Steak: 3.2…55 Day Dry Aged Ribeye (medium). When I was younger I couldn’t wait until the day when I could cut my own meat…well, at age 35, I guess I’ve been downgraded again! Kevin Pang of the Tribune coined Boeufhaus “The Chicago steakhouse that isn’t a steakhouse”, which knowing this, prepared me going into the night as I knew that steakhouse traditions I was accustomed to might be totally flipped upside down on me. That’s why when I received my ribeye pre-cut into slices, I wasn’t totally caught off guard, but I did reminisce internally of the days when I was in charge of cutting my own meat. The first bite was very salty (too salty), and that is what I’ll remember the most when thinking back on this steak. The most flavorful, and less salty, bite was actually direct from the bone which was included on the platter of slices. I was a fan of their take on the Bearnaise sauce, which had a bit thicker of a consistency and was presented in almost a whipped Bearnaise in lieu of a Bearnaise sauce. When the slices were no more, I did sadly have a lot of leftover bites of just fat/gristle…I’m not saying that I haven’t had leftover fat/gristle on other steaks at other steakhouses, but from a pure comparison standpoint, there probably was more leftover fat/gristle here than I’ve had on other steaks.
Drinks: 3.7…I followed my “standard” steakhouse beverage protocol…first an old fashioned during starters, red wine with the steak, finish with a beer. The “Haus Old Fashioned” was pretty good…I love trying new bitters (German bitters in this instance) and this one definitely had a unique taste. I wasn’t hooked by it though and typically I would wander from my beverage protocols to create a pit-stop that I like to call “another old fashioned”…no pit-stop was made though. The St Julien St Alban Texier Syrah with the steak paired very well. One important note is that the wine list at Boeufhaus is much like the ambiance: non-pretentious, which is a great thing! Normally when you look at a steakhouse wine list you say to yourself “where are the wines under $100 bucks” and then you find yourself picking between a shortlist of bottles…when you say that to yourself at Boeufhaus you get to keep looking at 98% of the wine menu. Post wine, I finished with a Weihenstephaner beer…say that 10 times fast…hell, say that 1 time at normal speed and it’s tough! Even though I’m a US craft beer snob, I did enjoy the long W word beer but probably won’t be making a beer run for that particular one anytime soon…personal preference.
Ambiance: 4.5…If they found a way to bottle the smell when you first walk in the door, I would wear it as cologne. As I mentioned above, Kevin Pang of the Tribune coined Boeufhaus “The Chicago steakhouse that isn’t a steakhouse”, and with respect to ambiance they are definitely pushing the boundaries…in a great way! Less than 40 diners capacity, close tables, non “steakhouse hits of the 1990s and 2000s” background music (i.e., they play normal music), medium lit lighting with great looking fixtures and Edison bulbs, the hustle/bustle of numerous servers/staff moving around every which way in close quarters, and the latitude/longitude nowhere close to that of River North or Gold Coast…literally the boundaries have been pushed. And the result…I liked it! It works. The close tables even helped us out a bit because when discussing if we were going to order the spaetzle, the table next to us gave us their opinion to help us out…spoiler alert, we did not order the spaetzle. I’m not saying that the Chicago steakhouses that have large expansive dining rooms, more space between tables than a NYC apartment and the soundtrack of DJ Generic playing are a bad thing…in fact I love those aspects. I just like the fact that Boeufhaus offered me a temporary getaway from the norm. Well played! Why not a 5.0? Because I’m a steak knife snob which, if you know my reviews, then you know I group into the ambiance category. The steak knife felt like a switchblade, and thus lacked the weight that in my opinion is crucial to steak domination.
Starters/Sides: 4.5…When it comes to starters, we were like 4 adults in a steakhouse (i.e., literally and figuratively)…we ordered the Rillon (translation: fried pork belly cubes), Fennel Panisse (translation: lightly fried chickpea flour cakes), Tartare of Boeuf (translation: happiness on a plate) and Shortrib Beignets (translation: the combination of two of my favorite things in one magical edible bite…thanks science). The Rillon pork belly cubes were amazing…and not just because they were pork belly (because let’s be honest, you can make anything better by adding pork belly..Example…doing your taxes sucks…doing your taxes while eating pork belly is awesome). The Rillon plate was the first EMPTY plate of the starters if that tells you anything. The Fennel Panisse was something new to me, and while some of the guys didn’t like the consistency (only because it was something they had never had before) I actually liked it. I’m sure I’m butchering the true culinary description of a panisse, but it had an almost quiche like taste to it. In my years becoming a steakhouse groupie, I’ve become a huge fan of tartare, and consequently a huge judge of good tartare…Boeufhaus passes the test with flying colors. So simple yet so complex. I wanted more. Not another plate more, I wanted like pots and pans full of this tartare! The shortrib beignets, if nothing else, deserves a round of applause for creativity. But on top of that creativity is the applause for great tasting as well. Shortrib…gooood….Donuts….gooood! For sides, we ordered the Winter Vegetables, the Roasted Mushroom and the headliner of the sides, the Cauliflower Gratin. The carrots saved the winter vegetables, but overall was just ok. While I liked the acidity of the mushrooms, I kept comparing them in my head to other favorite mushroom dishes and unfortunately this mushroom memory got sent down to the minors of my memory bank. But then came the Cauliflower Gratin. Boom! 2015, the year of kale is over…it’s 2016 and Cauliflower is the new “IT” vegetable…especially if it’s combined with warm gruyere, béchamel sauce and bread crumbs. Winner winner cauliflower dinner!
Steak: 3.2…Initial reaction when the plate was presented to me was, “already cut?” Pre-sliced is more common on sharing size cuts (30-40 oz long-bone/tomahawks) and I wasn’t expecting it for a 22oz ribeye. I don’t prefer pre-cut as it doesn’t hold its internal temperature as long. Onto the actual steak (22oz, 55 day dry aged bone-in ribeye)….It came out at a perfect medium-rare as requested. Just the right amount of marbalization. The first bite….delicious piece of meat, but way over-seasoned for my taste. The saltiness overtook the other flavors of the meat. I would have preferred a more simplistic seasoning approach.
Drinks: 3.7…Old fashioned is our standard starter and it indeed was a good way to start the evening. Pomatto went for the Syrah rather than the typical Cab which was a nice change of pace. Paired fairly well start to finish. Wine list had very reasonable price points around the board.
Ambiance: 4.7…You had me at exposed brick and Edison bulbs! The experience was a nice change from the typical, and all too “sceney”, River North steakhouses. The intimate venue provided attentive, friendly and knowledgeable staff. The specials chalkboard was a classic personalized touch. The aroma that hit you the second you walked in the door was unforgettable. We knew we were in for a treat at that very moment.
Apps/Sides: 4.4…Rillon – Rivaled Prime & Provisions thick cut bacon. Damn good! Shortrib beignets – Great flavor. Could have used more meat filling. Tartare of boeuf – Been on a tartare kick and this hit the spot. Fennel panisse – Recommended by waiter. Got good response around the table but not my thing personally. Cauliflower gratin – Cauliflower is trendy right now and this is exactly why! Cauliflower gratin and roasted mushrooms in the same bite was life changing. Roasted mushrooms – always a favorite side of mine. this preparation did not disappoint! Winter vegetable – very basic. seemed like something I would put together at home. Didn’t wow me.
Steak: 3.5…I’m old fashioned and like to cut my meat. That said I am open minded to how other restaurant’s present their dishes. While the steak was well prepared (actually medium-rare prepared) I felt the flaw was in the amount of salt on the dish. This might be met by criticism of hypocrisy for those who may have noticed previous reviews citing a lack of salt, so maybe I require that perfect median of season, or maybe nobody has read my opinion on this steak or past steaks to even know!
Drinks: 3.5…While the wines were relatively affordable and complimented the meals nicely, I didn’t find any of the bottles to really have been “sold” to us in terms of how they pair with the obvious main course. The cocktail menu was intriguing but would like to try some of the others over a future experience.
Ambiance: 4.5…This is an excellent place in a fun neighborhood not common to the steakhouse scene. We were immediately greeted and welcomed by an admirably friendly staff which lasted the whole night. The music kept to the liveliness throughout the night and made for an overall enjoyable seating. In fact we hung around longer than we typically do simply because we were digging the atmosphere. I will return here and possibly to entertain out of town guests. As other things looked great on the menu, I would even change up the selections upon my return.
Sides: 4.5…Sorry Adam but the Rillon most certainly did NOT rival P&P thick cut bacon. That said I still loved it. Mouthwatering. The tartare was another spot-on classic and the cauliflower was the an excellent complement to it. The mushrooms and ‘winter vegetables’ were nothing exciting, but we shouldn’t have expected them to be. If only I could have talked the boys into the Spaetzle!