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It's the thought that counts ?

t
theroyalchef Jun 10, 2008 10:28 AM

When does "It's the thought that counts" replace "If you can't make it properly then don't bother" when baking a birthday cake? When the kids want to surprise you? Of course! At a high end restaurant? No way ! Even if it's free? Still no way!

At Lawry's Prime Rib Saturday night the hostess asked if we had a birthday in the party (just the two of us) so I told her it was mine. Now, I didn't expect balloons and streamers or for her to get up on the table and do the Can-Can while singing "happy happy birthday" but I did think 'a little treat" may be in store for dessert. Thank goodness I was right and it was a "little" treat, in the form of a "little" birthday cake. A pappy strawberry shortcake type thing made with what tasted like packet sponge mix, frozen strawberries and synthetic cream (the shaving foam type you find on Golden Corral desserts)

We left the kids and the sitter watching Dr Who while we headed to Lawry's. Doctor Who is a long-running, award-winning British science fiction television program that depicts the adventures of a mysterious alien time-traveler known as "the Doctor" who travels in his space and time-ship.

I chose Lawry's The Prime Rib in Dallas, partly because the last time I was there the food was good and partly through nostalgia - maybe I was thinking about my culinary tour of London coming up - You can't get more British than "roast beef and Yorkshire pudding" their signature dish. (Actually you can, it would probably be Chicken Tikka Masala - but that's another story for another time) Lawry's, if you haven't eaten there opened its first restaurant in Beverly Hills, California in 1938. Lawrence L. Frank and Walter Van de Kamp co-founded the original Lawry's The Prime Rib and much of the splendor of the meal was in the way each part of the dinner was prepared and presented, like the famous "silver" carts so the prime ribs could be carved tableside.

Silver carts gracefully swanning the dining room were nothing new to me, I spent two years in the kitchens at the Savoy Hotel in London. I remember the days of loading a rib of beef onto the beautiful ornate silver trolley and piling roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding around it as the "trancheur" in his heavily white starched jacket, creased black pants and white apron looked on. However, looking across the dining room at Lawry's made me think about the kids at home watching Dr Who. My gosh ! the Daleks are coming, I thought. As the young chef opened the hatch of his culinary spaceship a bright light shone out revealing not little green Martians but two Texas size hunks of beef.

My wife had chosen the Filet Mignon wrapped in applewood bacon served with au gratin potatoes so it was delivered to the table plated. The steak was cooked perfect but had no seasoning on it at all; neither did the au gratin potatoes. Bland and boring, maybe that was what the plastic pots of Lawry's seasoning were for on the table- they should pass some through to the kitchen. I had chosen the prime rib, carved table side - from the silver Dalek
.
At the Savoy the portion size was usually determined by just how much you tipped the trancheur prior to him slicing the beef. At Lawry's it is far more structured. The California Cut
- A smaller cut for lighter appetites, The English Cut - Three thin slices, The Lawry Cut - the traditional and most popular cut, The "Diamond Jim Brady" Cut - An extra thick portion that includes the rib bone and The Dallas Cut - A double-sized cut with the rib bone as served to the Cotton Bowl teams. I went for the Lawry's cut. The beef was OK; it was the end piece of a joint that had probably climbed into the spaceship in planet kitchen some hours before. It came with complimentary mashed potatoes. One of my pet peeves is mashed potatoes under seasoned and just tasteless. Why go to all the hard work of peeling them, cooking and mashing them and then the easy part "seasoning" them is ignored. Mashed taters need butter, cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Trust me, I spent almost a year at the Savoy making them three times a day and I near perfected the dish. Side dishes were extra, so I paid for asparagus with hollandaise sauce. Almost raw, not even al dente and the hollandaise had split too. I guess "If you can't make it properly then don't bother" doesn't just apply to the "free" birthday cake.

Needless to say we didn't do dessert, pushed the cake around the plate while we waited for valet parkers to bring the "Tardis" to the front door and then time warped to Loft 610 in Plano for some modern day food.

  1. Cheflambo Jun 10, 2008 01:59 PM

    Here in Texas we have an expression: "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth." Sorry you were disapointed by the "free" impromptu birthday "cake" but quite honestly, unless you had called ahead and asked for something special, Im not sure what you were expecting.

    Well, then again, it IS pretty obvious what you were expecting .... a 70s-era nostalgia trip through old-school London .... in Dallas TX. Did you leave the proper British gratuity (none at all) too?

    4 Replies
    1. re: Cheflambo
      t
      theroyalchef Jun 11, 2008 10:03 AM

      When I said I was looking forward to " a 70s-era nostalgia trip through old-school London" I guess I was expecting something like the Savoy. Gosh, the prices were the same.
      With the "gift" I was actually expecting a little sample that represented the quality of the pastry chef, perhaps that would even persuade me (customers) to think "this is so good, give me back the dessert menu" I know at a relatively high end place like Lawrys I was REALLY surprised they used frozen strawberries and synthetic cream. Like I said, "why bother? "

      As for tipping, (if that is so important to you to know) for the record, I did leave a tip.

      1. re: theroyalchef
        Cheflambo Jun 11, 2008 10:21 AM

        But I forgot to ask .... was it actually your birthday, or did you just tell them it was because they asked?

        1. re: Cheflambo
          neverfull Jun 11, 2008 03:30 PM

          cheflambo, you are hilarious. i look forward to meeting you tonight.

          theroyalchef,
          1. could you please include the name of the city in the title of your post next time? (but i guess if you did, i would have missed out on this bit of entertainment.)
          2. if the rest of the food (that you paid for) was terrible, then are you really surprised that your free dessert was too?

          1. re: Cheflambo
            t
            theroyalchef Jun 11, 2008 04:03 PM

            Me, lie to a server ? No way ! You will accuse me of not tipping them next ! Yes of course it was my birthday.

      2. d
        Dorothy Jun 10, 2008 07:11 PM

        Sorry you were disappointed. The Lawry's in LA is still quite good, if you find yourself on the West coast.

        Incidentally in regard to tipping the trancheur (new word to me!): I have an LA Hound friend who says the best $20 you can spend at Lawry's is to slip it to the carver. He will then load you up with sides (the ones in LA are good) and you won't see them on the bill.

        And does anyone really know? Surely Lawry's doesn't had-peel its potatoes?

        Chow!

        Dorothy

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