Apres-ZAP @ House of Prime Rib, SF
After swilling young zinfandels all day long at January’s ZAP festival, our usual post-tasting dinner was not at R&G Lounge this year, but shifted to House of Prime Rib (HOPR). Our companions were a band of brothers and their dad, who’ve had a family tradition of eating here for decades. While this was my first time at HOPR, I’ve read so much about it over the years on this board, that I could recite chapter and verse for every question posed by our other friend who was getting an introduction as well. It was funny when he asked about the “UFOs”, the silvery serving carts described by an earlier generation as “Zeppelins”.
Exterior of House of Prime Rib on Saturday night:
The bar and lounge were standing room only, the reception desk was jammed, and there were people milling around outside as well. Yet we were seated within 5 minutes of our appointed reservation time. My friends’ favorite server wasn’t in that night, but our guy did a great job. When we later learned that this was his first week on the job, we were shocked as he was so at ease, answering the question about the fresh fish of the day, “it’s salmon, but you don’t want it, get the prime rib.”
Another staffer came around to open and serve the bottles of wine (1996 Robert Arnoux “Les Chaumes”, 1982 Cos d’Estournel, and the corked 1999 J. Rochioli “East Block” Pinot Noir) we’d brought. He replaced the set of stemware on the table with something more appropriate for the wines.
The corn muffins were nice and warm, and my friends warned me to not fill up on bread to leave maximum room for the meat to come and seconds if we wanted. The salad was well-tossed and not overdressed to me, but I have lost my taste for the added seasoned salt. The pasty-textured and bland creamed spinach was much inferior to the version at Alfred’s and the corn was not that interesting either. But I did like the silky mashed potatoes and gravy a lot.
I went with the House of Prime Rib cut, requested with the rib bone and rare enough for me. Juicy and buttery soft, this was a lovely hunk of aged meat with an even degree of doneness. Yet, I did find that I missed a well-browned fatty crust and more done cap meat.
House of Prime Rib cut
None of us had room for the second helping offered us or dessert. The tab came to $60 per person including corkage and a generous tip. With many bones and leftovers in our doggy bags to go, our canine friends at home also ate well.
Wow, I've been going there for years and never knew they had corn as a side dish. We always get double mashed. And I always fill up on bread even though I know better by now. I've always hated that seasoned salt and never allow them to put it on the salad. I hate their creamed spinach.
I think the experience really does kind of depend on the meat cutter you get. I try to avoid the front room whenever I see this one meat cutter guy there (I dont remember his name but I recognize his face) because he does such a crappy job, giving extremely thin, raggedy slices of meat.
The Cos was thrilling, everything that you could hope for in aged St. Estephe, and the best bottle from the case so far. I keep hearing wine geeks saying the 1982s are dead, well, Cos didn't get the message. The sad part is that I brought this one because King, the dad of the family, loves old Bordeaux, but he was on some new meds (that saved his life!) that prevented him from even letting a drop of wine touch his palate. A simple piece of beef like this was the perfect foil for the wine.
The annual Apres-ZAP dinner rotated back to House of Prime Rib this year. I didn't zin, but was invited to sup with the band of brothers and their dad again.
A few changes since my last visit. The corn muffin is now a corn stick (shape of an ear of corn), and the recipe is different. Better, to my palate, so much so that we inquired about it. Now it has some cheese and a bit of chile pepper kick to it. The creamed corn and creamed spinach were both better than two years ago. Not at all pasty, nice flavor of fresh cream reduced down a bit to thicken. I appreciated the caddy of three strengths of horseradish. Our server brought a boat of the jus to our table for some extra with the Yorkshire pudding.
I had the House of Prime Rib cut again and requested a piece with the bone. It seemed just a hair smaller to me. Seconds are no longer offered automatically, but will be provided if you've ordered the HOPR cut or the larger King Henry VIII.
We did order dessert this time, a tiramisu and creme brulee to share among the five of us. Both above average.
Corkage was $20 each for two of our bottles, and a third was charged at $25. The somm came over to open the old bordeaux, and we assume that's the upcharge.
The place was crazy busy on a Saturday night. I think I enjoyed the food and experience more this time.
One of our group tries to eat here about four times a year. He feels it's the best red meat dining value for his buck and reliable. I'd have to agree.
House of Prime Rib
1906 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94109
The first thing brought to the table is a small round of warm sourdough bread on a board with a serrated knife. Then the corn stick and the spinning salad. I don't know if the corn muffin/stick is new or not. It was a muffin in 2007, and in 2010, it's a cornstick.
Yes, I had yorkshire pudding. I tried all three strengths of the horseradish sauce, the middle one suits me the best.
re: Melanie Wong
The corn bread (be it stick or muffin) seems variable and has for the 10 years I have been going to HOPR. I feel like it is like the sugar egg puffs at Shanghai Dumpling King, they walk they around as they are ready. I have probably not gotten the corn stick more times than I have but I think all of the times I have it has been when I was there around 7 or 8 (I usually try to go as early as I can to have a chance to digest and avoid the 'meat nightmares')
Shanghai Dumpling King
3319 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121