John Tesar's Knife Modern Steak Review
My wife, the Dutchess, recently got a promotion so it was my job to create a celebration.
The last time we celebrated something wonderful we did it at Spoon, Tesar's seafood joint. It was one of the best meals that we have ever had. I decided that I wanted to check out John's latest gig, Knife Modern Steak, as I have heard many good things about what he is doing.
First thing I noticed is that his new place doesn't have many (if any) signs pointing you to its location. I didn't even see a logo or signage telling where to get in the front door, yet the place was full. Knife is located inside the Palomar hotel and we ended up asking the front desk how to get there. Needless to say...you have to know about this place or mistakenly wander into it. As soon as you walk in you see a window to the Dry Aging Room. A small room that is actively aging meat right before your eyes. Primal cuts of meat, at various stages of aging.
We were seated at the counter, which is their version of a chef's table, but better. You have a great and close up view of the kitchen, where young tattooed chefs were methodically and quietly creating yummy. We got the pole position right in front of the meat station. The sheer size of most of the steaks was amazing and to watch these talented chefs masterfully sear and char this protein was quite thrilling.
The meat master was testing the steaks with a cake tester to confirm doneness. He would stick the very thin wire into the center of the meat for about 5 seconds, then hold it to his lip to determine if the steak was rare, med rare etc. He also used the touch and pinch method using the firmness of the meat. I did not see any thermometers around. I also only saw 1 steak returned for a refire.
After ordering the 45 day aged bone in ribeye for 2, macaroni and cheese and creamed spinach, we were handed the drink menu...on an ipad! We martini-ed up and started watching the show. A few minutes later a crudités appeared for us to nibble on.
Another few minutes went by and the meat wrangler held up a brontosaurus leg and said "this is your steak!"
We watched in amazement as this well oiled machine cranked out dish after dish of drool inducing food. As they paraded by us on the way to the pass, I couldn't help but window shop for my next visit. Lamb, bison, tri tip, bone in sirloins and mostly the ribeye for 2 kept going by. Then a half of a pigs head came by and as I watched him pull the meat off of it, I wanted so bad to ask for a sample.
Our food arrived, family style, and we showed extreme restraint by pausing to take photos and not faceplanting into the deliciousness.
The meal was fantastic! Steak was perfectly seasoned, cooked and sliced. The standout was the mac n cheese. it was rich and decadent, and made us both exclaim "Oh My Gosh!" The creamed spinach was tasty, a bit tamer, but it provided a needed contrast to the rest of the plate. We thoroughly enjoyed watching the brigade work in almost silence, as we ate and savored the food. John Tesar was present and spent his time chatting with diners and making sure his standards were held. He did have to raise his voice to correct a chef, exclaiming "this is the last time you make that mistake" with an icy stare. He then apologized to us which I thought was a nice touch, even though it was unnecessary. The kitchen was WAY too quiet, I enjoyed the reality. We finished our meal with a salted caramel pretzel concoction that was not needed. I was very stuffed, but the flavor was so good that I kept on eating.
Like many fine dining establishments, the prices were a bit high, but not too bad. With some careful planning, and no drinks, you can easily eat a wonderful, and fairly affordable (put in the fine dining perspective) meal. The atmosphere is very nice and eclectic, and the space is quite cozy. The tables were full the whole time we were there and there was lots of smiles and laughing and MMMMMMM's. After the sticker shock, I reflected and concluded that I would for sure be back to sample more deliciousness from this joint.