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June 14, 2011

Off the Trail: Hong Kong - Ruth's Chris Steakhouse!

Whenever I think about eating in Hong Kong, fond memories come to mind: dim sum, 30%+ off Japanese sushi, and Chinese BBQ to name a few. But I'll be honest, one thing rarely crosses my mind: steak. Now, you might wonder why anyone in my position would travel elsewhere for steak when such things as triple A beef run free in our backyard, and... I would agree with you. I love steak and Alberta beef is a beautiful thing.

That said, however, when someone invites me to try something new, I'm definitely not going to turn them down and it was one warm summer evening that I found myself standing outside Ruth's Chris - Hong Kong. Mmm!

Now a couple things make me wonder: how is steak in Hong Kong? Moreover, how does the steak compare to Canada? Is it going to be imported? (Yes, from Australia.) Local? How does the same chain, in this case, Ruth's Chris (!), compare? Well, let's go find out!

Overall Score (This blogger's opinion): 60/100
What's IN: Rib-Eye Steak

So I resume my anecdote at the doors of Ruth's Chris: red carpet, polished glass doors, why hello to you too. As I brush past the doors, the air conditioning hits me - like literally hits me as a wall of cold air - it is freezing in here! Reminds me of winter... Eff, I thought I left that in Canada? (given how hot Hong Kong is, you can expect most places to have A/C set to a breezy 18 degrees, but really? This cold?). Edmonton - 1,  Hong Kong - 0, I say... as I reach for my jacket!

The waiter arrives and makes small talk - friendly enough, that works for me. Like most restaurants in Europe, when the server takes your drink order, he will ask: sparkling or still. Tap water is clearly not an option. Damn. I can tell this is going to be an expensive night already. We order still - sparkling doesn't sit well with my guests and a bottle of Fiji water appears moments later, adding over 10$ CND to our bill (for only 3-4 glasses in total? What!?)

**Author's note: now before we begin, if you've never been to Ruth's Chris, there's a couple things you should know, especially if you are considering dining at this establishment (or just for your own interest!). When you order your main meal, typically a steak, that's all you get... The steak. No sides (ordered separately), just a steak served on a plate heated to around 500 degrees and none of that seasoning, just a little garlic butter - they strongly believe in the natural flavour of the beef. Sounds good, right? For a price tag that will set you back over 50$ CND a person (minimum), it better be! However, there is a way to avoid this astronomical fee: you can either go during Edmonton dine-out week (in March, prices starting at $25) or on a sunday (prime rib special for $20 something versus spending $50 something!).**

Either way, we place an order for a few crab cakes, a 12 oz. Ribeye, 12 oz. New York Striploin, 11oz. Filet, and for sides, Lyonnaise potatoes and creamed spinach. Pretty standard fare for Ruth's Chris, and after a couple minutes (seriously! Lightning fast service), our crab cakes are ready and at our table with a basket of bread (no garlic cheese bread like Edmonton, unfortunately). A chunk of real crab on top (Nice touch!), fresh seafood, soft and flaky texture though a tad dry and a tad bland (only a soft bite of spice at the end). Decent, though.

Next, let's see how the steaks measure up! Ribeye, medium rare, hit me. Mmm, great marbling, tender, beef-y goodness just as advertised. Perfect. Unfortunately, however, after that strong start, the New York and Filet failed to impress. Although very tender to the bite - though not cream in your mouth consistency a la Corso 32 - the filet lacked any real flavour beyond the garlic butter served on top. Similarly, the New York was bland besides some caramelization present on the exterior of the steak. It did have a solid bite to the meat though, much more so than the filet's (squishy) texture. Neither carried any of the beautiful marbling and flavour found on the ribeye, shame.

As for the sides, the creamed spinach definitely won out on the Lyonnaise potatoes which were dry and over salted. The spinach (it had been virtually pureed into a Hollandaise sauce) was creamy and smooth - great!...in small quantities... The taste quickly wore off and the cream started to feel more and more like ingesting a heart attack in a bowl. Or one very long oval circular dish, that is *insert cheesy chuckle here*. Having eaten at Ruth's Chris before, for those of you fancying sides, however, I would recommend the mushrooms (large and juicy) and the asparagus for future reference!

After clearing away our dinner plates, the waiter made a deal of bringing out a new set of utensils "just in case" for dessert but combined with the atmosphere, it felt a lot more like peer pressure to spend money. Perhaps it was this, my adolescent desire to rebel against peer pressure and exert my independence, or the fact that we had a packed night on the town ahead of us, but we wrapped up dinner there that night without dessert (I hope this doesn't become a habit! Thats two for two already!)


In the end, this meal left me wanting more - I hadn't eaten steak for weeks and it didn't hit the spot; I'm sorry but that's just not good enough for a restaurant that can easily set you back anywhere from $50 - $70 per person plus drinks. I just hope the Edmonton location doesn't disappoint.

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