Saturday, June 21, 2008

Rare Steak

It is nearly impossible for me to find a rare steak in any restaurant in the US. I love raw meat and eat steak tartare, so my definition of rare means it is cooked slightly more than raw but not to the point of being pink; in France this is called ordering a steak "bleu" or blue, meaning the flesh is cold in the middle (with a blue hue, hence the appellation). Yes, most of my friends are a bit appalled that I eat my meat this way, but I have one other rare steak lover friend who shares my preference and together we have probably sent back more steaks for being overdone than everyone else we know in Los Angeles, so finding a steakhouse who will cook their steaks to my preference is a "rare" find :)

Pacific Dining Car is probably the best steakhouse in Los Angeles, and it is definitely the best restaurant in an actual railway dining car! The railway car was actually moved nightly to avoid traffic (yes there was traffic in Los Angeles even eighty years ago), but it has been at the same downtown spot now since the 1920's with updated (but period appropriate) decor, including velvet curtains and miniature lamps. When you step inside the restaurant, it feels like you are in an episode of the TV series "The Wild Wild West". The decor makes it both a landmark and gives it a special occasion ambiance that will literally make your mouth smile.

They have been around since 1921 for a very good reason; all their meat is the highest quality USDA Prime, corn-fed, and cooked to perfection (they warn you on their menu that rare means cold and red in the center). I love the Baseball cut which is round, kinda like a baseball, but they have every cut you could possibility want, each done to whatever degree of doneness you prefer. An unusual bonus to their wonderful steaks is their round the clock hours, so if you are hungry after club hopping, you can get a perfect steak with a fine dining experience at 3am (yes there is the other famous downtown spot that serves steaks 24 hours a day, but this is the Maserati of steaks and the other is ... a bicycle). All this comes at a steep price, but quality is rarely cheap, and as long as you know you are getting your money's worth, why not spend it? Be part of history by eating in a Los Angeles landmark; your stomach will thank you.

Morel's French Steakhouse is another one of the few places where I can order a rare steak and get it cold and red in the middle. When I miss Paris, I like going to Morel's for the French ambiance and the cheese selection. There are actually two parts to this restaurant in the Grove shopping center; downstairs is the more casual bistro with outdoor seating, but upstairs is the fine dining restaurant that is the actual steakhouse. The steaks at the steakhouse come with three kinds of salt so you can season your steak as you wish (kosher flake salt, gray salt, or fleur de sel?) I love their sauteed garlic spinach side dish as the perfect accompaniment. Ask for one of the window seats in the restaurant so you have a view of the fountains (think mini-Bellagio) or the gigantic Christmas tree in the center of the Grove, depending on the season.

It's always a happy steak season when I can find a nice rare steak (both restaurants I mentioned will cook it well done, but why ruin a perfectly rare steak?).

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