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Oct 15, 2010 05:56 PM

Bourbon Steak

A business dinner at the new Bourbon Steak in the St. Francis Hotel left me quite confused. They bill themselves as "a modern American Steakhouse tailored to the San Francisco dining audience". What I now know is that evidently the San Francisco dining public craves bar food, very expensive and expertly prepared bar food.
French Fries 3 ways with 3 sauces : 3 small cups of excellent fries coated in various subtle flavorings such as parsley or black pepper alongside 3 small ramekins of sauces that tasted of ketchup, mustard and aioli (complimentary?)
Pop Corn with black truffle butter: A generous handful of popcorn with chive/truffle flavored melted butter. ($15, yep, for popcorn)
Potato Skins: 2 half potatoes filled with a spoonful of braised shredded beef and a cheese sauce. ($14)
Lobster Corndogs: a half dozen finger sized lobster sausages on toothpicks, breaded and fried with a dipping sauce. ($16)
Chicken wings: 6-8 drumettes with a spicy red marinade and some shaved vegetables in the center of a large bowl smeared with a spicy red sauce. ($15)
All of these appetizers were really good, but seemed more like big budget stoner cuisine than high end hotel food (no Prop 19 jokes, please).
The steaks were all top quality meat, cooked as requested and served in minimalist glory (other than the ubiquitous smear/wipe of green or red sauce on the plate. The meat starts at $39 and goes up to if-you-have-to-ask-you-can't-afford-it.
The numerous service staff hover around, swooping in at the slightest sign of need to refold a napkin, remove an empty dish or refill a glass.
The decor is newly updated with simple wood tables, heavy utensils and applique-like window treatments that look as if they could come down in an afternoon if this new concept does not work out. The background music, 80's rock (Steve Miller Band!) seems to fit the general plan here.
I take away from the experience an understanding that the Michael Mina empire feels that San Francisco wants high priced/high quality comfort food that will not challenge diners in any way other than financial. Oh, and dipping sauces. Everybody here loves dipping sauces.

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  1. Had dinner there once. While the concept seems nice enough in theory, I just don't find myself getting very enthusiastic about it. Even though Michael Mina himself was working hard in the kitchen that night, both the lobster potpie and tuna tartare felt kind of bland. The meat was good, of course, but cooking expensive meat to order is not exactly rocket science. Anyone, with the possible exception of Epic, can do that. The music was way too intrusive for that kind of place. They really need to turn down the volume several notches. The service was excellent. Apparently, they retained the staff from Michael Mina (union wages may have played a role in that) and had a well-coordinated operation going from day one.

    All in all, not bad, but not very exciting either. I'm much more likely to go back to Alexander's for the fourth time than to Bourbon for the second. I'm more enthusiastic about Michael Mina reopening in the old Aqua space next week. Went to the opening party last night. (A sea of people dressed to the nines guzzling Moet.) From what I can tell, the chef is really putting his heart and soul into that project.

    3 Replies
    1. re: nocharge

      My 2 cents on Bourbon Steak...
      A wide variety of starters and appetizers from lobster corn dogs to Bone Marrow & Oxtail. Many steak options including Wagyu. Expensive and Classic Mina Lobster Pot pie is still on the menu.

      Lounge menu available with small bites. Vegetarians have few options and should eat elsewhere. The recommend ordering dessert with the rest of your meal. Secret menu has Spinach Souffle.

      Nice warm and crusty bread with butter and Fleur du sel (salt).

      Mojito ($12) was short, not particularly strong, but full of mint.

      Amuse Bouche – Trio of Duck fat fries (herb-sprinkled, onion-scented, and cheddar-dusted) with two types of aioli and house made infused ketchup was a fun way to start a meal. The fries were on the salty side and very decadent with the hints of duck flavor.

      Potato Skins ‘POUTINE’ with Short Rib aged gouda, grilled scallion, horseradish crème fraîche ($14) had three large chunks of potato covered with thick velvety gravy, with some small bits of short rib, on a hot skillet with a side of lightly flavored crème fraîche. Another rich, fun starter that helps introduce the classic Canadian dish to an American audience. We last had Poutine at a Burger King in Vancouver.

      Marrow & Oxtail shallot confit, Meyer lemon gremolata, country bread ($16) fits right into a San Francisco steakhouse. Excellent dish with artery clogging cheese covered bone marrow on a highly buttered bread with some oxtail meat on the side. This dish was beautiful and top-notch.

      18oz Bone-In Rib eye Steak ($42) was a large hunk of beautiful all-natural, grass-fed beef cooked to a perfect medium rare using Mina’s signature butter poaching. They use the top of USDA Choice grade meats unlike Alexander’s, who uses USDA Prime. This didn’t seem to matter as the meat was tender and very juicy. Served with a couple small mushrooms. Sides are a la carte. Do you dare gnaw on the bone in this posh restaurant?

      10oz Dry-Aged Eye of Ribeye ($45) came with 2 cuts of dry aged meat. This was the only selection that was aged. One was a traditionally grilled piece, while the other was a darker cut. We preferred to dark skinned version because of its flavor, crispy crust, and buttery tenderness.

      Yukon Gold Potato Puree ($9) or mashed potatoes were smooth and not as buttery as we thought they would be.

      Local Shelling Bean “CASSEROLE” ($9) had 4 types of beans and was covered with an onion sous vid sauce poured tableside. A little richer than we would like, but how else would you get mediators to eat some vegetables?

      Michael Mina’s Signature Root Beer Float ($9) Sassafras, Root Beer, Root beer sorbet, Chocolate Chip Cookies hit the spot on such a hot day. A gourmet interpretation of the classic fountain concoction, using top notch ingredients. The chocolate straw was not functional!

      Petit Fours Chocolate Ganache with salted caramel and bourbon seemed like decadent, super chocolaty hold overs from the Michael Mina days.

      Service was excellent, with the friendly and knowledgeable black uniformed server and bus boys almost in our face too often. No worries about refills, napkin folding, or having questions answered. We have no problems recommending Bourbon Steak, as the food and service was excellent. Prices are extremely high making this a special occasion venue or business meal destination.

      After a long drought, San Francisco has recently acquired two top notch steakhouses in Bourbon Steak and Alexander’s Steakhouse. Don’t forget about old favorite.. Harris’.

      20% gratuity on parties 5+. Extensive and expensive 74 page wine list with glasses of wine from $8, half bottles from $25, bottles from $30. State of the art cocktail list.

      Post with pictures..

      Amuse Bouche
      San Francisco, CA, San Francisco, CA

      Alexander’s Steakhouse
      448 Brannan St, San Francisco, CA

      1. re: Foodnut8

        You mentioned that Bourbon uses Choice and Alexander's uses Prime. You also mention Bourbon uses grass fed beef, is Alexander's grass fed?

        1. re: Scott M

          Chef Stout said grass fed will be an option, but he can't get enough of consistent, high quality product to give it a regular slot on Alexander's menu at this point. Here's the post,