David Burke's Primehouse
Given the very positive reviews in the most recent "best steak" thread, and how sharply this contrasted with our experience there, I thought this deserved a thread of it's own.
After carefully reading through the various reviews of Chicago steak houses, my group settled on Primehouse. Capital Grille seemed to be the other best contender for top steak. We really didn't care about the scene- just the food. There were five of us, and we all skipped lunch, anticipating an exceptional meal.
Here's the menu, for reference:
I'll get right to the point. Three of us had the famous grass fed 40-day dry aged rib eye ($49), and were totally disappointed. This was one of the most bland tasting rib eye's I've ever had. I wished I had gotten it au poivre just to give it some taste. I've made steaks at home on the grill from Fox & Obel that were more impressive. A friend got the 55-day (it goes up to 75-day). The 55-day dry aged rib eye was very good- it had the intensity you expect from a serious dry aged steak, but for $58, it seemed overpriced. Some friends dining at another table tried the Kobe sashimi, which they loved, and the porterhouse for two, which was also reportedly good.
I recently had the pleasure of dining at Craftsteak in NYC and was totally blown away. The grass fed rib eye there cost $52 and was several orders of magnitude better than the 40-day I had at Primehouse (and still quite a bit better than the 55-day). Add to that the side dishes were incomparably better, with lovely gourmet touches, service was appropriate to the prices- and the total cost was similar.
Of note, the ceasar salad was excellent- one of the best I've had anywhere. It's prepared tableside. The truffle asiago fries are a must-order, and the creamed spinach was excellent (although I didn't detect any cream...). The old-school hash browns were boring and very much skippable, as was the basil-mashed (slightly better).
Another friend who ordered the tuna (rare) found it to be very disappointing. It was about 2 inches thick, lightly seared on the outside, and perfectly rare inside. I tried it, and though the texture was good, and the meat was not gristly, a flavorful crust was lacking, and there was no sauce to liven it up. Booo--ring. A piece of tuna like that should have been an event all it's own, instead, it was an afterthought.
Last night we went to One Sixty-Blue, which was an oustanding restaurant, with a much more pleasant atmosphere, better service, MUCH better food, that was less expensive.
Primehouse, in it's current form, is an overpriced joke. They should eliminate the 40-day rib eye, and knock their prices down a full notch on the scale. They need to find a recipe for the tuna, because currently, they don't seem to have one. All of the side dishes could use some work as well. We skipped dessert, not wanting to be disappointed any further.
I think what's happened with many of the positive reviews for this restaurant is that people are confusing high-quality meat with a good meal. Sometimes the two meet, but my impression is that’s not the case at David Burke’s – at not least consistently.
Many of the reviews I've read of the restaurant comment that steaks are frequently sent back to the kitchen because the kitchen doesn't get them right. I've eaten there once and will not recommend it to people I care about - that's how bad I my experience was.
At the prices being charged, the restaurant doesn't fit into a "great steak" category - unless you're planning to eat the meat raw.
To emphasize the measure of my feelings on this matter, I actually took the time to register with this site as an out-of-towner. Overall it was a pleasant experience. However, the entire menu lacks abundant flavor. The sides are amazingly small. Not that I want that to be a complaint. In all honesty... I believe sides should be much smaller than they often are. But price them accordingly. Especially when they aren't much more than average. Except for the fries. The fries were amazing. The Kobe sashimi was... good. But it wasn't amazing. I had the 55 day aged ribeye. It was reasonable. I'd even call it a great steak but there is no way I'd say it's worth what they were asking. Add to that the fact that I'm certain the kitchen has a special agenda since everything, and I mean EVERYTHING from the duck to the fillet and the ribeye were undercooked. Medium rare is NOT rare! Looking over the desert menu left us uninspired, and leaving to look for something sweet elsewhere. There is amazing potential here. They have to be convinced to raise the bar. That's all.