Who’s up for a steak dinner? A juicy, sizzling chunk of cow flesh, pink and rare, with all the trimmings?
The “steak” part of this equation is fairly easy to fill. Start talking about “all the trimmings,” though, and things get complicated. Head for an executive-style steak house, and you can get a slab of cow on your plate with no muss or fuss. Choose your own sides.
Want the chef to choose your sides? At many of the city’s finest eateries, your entree comes nestled on a bed of something delicious, garnished with more goodies and sauced with still more intriguing delights.
Sure, it takes some skill to grill a steak to perfection, but this is essentially a procedure that any good short-order cook can master. But placing a steak in a memorable environment that reflects the restaurant’s style and nature? That’s where the chef’s skills start to show.
Here, let me show you what I mean.
Order the dry-aged Harvest steak at Harvest in NuLu ($29 or $44, depending on size) and you’ll get your beef, with Argentine parsley-and-garlic sauce and a classy purple sweet-sour sauce with a name, “gastrique,” that I for one find just faintly disturbing.
Or how about the $28 Teres Major steak at MilkWood, where your slab of meat gets an aromatic Asian twist on the South American chimichurri, finished with … what-the-hell-is tonkatsu, anyway? Okay, it’s Japanese barbecue sauce.
Or, if for some silly reason, you ever decide to get a steak at Seviche, local temple to sustainable seafood and fish, Chef Anthony Lamas will dress your $35 prime beef Filete with smoked poblano peppers, Point Reyes blue cheese, demiglace and new red potato mash.
And then there’s this: “Creekstone Filet with roasted bone marrow, blue cheese pommes Dauphine, asparagus, brown butter-bacon jus.” That’s the $48 steak option at Corbett’s: An American Place. Sounds good. Is good. Goes great with red wine!
But wait just a minute! Where is the chimichurri? Corbett’s got no ethnic fusion. What we have here is a very fine piece of beef, grown at a regional farm (although it’s shipped to Kansas for grain-finishing, if that’s an issue for you). It’s presented in fancy style on fine china and damask tablecloths. But hey! It’s a steak, potatoes and a veggie.
And this, my friends, is the hidden secret of Corbett’s. Chef Dean Corbett, much-admired patriarch of the local dining scene, has won a devoted following at Equus & Jack’s and Corbett’s, never chasing trends but sticking to the fundamentals, presented with high style. Often traditional, always classy, never stuffy: This is Corbett’s recipe for lasting success.
Corbett’s, wrapping up its eighth year in the old Von Allmen mansion, a historic dairy farmhouse, retains the feel of a dining room in a fancy old home, where you can dress up if you want to, or show up in shirt sleeves if that feels right.
The seasonally changing menu just rolled out for autumn. About 20 dishes, divided into “First Flavors” (apps), “Second Flavors” (soups and salads) and “Main Flavors,” top out at $48 for the aforementioned filet; most mains are in the $30s. Or you might just relax and let the chef send out the nightly five-course dinner menu for $65.
The bar program, under the guidance of service director and sommelier J. Troy Ritchie, is flawless. I sipped a fine Manhattan-style cocktail, the absinthe-laced “A Lucid Dream” ($11), then we summoned a Clos du Val Napa Pinot Noir ($48) for the table.
I passed on a lettuce-wrapped amuse bouche featuring a dab of shredded bunny rabbit, moving happily into an appropriately leisurely dinner.
Salads of Root Vegetable Terrine ($9) and delicate Bibb lettuce dressed with blood orange, pomegranate seeds and thin-sliced Spanish Manchego cheese in a maple-mustard vinaigrette ($8) both won applause; however, the first-course Parisienne Gnocchi ($10), tender pasta bites finished pot-sticker-style with roasted garlic, sliced wild mushroom, salsify and a whiff of black truffle, made us want to rise in a standing O.
Main courses kept up the high pace. The aforementioned filet was beef perfection. The accompaniments were well prepared and soulful; if they didn’t get up and dance around the room, that’s not Corbett’s style.
Lemon sole ($32), likewise, was perfect. The fresh and delicate fish, cloaked in a crispy deep-fried coating — the iconic Louisville fried whitefish — was elevated to culinary nirvana on a melange of spaghetti squash with palate-punching aromatics.
The Fall Vegetable Ragout ($18), as its name implies, was a construction of seasonal veggies: turnips, rutabagas and tiny sweet onions, plated on toasted farro — an ancient grain also called “emmer wheat” — topped with a pile of crunchy fried collard julienne.
Even after all that food, a slice of salted caramel-chocolate torte ($8) with a ball of Irish coffee ice cream studded with hazelnuts was far too tempting to resist.
Corbett’s is not a place for a cheap date. With the wine and cocktail and that steak, our share for two came to a hefty $175, with a 20 percent tip pushing the toll well beyond 200 smackers. It was worth it.