"It's What's For Dinner" (tm)
Those of you ascribing to a Vegetarian/Vegan lifestyle choice should probably cover your eyes right now or just move along, move along, nothing to see here, nosirreebob.
Are they gone? Good. Because today, we're gonna talk about meat, specifically beef. A friend of mine (let's call her Lisa, since that's her name) and I have a regular ritual wherein we search out delectible bovine-based dining experiences. Traditionally, these have tended toward the steak or burger variety, albeit burgers of superlative quality (i.e. Union Square Grill's recently departed Happy Hour Kobe Beef Burger). We've tried dozens of burger concoctions over the past several years, everything from hometown stalwarts Kidd Valley and Red Mill, to my personal fave, the bacon wrapped stuffed blue cheese burger at Bing's Bodacious Burgers on E. Madison (although we've yet to make an official pilgrimage to CC's Burgers, for Our Fair City's awesome, cholesterol-hardening champ, "the everything burger").
Lisa is a reformed vegetarian, and like most people who have "gone on the (chuck) wagon", her personal choices pendulum has swung wildly away from her former lifestyle, until she has learned to embrace her inner carnivore with an enthusiasm bordering on the fanatical. I'll usually describe myself as a PC "Conscientious Carnivore", but in reality I'm an Unrepentent Meat Murderer. I've butchered or helped to butcher cattle, sheep, deer, elk, rabbits, turkeys, chickens, all manner of fish -- and I can think of a couple of pheasants, and one nasty hog in particular that I wouldn't have expressed any qualms about killing, dressing and serving under glass or with an apple in its vicious little snout.
Fortunately for both of us, Seattle's dining culture, despite it's well deserved reputation for finny cuisine does a thriving beef biz. In addition to the ubiquitous corporate-chain steakhouses: McCormick & Schmick's, Daniel's Broiler, Outback, and Ruth's Chris, not to mention local Cowboy-makes-good Stuart Anderson's Black Angus restaurants, which don't even rate on our list (that's how snobby we are about our meat), Seattle is blessed with a fine assortment of quite acceptible meateries. Sadly, one notable local establishment, Sam's Steakhouse on Eastlake Ave. is no longer with us - and considering their low, low prices, it's probably no wonder.
But, aside from these obvious choices, we also have a couple of truly World Class steakhouses in our midst, namely the recently resurrected El Gaucho, and the Godfather of Seattle carnivories, The Metropolitan Grill. I've only been to "The Met" on a couple of occasions, it being one of those places where having an expense account - preferably someone else's - is a big plus, but when Lisa's birthday came around a couple of weeks ago, I decided to splurge on the rationale that a.) birthdays are worth the extra expense, and b.) so was celebrating my new job.
The Metropolitan Grill is one of those old-school restaurants where service is everything, and style is just a natural by-product. You know it's going to be one of those experiences before you even get through the front door. One clue is the curbside valet parking, a rare luxury in a town where the Do-It-Yourself attitude prevails, although it proved useless to me, since my bus won't fit into 90% of our downtown parking garages. (My Parking Karma was working at full strength, however, and I got a street spot two stalls up from the front door). It's also where the city's business, finance and political power suits tend to congregate, albeit in an atmosphere of gracious hospitality that makes even the inimitible "Seattle-Casual" t-shirt and jeans crowd feel welcome.
Then there's the meat itself, the entire reason for The Metropolitan's existence and source of its reputation. You see it first: walking in you're confronted with a large glass display case containing huge, thick, pink cuts of corn-fed, 29 day dry-aged Angus beef dramatically draped across marble pedestals like a Tiffany's jewelry display. And considering their cost, it's not an inappropriate simile. But as they say, "If you have to ask, 'how much?' you can't afford it". Still, I defy anyone who's ever had a slice of meat in their mouth to resist a Pavlovian drool response at the merest sight of these beauties.
As I said, service is the name of the game here, and you get it in spades. From the tuxedo-clad Maitre d' who escorts you to your cozy mahogany-and-brass accented booth to the expert, efficient and thoroughly entertaining servers (Charles, our waiter that evening being a prime example) whisking through the busy dining room with the effortless grace of ballet dancers, right down to the bus boys who always seem to be topping off your water glass at just the right moment, every effort is made to ensure your money (or your company's as is frequently the case) is well spent.
Needless to say, the food itself is exceptional. Although The Metropolitan does make a few obligatory nods to our local penchant for seafood, you hardly ever see anyone actually ordering it. Lisa opted for one of the specials, a 16-ounce Porterhouse with an accompanying stack of short-ribs (or "meat with a side of meat" as we coined it), while I ordered the Tenderloin Medallions "Oscar style" (wherein the steak is topped with blanched asparagus, crab meat, and covered in Bernaise sauce - I'll bet you can feel your arteries hardening at just the thought), both cooked to melt-in-your-mouth perfection over a high-heat mesquite grill, and accompanied by a generous portion of the most heavenly garlic mashed potatoes on the planet. Sides are extra, but the aforementioned asparagus & bernaise or the creamed spinach are must-haves. Dessert, if you can handle it (we couldn't) tends heavy toward the chocolate side, and of course they have one of the widest selections of single-malt scotches & small-batch bourbons in the city. Cigars are to be had for those who wish to complete their repast in the style of the little banker character from "Monopoly", serenely puffing away whilst sitting atop a King Sized bed pile of money - most of which will have changed hands from you to the owners by the time you reach this point in your evening
Is it worth it? You betcha. But, you might want to fill up on the leafy greens for a few days afterward, just to get your G-I system back in balance.
Being a dedicated meat-eater doesn't always mean spending like one, however. Our latest excursion this past Sunday took us down to the edge of the International District where we discovered a surprisingly charming little Vietnamese restaurant, The Tamarind Tree, which despite being tucked into the back of a nondescript strip mall has quickly become one of Seattle's worst-kept culinary secrets if the preceding review, which seems fairly typical, is any indication. What drew us here, like dogs to a bone, was an item that goes by the enticing monnicker, "Seven Courses Of Beef", which for a mere $18.95 total included everything from beef salad (mostly cabbage, but with savory strips of meat mixed in), to beef cooked in a vinegar fondue, to the traditional beef-and-rice "congee" as a finisher.
Afterwards, feeling sufficiently sated, but not uncomfortably stuffed, we waddled around the corner to the Viet Wah Market to assuage our meat feast with copious quantities of fresh green beans, Japanese eggplant, mushrooms and okra, all intended for later consumption, of course. Hey, I don't hate vegetables -- I just think they should be accompanied by lots and lots of juicy dead animal flesh. Because, as they say, "Man Does Not Live By Beef Alone", not even us dedicated carnivores.
on 1:30 PM