I know it isn’t too often that I review steak places as they all seem so similar to me—I like steak, but when I go out, I guess I tend to prefer to get things that aren’t so easy (and so much cheaper) to cook at home. Anyway, we were celebrating a couple of birthdays and it was their choice, so Eddie Merlot’s it was. I was interested to try it, as even though it is a chain, my understanding is that it started here in Indiana and I have heard pretty good things about it.
To start with, I do enjoy a complimentary valet, particularly when it is so cold, but I always wonder why valets exist only in the places that don’t really need them (i.e. have a big parking lot) and not places that could use them (like downtown). But that’s a whole other thing. Anyway, it is different from the typical steakhouse décor in that it is done in lighter wood, rather than the typical dark men’s club look that a lot of steakhouses have. I have heard it described as a steakhouse for women and that seems about right (as far as the décor goes).
Our server was very friendly, and although when asked, was well versed on the menu, he seemed to lack confidence in what he told us, even though whenever we asked his opinion, he seemed to be right. And although he was very friendly, the service was not top notch, partially I think, because the table next to us was ordering everything off the menu requiring extra work by a server (flambés, etc.)
But as for the food, the menu is quite extensive and takes a while to get through. The bread service they bring is really good—one of the best around. A nice loaf of warm French bread with soft butter. As for our meals, we wanted to try several of the side dishes with the main meal, and since they are “family style” (read, huge) we just opted for an order of the blue cheese potato chips to start. They were a very large serving of homemade potato chips with crumbled blue cheese and a blue cheese sauce. They were quite unmemorable I thought. The chips were too hard and thick and the sauce just wasn’t exciting. I ate a few and gave up on them.
We all ordered various cuts of steak, I ordered a filet with a blue cheese crust and hubby ordered the ribeye. The steaks were pretty good—hubby’s ribeye was a lot better than my filet. I think maybe it is because their steaks are aged, and when you age a filet, I find it often makes it too dry, even when it is still very medium rare. Since it doesn’t have a lot of fat, a good filet needs the juiciness to give it good flavor. Hubby’s ribeye was really good and didn’t suffer as much because the added fat made the steak more flavorful.
We were having a hard time deciding on the sides, so we ended up with several. We had the macaroni with cheese with lobster (you can get it with or without lobster), truffle fries, creamed spinach and the mashed potatoes with lobster and lobster butter (again, you can get it with or without). Our server told us the mac and cheese was better and he was right. It was pretty good—definitely the best starch on the table. Not as good as the lobster mac and cheese at Capital Grille however. The spinach was also very good—rich but still very spinachy. The mashed potatoes were only ok because of the lobster and lobster butter—the potatoes on their own were a little too dry and pasty I thought. The worst thing on the menu was the truffle fries. Just when I thought everyone in this City had perfected good fries, I have been proven wrong again. The fries were so soft they were pretty much inedible. The truffle oil probably only increased the problem, but it was hard to tell because there wasn’t much truffle scent to them (again much better at Capital Grille). The sides are all enormous, probably the biggest I have seen at a steakhouse yet, so you certainly should not order as much starch as we did (although I am glad we did because if we had just gotten the fries or mashed potatoes, I would have been very disappointed.)
We did try several desserts—one nice thing is on your birthday, you get a free dessert (out of about 3 choices). It was not my birthday however, and I ordered the s'mores dessert (not one of the free choices). I love a good s’more and this was a fun dessert. It was a graham cracker crust with a chocolate layer and then marshmallow cream and mini marshmallows broiled on top. I did enjoy it, but had a hard time eating much after all the other food. The dessert portions are not quite as hugely generous as the sides, but they are still certainly big enough for sharing. A nice touch with the coffee service is that they broght a little tray with cream and sugar and also whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening, mainly due to the company, but also partially due to the food. It wasn’t the best steakhouse experience I have had, but certainly not the worst either.
3645 East 96th Street