doesn’t mean haughty and ostentatious doesn’t mean exclusive.   The Land of Mañana’s well-renowned inclusiveness means more than just the one-percenters will feel at home.  It’s been that way since the Ranchers Club opened in 1985.

More than half the dinner reservations made at the Ranchers Club are made by locals, not by tourists and visitors staying at the steak palace’s home, Albuquerque’s Crowne Plaza Hotel on the northeast corner of the Big I interchange.  Not every diner will “put on the dogs” when they visit.  In fact, blue jeans are almost as common as business casual.  The dress code calls for men to wear collared shirts and prohibits beach sandals, shorts, tee-shirts and work-out clothes.  How much more New Mexico can you get for a fine-dining, high-end restaurant?

The lounge and bar outside the restaurant

The lounge and bar outside the restaurant

Inspired by the rustic elegance of ranch house comfort, the Ranchers Club is a celebration of one of New Mexico’s oft forgotten cultural aspects, the family ranch.  The artwork, saddles, stirrups, lassoes and other western artifacts on the walls, many of them historical in nature, were, in fact,  donated by the ranching community of New Mexico.  The stirring black-and-white photographs on the walls were taken by prolific photographer Harvey Caplin.   Artwork shares wall space with taxidermy animals.  Jutting out from a spoke-shaped multi-layered chandelier in the main dining room are cow’s horns of varying sizes.

At the Ranchers Club, diners are seated in the lap of luxury befitting the special occasion of dining in New Mexico’s most recognized steakhouse.  Each table is adorned with silver place settings, fine china, real glassware, linen tablecloths, but what makes a dining experience at the Ranchers Club special is the impeccable service.  Table service is provided by a tandem–front server, back server, assistant server–of nattily attired servers under the direction of the captain of your service team.   They will take care of all your dining needs and can certainly be trusted to provide savvy recommendations.

Bread from King Arthur

Bread from King Arthur

The Ranchers Club boasts of imported wood-fired French grills which fire up aromatic wood embers such as mesquite and hickory.  Your meal will be prepared on a gridiron, a grilling method which imparts a unique and unusual flavor to the generous portions of meat, seafood and game.  It’s a style of grilling reminiscent of the open range cooking of yesteryear.  Painstaking attention to detail is obvious in the preparation of each course.  The restaurants makes every effort to source verify all their meats, procuring only from the highest quality ranches committed to sustainability.  Many of the menu items are obtained within fifty miles of the Ranchers Club, an inspiring commitment to buying local.

Contrary to popular belief, a meal at the Ranchers Club will not break the bank though you certainly can’t call it “cheap eats” either.  There are several entrees south of the thirty dollar mark with the most expensive entree being a Wagyu domestic Kobe filet for under eighty dollars.  The Ranchers Club remains for many New Mexicans, a special occasion restaurant, a dining establishment which actually recognizes and lives up to its billing, both as a palate pleasing eatery and as a hospitality provider.  It’s no wonder the restaurant has earned the AAA Four-Diamond Award for nine years, the DiRoNA (Distinguished Restaurants of North America) since 1994 and the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence since 2001.

Our server Ernest prepares a Caesar Salad tableside

Our server Ernest prepares a Caesar Salad tableside

Not surprisingly, the Ranchers Club menu is teeming with entrees of the carnivorous persuasion, not only steaks of several cuts and sizes, but wild boar ossu buco, antelope chops, venison, Kurobuta pork and free-range chicken.   Fare from the sea is also plentiful: cold water lobster tail, Alaskan king crab legs, Atlantic sea scallops, citrus glazed salmon and a daily fresh fish selection.  There’s good variety in the appetizers menu where you’ll find green chile stew, the only item on the entire menu utilizing New Mexico’s official state vegetable.  There are four salads on the menu, the most popular being the Caesar salad prepared tableside.

Not only is there an art and a science to preparing a Caesar salad perfectly, the Ranchers Club adds flair and style, having the salad prepared by an expertly trained server who tosses a salad of Romaine lettuce and croutons and dresses it with an amalgam of raw eggs (cracked and whisked vigorously), lemon juice, fresh anchovies, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and black pepper.  It’s as good a Caesar salad as you’ll find in New Mexico, especially if you enjoy the potent triumvirate of anchovies, pepper and garlic.  The croutons are crisp, plentiful and delicious.

The Caesar Salad

The Caesar Salad

Those croutons are likely made from the restaurant’s King Arthur baked bread.  The bread, a thick slice of which is deposited on a plate, is terrific.  It’s a dense, moist bread with a crusty exterior and soft interior.  Best of all, it’s served with soft butter, a more than welcome respite from the ad infinitum parade of olive oil amalgams too many restaurants serve.  Your server will faithfully replenish the bread though any more than two slices and you risk filling up.

Among the more surprising appetizers on the menu are the spicy tempura tuna rolls, six pieces of sushi crafted from seared tuna and sheathed in a tempura batter.  If you like seared or raw tuna, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this starter though fire-eaters who enjoy incendiary sushi rolls might miss the wasabi and soy sauce mix.  We didn’t miss the sushi rice.  The spicy tempura tuna rolls are served with a salad of tatoi and mizuna greens, wasabi peas, sesame sticks and just a light drizzle of wasabi pepper sauce.

Spicy Tempura Tuna Rolls

Spicy Tempura Tuna Rolls

The entrees section of the Ranchers Club menu is segmented into “Artfully Crafted Specialties” and “Ranchers Club Classics,” the latter of which showcases the restaurant’s pride and joy.  That’s the beef-heavy array of meaty magnificence: filet mignon, Wagyu (domestic Kobe) filet, bacon-wrapped bison tenderloin, cowboy-cut bone-in rib eye, slow-roasted prime rib, prime baseball cut sirloin and a veal porterhouse chop.  If, like my Midwest born and bred Kim, you’ve got carnivorous inclinations, you’ll find a sumptuous cut of beef just right for you.

Entrees on the Ranchers Club Classics menu are served with your choice of accompaniment–artisan two cheese macaroni, potatoes au gratin, steak fries, twice-baked potato, baked Parmesan polenta, garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus with Hollandaise sauce.  Classic entrees are also paired with your choice of sauce: wild mushroom demi-glace, chimichurri, Bearnaise, brandy peppercorn, red chile demi-glace, Ranchers steak sauce and raspberry chipotle.  Rely on your captain to match the right sauce with the entree of your choice.

Cowboy Cut Bone-In Rib Eye (18-ounces)

Cowboy Cut Bone-In Rib Eye (18-ounces)

For my Kim, our affable captain Thomas, recommended the Cowboy Cut Bone-In Rib Eye, an eighteen-ounce slab of nicely marbled and full-flavored beef procured from a ranch in Nebraska.  Perfectly prepared at medium, the rib eye is not for those of feeble appetite.  It’s a formidable hunk of beef grilled beautifully, a moist and juicy steak which needs no amelioration. Since she asked for it, however, Thomas provided my Kim with a garlic sauce redolent with dill and lemon.  He also had the kitchen prepare a baked potato even though baked potatoes aren’t among the listed accompaniments.   Now that’s service!  The steak also came with a vegetable medley, including sweet, al dente carrots.

Not being as fond of beef as is my Kim, my choice was the Kurobuta Pork Rack which was carved tableside by the captain.  Twenty-two ounces of pulchritudinous pork was surgically sliced to right-sized portions including two bones on which you’ll gnaw with alacrity.  Most Kurobuta pork Ive had accentuates the delicate flavor of the Iowa raised pork, seasoning it lightly and pairing it with sweet flavors.  The Ranchers Club seasons Kurobuta more assertively and pairs it with a Bourbon molasses barbecue sauce which is even more aggressive.  You’ll enjoy the Kurobuta much more without the barbecue sauce, so you’ll want to ask for it on the side.

Two Bone Kurobuta Pork Rack carved tableside

Two Bone Kurobuta Pork Rack carved tableside

The dessert menu is more than interesting though we’ve never made it past the Ranchers Club nightly flambe dessert.  On two occasions, that’s meant Bananas Foster prepared tableside.  All eyes in the dining room will be trained on your table when your server pours banana liqueur into the frying pan and flames rise skyward.  Bananas Foster is a very rich, very decadent dessert which originated in New Orleans.  Having lived ninety miles from the Crescent City for eight years, we had our share of Bananas Foster in their city of origin.  The Bananas Foster at the Ranchers Club are just as good.

Bananas Foster prepared tableside

Bananas Foster prepared tableside

The Ranchers Club will probably always be a restaurant for special occasions, but it’s always fun to imagine being wealthy enough to dine there more often.

Rancher’s Club of New Mexico
1901 University, N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 884-2500
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 27 September 2013
COST: $$$$
BEST BET: Bananas Foster, Porterhouse Steak, Caesar Salad, Two Bone Kurobuta Pork Rack, Cowboy Cut Bone-In Rib Eye, Spicy Tempura Tuna Rolls

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High Noon Restaurant & Saloon – Albuquerque, New Mexico


The High Noon Restaurant and Saloon in Albuquerque’s Old Town

“Oh, to be torn twixt love and duty
Supposin’ I love my fair haired beauty
Look at that big hand movin’ round
Nearin’ high noon.”
Tex Ritter

The 1952 Academy Award winning movie High Noon follows taciturn marshal Will Kane as he single-handedly prepares to face a posse of murderers hellbent on revenge when the clock strikes twelve. Though the memorable showdown between Marshal Kane and the villainous scourges lasts only a few minutes, viewers are held spellbound by the movie’s black-and-white cinematography and hauntingly relentless soundtrack which accentuate the clock’s inexorable ticking down toward the confrontation at high noon.

The minute hand on the wooden clock facade at the foyer of the High Noon Restaurant & Saloon is on its upward trajectory, scant seconds away from high noon. Instead of tension, your mood will be one of eager anticipation to discover for yourself whether the flavors of the restaurant’s dishes are as welcoming as the aromas which greet you at the door. Since the restaurant was launched in 1974, locals and tourists alike have been beckoned by those alluring aromas to enter and dine at the popular Old Town restaurant.


It’s high noon at the lobby

The timeworn adobe edifice which houses The High Noon Restaurant & Saloon appears contemporaneous with the wooden homes on the dusty streets of Marshal Kane’s Hadleyville in the New Mexico Territory. In actuality, the building—one of Old Town’s original structures—was constructed in 1785, making it about 100 years older than the fictional town of Hadleyville. The High Noon truly provides a glimpse back in time, having served not only as a residence, but reputedly as a gambling casino and brothel. Steeped in history and legend, the building is also said to be haunted.  

Anyone six feet or taller will have to bend down to walk through the doorway from the foyer into the cozy bar lounge known as the “Santo” room for the original nichos which have decorated the room since 1810. Within the nichos stand meticulously restored Santos from Mexico and the Philippines. This room honors New Mexico’s Spanish heritage. Further back are two esthetically diverse dining rooms, each one honoring the remaining two of New Mexico’s three dominant cultures. The walls of the “Gallery Room” (the Anglo room) are adorned with large photographs taken during the building’s renovation with participants attired in regalia from the Gay Nineties. The “Kiva Room” stands out by virtue of its thick adobe walls, high ceiling, Pueblo-style bancos with Hopi kachinas, Navajo rugs and Acoma pottery completing the Native American theme.


One of the dining rooms at the High Noon Restaurant & Saloon

As with other restaurants clustered throughout Albuquerque’s historic Old Town, The High Noon has had to contend with the derision of nay-sayers who bucket all Old Town area restaurants into the category of “tourist traps.” While many of its guests are indeed visitors, The High Noon also has a loyal following among locals who appreciate that the restaurant’s eclectic menu includes a smattering of New Mexican entrees and some of the most highly regarded Margaritas (the saloon boasts of more than 30 tequila offerings) in town. The High Noon has been owned since its inception by the Villa family, lifelong Duke City philanthropists.

Although the menu is described as serving “new food from the old west,” at its heart and essence The High Noon is a steakhouse. Never mind that the winter 2013 menu lists only three steaks (a 16-ounce center-cut ribeye, an 8-ounce brown sugar-cured beef tenderloin and a 12-ounce New York strip Au Poivre), steak is where the restaurant carved out its reputation. The menu seems tailored mostly for the carnivorous persuasion, but it does includes something to appease even vegetarian palates.


Kobe beef sliders: green chile, cheddar cheese, chipotle ketchup

The chile served with the “New Mexican Favorites” menu is made with cumin as is the salsa. All New Mexican favorites are served with Spanish rice and whole pinto beans. “House Specialties” include a number of diverse offerings—from rock shrimp Pappardelle (one of four Italian inspired items on the menu) to a bourbon-roasted chicken. The “From the Grill” menu offers burgers, seafood and chops (including the aforementioned steaks). Soup and salad offerings include a bowl of green chile stew and a number of salads.

The “Starters” menu lists only six items, including Kobe Beef Sliders. Compared to many sliders (can you say White Castle?) on which the beef patties are about as thick as a slice of baloney, the patties on High Noon’s sliders are on steroids. Come to think of it, the patties are thicker than patties on most standard or upscale sized burgers. The burgers are served with only two toppings—Cheddar cheese and green chile—with chipotle ketchup on the side. You won’t need anything else. The chile has just enough bite to complement the Kobe beef. On burgers Kobe (or wagyu) beef isn’t quite as marbled as on steaks, but you can still taste the buttery richness of the beef.


Apple & Cranberry Salad: baby greens, sliced granny smith apples, blue cheese chipotle candied pecans, balsamic vinaigrette

Simply having a garden salad on the menu as an appetizer, entrée or side just doesn’t cut it anymore. Diners want fresh ingredients, lighter dressings and an inventive assembly of ingredients on their salad plate. Most restaurants who care to provide a holistic dining experience will accommodate them. The High Noon certainly does, offering an apple and cranberry salad with baby greens (arugula, frisee, radicchio), sliced Granny Smith apples, blue cheese, chipotle candied pecans and a thick Balsamic vinaigrette. The textural and flavor variety offered in the greens alone make this a salad worth eating, but the supporting cast makes it a salad you’ll order again. There’s just something magical about apples and blue cheese that spritzes up any salad or sandwich.

When we asked our server and the server attending to adjacent tables what their favorite entrees are, they both resounded with praise for the Ancho-BBQ Short Ribs, three braised, boneless short ribs slathered with an Ancho chile and Bing Cherry barbecue sauce with hashed potatoes, haricot vert and onion strings. Reminiscent of an 80s restaurant trend, the items on the plate were stacked on top of each other. The hashed potatoes served as the foundation with the three short ribs on top then the haricot vert and serving as the proverbial topping is a mound of onion strings.


Ancho-BBQ Short Ribs: braised, boneless short ribs, Ancho chile and Bing cherry BBQ sauce, hashed potatoes, haricot vert, BBQ-demi

Reminiscence notwithstanding, the short ribs were nearly as good as advertised—tender and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The Ancho chile-Bing Cherry barbecue sauce doesn’t pack much punch and is a bit on the sweet side, but there’s plenty of it for use as a “gravy” with the hashed potatoes. The haricot vert (thin French green beans) are perfectly prepared with a nice snap to them. The tangle of onion strings reminded us (in a good way) of the onion loaf served at Hackney’s in the Chicago area with a combination of oniony and sweet flavors that go very well together.

The second entrée our servers recommended most highly (and it’s not even among the most expensive entrees on the menu) was the bourbon-roasted chicken served with mashed potatoes, baby carrots and natural jus. When we lived in the Deep South, we became quite familiar with bourbon roasted meats, most of whom were slathered with a cloying Jack Daniels sauce vaguely reminiscent of whiskey maple syrup. The High Noon’s rendition isn’t cloying in the least. The natural jus is seasoned to complement the roasted chicken, not to change its flavor profile. It’s a perfectly prepared and meaty chicken served in the 80s “stacked” style.


Bourbon roasted chicken: mashed potatoes, baby carrots, natural jus

The dessert menu is relatively small, but I stop listening when bread pudding is mentioned anyway. The High Noon’s bread pudding is made with white chocolate and cranberries topped with cajeta (goat cheese caramel). This tasty triumvirate may sound sickeningly sweet, but we were surprised at just how balanced the bread pudding is. The pastry chef obviously knows that a little salt and baking powder goes a long way in cutting the cloying qualities of desserts. One of the most surprising elements of this bread pudding is the cajeta, an addictive and luxurious topping for a bread pudding that’s hard to top. My friend Larry McGoldrick, the professor with the perspicacious palate and a fellow bread pudding aficionado, would enjoy this one.

Over the years, The High Noon Restaurant has undergone a number of thematic menu changes.  Until rather recently, it was one of few restaurants in town in which wild game (including rattlesnake) could be found.  Now, if you want to see rattlesnakes, you’ve got to walk down the street to the rattlesnake museum.  As with many progressive restaurants, its menu changes periodically to maintain diner interest. 


White Chocolate and Cranberry Bread Pudding With Cajeta Sauce

In its annual Food and Wine issue for 2013, Albuquerque The Magazine‘s staff sampled “every dish of nachos in the city” and selected High Noon’s nachos as the third best in the city.  The magazine described these nachos as “surely the kind of chips that angels eat” and having “a kick we still can’t forget.”

Our server confided that he eats at the restaurant five days a week, and while some of that may be salesmanship, he was certainly familiar with the nuances of every item we had and gracefully led us on our dining adventure.

High Noon Restaurant & Saloon
425 San Felipe Street,  N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 765-1455
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 9 March 2013
COST: $$$ – $$$$
BEST BET: White Chocolate & Cranberry Bread Pudding, Apple & Cranberry Salad, Kobe Beef Sliders, Bourbon Roasted Chicken, Ancho-BBQ Short Ribs

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David Burke’s Primehouse – Chicago, Illinois

David Burke’s Primehouse in Chicago

By day, my friend James Sorenham was an architect of his business group’s data warehouse and business intelligence strategies.  By night and on weekends, James was a gentleman farmer tending to a small herd at his Broke Again ranch outside Portland, Oregon.  James took immense pride in raising prized beef cattle and kept his colleagues apprised of their progress through his weekly status reports.  Alas, his writing skills weren’t in the same zip code as his data management skills so when he reported that he had “personally inseminated sixteen cows,” he got teased mercilessly about his deviant bestial activities.

The fact that David Burke is the first chef to own his own bull means “personal insemination” of beef cattle can best be left to the bovine persuasion.  That leaves Chef Burke to follow his passions as one of America’s most pioneering chefs and self-proclaimed chef, artist, entrepreneur and inventor.  The New York-based Burke is a practitioner of culinology, a revolutionary approach to food that blends technology and the culinary arts.  By experimenting with interesting ingredients and cooking techniques, he has developed such culinary innovations as an edible bacon candle which can be lit, smelled and eaten.  His innovative style translates well to the arena of prime grade beef.

My friends Bill Resnik and Paul Fleissner about to take their seats in one of the capacious dining rooms at David Burke’s Primehouse

Founded in 2006, David Burke’s Primehouse has redefined the modern American steakhouse with its out-of-the-box approach to culinary creativity.  Located in the James Chicago Hotel on the corner of Rush and Ontario just west of the Magnificent Mile, the restaurant remains one of Chicago’s few remaining practitioners of dry-aging its beef.  The Primehouse dry-ages its beef in a Himalayan salt-tiled aging room on the premises.  While USDA prime grade, hand-selected beef is the restaurant’s raison d’etre, the menu also showcases Chef Burke’s signature whimsical and imaginative dishes such as the Lollipop Tree, cheesecakes on lollipop sticks.

The Primehouse has two full-time butchers who butcher meats and fish on a daily basis Monday through Friday.  The back wall of the aging room is lined with Himalayan pink salt which performs two functions.  It purifies the air and slowly seasons the beef by extracting all the moisture out of the beef.  The Himalayan Salt Room (henceforth known as the aging room) is maintained at a constant state of between 34 and 40 degrees with sixty-percent humidity (a normal refrigerator is at about ninety-percent humidity).  All the beef is tagged with the date it was placed into the aging room and its weight at the time.

Cheese bread

Because of the room’s climatic conditions, the beef begins to break down very slowly, but doesn’t dehydrate all the way through.  Instead it becomes more tender.   While in the drying room, however, the beef’s exterior is desiccated and the cut of beef is firm and hard as might be expected from beef stored in a cold-temperature.  Ideally, the beef experiences about a twenty-percent loss of volume after 28 days and another fifteen-percent when it’s trimmed later.  At 75 days, the beef experiences a loss in volume of about 55 percent.  The Primehouse dry-ages ribeyes, sirloins, short-loins and chuck as well as prosciutto, kidneys, veal breads and brisket.

With “wet-aging,” the process used by many of Chicago’s best steak and chop houses, the beef is placed into a plastic bag and is then cryo-vacuumed (air is sucked out of it).  The beef basically “sits” there and flavor isn’t developed.  When you cut a wet-aged slab of beef into individual steaks, a puddle of blood ensues  With the dry-aging process used at the Primehouse, flavor is actually developed because of the catalytic intensification.  When a dry-aged cut of beef is prepared, what’s being cooked is the beauteous marbling and fat which breaks down the beef, making it tender and imparting a sweet, meaty flavor some have likened to an exotic foie gras like quality.

Bacon Sticks: black pepper, maple syrup

The beef at David Burke’s Primehouse is brought in once a week from Kentucky.  The aforementioned 2,500-pound bull, who just might have the best job in the world, performs his “service” three times a day six days a week.  The cows are high quality Black Angus prime.  The aging room can accommodate more approximately 12,000 pounds of beef valued as much as some homes.  Because of the restaurant’s bustling business, the aging room retains a month and a half of inventory at all times.  The minimum dry-aging period is 28 days and the maximum is 75 though one ribeye has remained in the aging room since April 4, 2006 when the restaurant first opened.  It’s starting weight was 10.10 pounds, but today, it’s a mere shadow of its former self.

When the beef is trimmed down, all the aged beef trim and fat is rendered down and tossed with roasted garlic, mustard powder and spices before being brushed on each steak as it goes out.  The staff calls it “beef love.”  It’s no wonder so many consider the Primehouse the very best steakhouse not only in Chicago, but in the entire country.   Prime dry-aged beef is only one of many things the restaurant does exceedingly well. Chicago Magazine named the Primehouse “Burker” one of the top ten burgers in Chicago.  Not surprisingly, the ten ounces of beef which form the beef patty are also dry aged.

Ahi Tuna: spicy chili bean sauce

The Primehouse has a relatively understated ambiance.  It’s contemporary and relaxing.  The cynosure at one wall is shelf work from which small blocks of Himalayan salt dangle.  Lighting is subdued, but sufficient for the visual appreciation of your meal.  The ambassador-like staff will take excellent care of you, explaining every detail of the aging process to the extent you want.  We asked a lot of questions and were amazed at our server’s encyclopedic knowledge. Our server happened to be from Santa Fe and took very good care of us.  Frankly, the only aspect of our meal that wasn’t absolutely first-rate was the soundtrack which seemed overly loud and disjointed for an otherwise classy milieu.

As you contemplate the menu,a cheesy Parmesan bread “popover” on a tin-can-like pan will be delivered to your table.  It’s a delicious difference from the de rigueur, ho-hum bread served at many steak restaurants.  The exterior of the Parmesan popover is crusty while the interior is light and chewy.  Best of all, it’s served with soft butter.  You’ll luxuriate in the popover’s wispy softness as you contemplate the “sticks and stones” on the menu.  Sticks are essentially items such as bacon, octopus and Kobe corn dogs served on a lollipop type stick.  Stones are hot Himalayan salt stones atop which you cook such starters as ahi tuna, steak and lamb loin. 

A “Caesarista” prepares to create a Caesar salad tableside.

One experience not to be missed is the tableside creation of a Caesar salad.  It’s one of the unique and personal experiences that once set apart the very best prime steak restaurants of a bygone era  A specially trained “Caesar barista” or “Caesarista” whisks the Parmesan-rich dressing by hand with egg yolks then tosses it with fresh Romaine lettuce.  Other classic ingredients include garlic, freshly squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and of course, Parmesan.   Your Caesarista will ask whether or not you want anchovies on your salad.  Frankly, it’s the only way a Caesar salad should ever be made.

From among the “sticks,” the one which called loudest to me is the bacon, five sticks of thick pork-belly bacon.  This is a perfect marriage of savory and sweet, pairing a smoky, salty bacon laced with black pepper and a lacquer-like maple syrup coating.   This fun carnival-stick-food-like starter is further proof that bacon goes well with everything.  From the “stones” section of the menu, we had the Ahi tuna with a spicy chili bean sauce.  For what more could you ask: five pieces of uncooked tuna per order plus the treat of preparing it yourself on a thick Himalayan salt stone.  If you like your sashimi slightly seared, you’d better pay close attention to the cooking process.  Even at just slightly more than seared, the tuna is quite good.  The spicy chili bean sauce adds punch and saltiness.

Himalayan Salt Dry-Aged Reserve Ribeye Steak Aged 75 Days

On an October 8, 2011 episode of the Food Network’s “Meat & Potatoes,” host Rahm Fama called the Primehouse’s 75-day dry-aged rib-eye “the best steak I’ve had in my 35 years!”  An endorsement from a highly respected chef and fellow carnivore (especially one from New Mexico like Fama) certainly carries a lot of weight with me.  While the 75-day dry aged rib-eye may be perpetually listed on the menu, it isn’t always available.  On the date of our visit, only one 75-day aged steak remained.  My friends Bill Resnik and Paul Fleissner insisted I have the privilege of consuming it.  Bill would order the 55-day aged ribeye and Paul the 40-day aged ribeye.

I must admit there’s more than a little bit of trepidation in ordering a steak the menu describes as having “intense beef flavor.” That sounds just a bit intimidating.  Just what is intense beef flavor and why haven’t I had it before?  Our server recommended the steak be prepared at medium-rare.  Two bottles of David Burke’s 207L (the designation for Burke’s prize bull) Prime Steak Sauce were brought to our table, but none of us could conceive of desecrating our steaks.  No sauce could possibly have improved on perfection.  The 75-day aged rib-eye was indeed sinfully rich, decadent and utterly beefy. The rib-eye was richly marbled and just as our server explained, the marbling intensified the aged flavor.  So did the “beef love.”  The steak was tender and moist with a pinkish hue, but not the bloody flavor of wet-aged beef.

55-Day Rib-eye

There was a discernible difference in flavor profile between the 75-day rib-eye and the 55-day aged rib-eye described on the menu as “deep, concentrated beef flavor.”  This was another absolutely outstanding steak, one named “best dry aged steak” by Chicago Magazine in 2008.  The 55-day aged rib eye had a nice fat and marbling content and indeed, a bold and concentrated flavor.  The 40-day aged ribeye, described as having “rich beef flavor” was similarly distinctive.  We were amazed at what a difference a few days makes!  Why all prime beef and chop houses don’t dry age their steaks for as long as David Burke’s Primehouse is a mystery.

There are seven side dishes available to have with your steak.  All are available for seven dollars a piece or three for nineteen dollars (as of September, 2012).  The Mac N’ Cheese Carbonara Style will never be mistaken for Kraft dinner.  It’s a grown-up mac n’ cheese made with a rigatoni noodle, heavy cream, fresh peas and rich cheeses.  Another superb side is the creamy spinach tinged with garlic.  Both the mac n’ cheese and the creamy spinach were very rich, perhaps too rich after having had such an indulgent steak.

Mac N’ Cheese Carbonara style

David Burke has lamented that the steakhouse experience often leaves guests so full, they don’t have room for desserts.  That’s one of the reasons so many of his dishes are intended to be shared.  You have got to save room for one of Burke’s fun and inventive desserts.  The Primehouse desserts, cheeses and coffee menu is unlike that of any restaurant not owned by David Burke.  As fun as it is to peruse, have your server explain the dessert in which you’re interested.  Desserts are not always as they appear.  The “carrot cake” which my friend Bill ordered was essentially a “deconstructed” and reinvented carrot cake.  The components–gingerbread dream rooibos cake, pineapple golden raisin jam, orange cheesecake, black walnut ice cream and candied carrots–aren’t what your mom’s carrot cake recipe calls for, but they make for an outstanding dessert.

The banana split sundae is also unlike any other banana split-sundae hybrid you’ve ever had.  It’s layers of flavor complexity and absolute decadent deliciousness, one of the very best desserts I’ve ever had.  Each component–salted caramel chocolate ice cream, caramelized banana, brandied cherries, spiced pecans and roasted pineapple slices–would have made a wonderful dessert on its own, but the compilation was mouth-watering.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to call this the next best thing on the menu to one of the fabulous dry-aged steaks.

Banana Split Sundae: salted caramel chocolate ice cream, caramelized banana, brandied cherries, spiced pecans, roasted pineapple

David Burke’s Primehouse is a pioneering steakhouse in a city long renowned for its prime steakhouses.  It’s  a beef emporium for the new millennium with dry-aged prime beef unlike any other anywhere.

616 North Rush at Ontario
The James Hotel Chicago
Chicago, Illinois
(312) 660-6000
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 5 September 2012
COST: $$$$ – $$$$$
BEST BET: 75-Day Aged Ribeye, 55-Day Aged Ribeye, 35-Day Kansas City Strip, Banana Split Sundae, Carrot Cake, Mac N’ Cheese Carbonara Style

David Burke's Primehouse on Urbanspoon