By GRAHAM HICKS
The trendy gang so looks down its nose at the classic steak dinner – a 10 to 16-ounce sirloin/ribeye/T-bone with mashed or French fries, a carrot or two and broccoli on the side.
But reality pushes its way through the anti-steak/anti-Conservative/vegan-loving minority so much louder in the media than its numbers warrant.
The majority of Canadians love their meat! And they especially love steaks, if only they could afford them!
Eight specialty steakhouses in Edmonton compete for the silent meat-loving majority.
A steak dinner out has to be a special occasion. The average price for a rib-eye on a per-ounce basis at the steakhouses compared for this column, was $3.75 an ounce.
The immediate experience that inspired this column was not great. LUX Steakhouse & Bar is the most enduring steakhouse downtown, predating Ruth’s Chris, Chop, Braven and Atlas. It has of late been promoting its “dry-aged” 10 oz. New York strip and ribeye steaks.
The menu suggests that dry-aged beef results in an “enhanced and intense flavour” profile.
Okay, my dining companion and I agreed, let’s give the dry-aged ribeye a whirl. Let’s see if LUX’s “dry aging”, at $5.80 an ounce creating the most expensive ribeye in town, is worth the premium.
Nope. Neither of us detected any particular “intensity” to the flavour, or anything remarkable at all. It was too thin a cut – about a half-inch thick – to be truly medium-rare, i.e. distinctly pink but not red in the middle. The marbling was satisfactory but not outstanding. That the “jus” had been retained within the steak as part of the dry-aging process really made no difference. It was simply a steak without a lot of drippings.
In short, it was a thoroughly average steak. The next time, I’ll stick to LUX’s regular 12-ounce $49 ribeye, or $4 an ounce. From past experience, I know it’ll be good.
What makes a great steak? Of course it’s the quality of the meat itself. The cooking is all variations on the same theme – high heat on the outside to sear the meat, penetrating heat to cook the interior to the desired temperature for “blue” to “well done.” Rubs, smoking, marinates, sauces – those are extras.
Tenderness is key. Knife “pull” counts – if there’s any resistance to the knife, it’s not a top-line steak. The clichés are true. If a steak can be cut with the butter knife, that’s tender. If it melts in your mouth, that’s tender. Most steak lovers like enough internal jus to moisturize the middle.
Then there’s the value proposition. How good is the steak for its price?
Coliseum Steak & Pizza hasn’t refreshed its décor in four decades, but, price per ounce, it makes the best steak in town. Its 16-ounce T-bone (the closest it has to a ribeye) is $35, or a mere $2.19 an ounce.
For value and service, The Sawmill (South Edmonton) gets my business. Its 14-ounce ribeye is consistently excellent at $46, or $3.28 an ounce.
Among the “name” steakhouses, The Keg’s “rib” steak – the same cut as a ribeye – is a big 20 ouncer for $45 or $2.28 an ounce. But industry insiders say the Keg’s competitive steak pricing has come at the expense of quality.
For their quality-to-value ratio, I’d rate the ribeye at the city’s best-known steakhouses as follows:
Top-tier: Coliseum, 16-ounce T-bone (no ribeye on the menu), $34.95 or $2.18 an ounce. Sawmill South Edmonton, 14 ounce, $45.95 or $3.28. Bistecca Italian Steakhouse, 14 ounce, $46 or $3.28 an ounce.
Top quality, but expensive: Ruth’s Chris, 16 ounce, $75 or $4.68 an ounce. Braven (in the JW Marriott), 14 ounce, $62 or $4.42 an ounce. LUX regular 12-ounce ribeye for $49, or $4.08 an ounce.
Third tier – good, but not great ribeyes, middle-of-the-road: Keg, 20 ounces for $45, good value at $2.25 an ounce, but not the best quality. Chop, reasonably priced at 14 ounces for $45 or $3.21 an ounce. Atlas (in the Grand Villa Casino) 16 ounces for $68 or $4.25 an ounce.
For a classic steak experience at a good price, I’d take the parents or grandparents to Coliseum Steak & Pizza, or The Sawmill Edmonton South.
Dare to be different! Try some of the specialty meat houses offering more than the classic steaks. DOSC, Pampa, Fumaca and RGE RD are unique carnivore adventures.