IN this third (and maybe final) installment of the my steakscapade, we finally got the chance to eat at Elbert's Steak Room last night. I know some people who have raved about this restaurant tucked away in the non-descript Sagittarius Bldg. along HV dela Costa St. in Salcedo Village. This building is so old, you would never have thought a fine-dining restaurant could or should be opened there. But I suppose it works, as the restaurant has made a name for itself in the steak world.
(Scallops in absinthe cream)
Overall, however, it wasn't a positive experience for us eating at this restaurant, despite the great company and the riotous fun we generally had because it was our regular super-chismis night w/ our favorite dining companion. Most of us thought, for the ginormous amount paid for our entire meal, there were certain expectations that were unmet.
So we first ordered our appetizers while waiting for the rest of the gang to arrive. The first waiter who attended to us was polite, and patient in taking down our orders, and explaining certain nuances of the menu. But, we had to order the breads instead of these being served immediately like in other fine dining establishments, and sorry to say, even my neighborhood bakery serves better pandesal. Strike one.
(Plump shrimps in the Gambas, oops, prawns pala. Apologies to the prawns police, hahaha.)
Then came the appetizers: Scallops in absinthe cream, and Gambas. The scallops were tender and mushy just the way I like them, but the cream sauce, if they really used absinthe, didn't taste anything like the liquor. Not even a hint of it. The Gambas, however, was better because the cook used plump prawns, although I would have preferred the dish to be more spicy.
(Green Salad in Asian Vinaigrette)
Then the Green salad came with its Asian vinaigrette. Unfortunately, the ginger in the vinaigrette was so overpowering and the dressing was swimming in it, so it sort of killed the freshness of the greens. I ordered the Tomato soup, which was so-so...very thin and watery actually. Strike two.
But I must admit that the USDA "Super" Prime Rib-Eye I ate, was on the whole, tender, juicy, with good marbling...and even if I'm not a steak lover, I really appreciated it. It was a good-sized serving so Ms. RP and I halved it. I didn't need to use any peppercorn sauce or the red wine and shallots sauce.
At first bite, though, it was super salty. So I tell this to the short waiter who was attending to us and he snippily answers, "Tanggalin nyo yung ibabaw." No "po," no "please", no "ma'am". As Miggy pointed out, and we do eat out a lot, there was not even an offer of changing the dish or at least "acting" to resolve the situation. Most upscale restaurants with professional waitstaff are trained well enough to say something like "Ma'am would you like us to change it for you?" Or like, "Ma'am, let me ask the chef what we can do." Or something to that effect. But Noooo....our waiter was snooty like he effing owed the goddamned restaurant! Hindi kami natuwa sa kanya...pramis! Also, toward the end of our dinner, the waiters were no longer very attentive...maybe perhaps because the owner of the restaurant had already left? And one waiter even got my order of tea wrong, despite the fact that he repeated it before scurrying off to order it. So, STRIKE THREE.
The sidings as well left very much to be desired. The Angel Hair Aglio Olio was practically drowned in olive oil, and the noodles were malabsa. The Truffled Mashed Potatoes was creamy but pretty ordinary, that I thought I should offer up my own recipe for this dish. The Porcini Mushroom Risotto was not creamy but gritty. I cook risotto a lot so I would think it still lacked cooking time and more broth. Sayang kasi, the porcini mushroom is very delicate and at the same time, aggressive...so if only the dish was served as it should have been, it would have been a good complement to the steak (although I personally prefer Portobellos in my risotto).
(Angel Hair Aglio Olio)
I must point out though that Elbert's Steak Room does have a fine stock of wines and champagnes. Very impressive, especially its private reserve. (I would be willing to wash the wine glasses just to drink the Château Cheval Blanc Grand Cru 2001...P31,000, whoa!) . Even if what we had last night was one of the lower-priced ones on the list (Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2002), it was good value. It was full-bodied with a hint of chocolate and berries, and generous amounts of oak. Yum!
Despite the Lavazza coffee, however, dessert fell flat. Like the bread, appetizers, and sidings, this course is not the restaurant's stronger points. Of the dessert sampler, the only dish I actually liked was the Creme Caramel (in other words, leche flan), because its sweet and tangy tastes played on my tongue rather well. On the other hand, the crust of the Apple Charlotte ala Mode, for example, was tough instead of flaky. Strike four.
(Porcini mushroom risotto)
I always tell this foodie friend that you really don't have to be a rocket scientist to be able to serve steak. The secret is using the correct grade and cut of the steak so you have the right marbling (the fatty deposits in between the meat grain), which gives the steak its flavor. And to me, the perfect seasoning is just plain salt and pepper...so you can really savor the steak at its most naked state. Grill it or pan-fry it medium-rare so you get those juices flowing!
(Dessert sampler, clockwise from bottom: Creme caramel, Best chocolate mousse, Warm bread & butter pudding, Apple charlotte ala mode.)
In conclusion, the steaks (and wines) at Elbert's are definitely worth the trip, but I think more work needs to be done in the non-steak dishes, and on its customer service, to make your total bill really worth paying for. For all the hype that it's generated, frankly, it was kind of a disappointing experience overall.
(Note: I am curious about Elbert's Lunch menu which has interesting choices like a House Burgers w/ Gruyere Cheese – my favorite cheese in the world – and Roast Beef sandwich with sukiyaki-cut slow roasted Rib-eye. At P550+, I think I might drop by just to see if lunch will change the way I feel about this restaurant.)
(Elbert's Steak Room is at the 3rd floor of the Sagittarius Building III, 111 H. V. de la Costa Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City)