Steak frites. For many the dish calls to mind romantic visions of wiling away hours in the most perfect Parisian brasserie, where time floats away on a river of red wine and calories are meaningless. But for less Francophilia-addled folk, steak frites speaks a more universal language: meat and potatoes. Specifically, an indulgent steak and the golden glory of French fries.
Tin Table's beautifully composed steak-frites
Steak frites crosses the usual borders between the halls of fine dining and more casual bistros and restaurants. And while it's traditionally French, its fundamental beef-and-potato-ness lends itself to being interpreted in new ways. This week, Versus seeks comfort outside the bistro, trying steak frites at two more casual places that take their meat seriously, Brouwer's Cafe and The Tin Table.
|Brouwer's: one gorgeous, honkin' piece of meat|
At $15, the Tin Table's steak frites will have you believing you've stumbled across the greatest deal in town. The steak they use is hangar steak, not particularly tender but deep in its beefy flavor. And, by God, does the kitchen know just how to treat it: The cut comes expertly grilled, a perfect medium-rare, with a dark, smoky crust and red, almost oozy interior. The meat's topped with a bacon blue-cheese butter that, in truth, is nothing significant (the bacon bits were initially suspected to be chopped walnuts, which would give the butter less of a novelty "everything's better with bacon!" feel). But what is memorable is what lies underneath the steak: a small but wonderful secret layer of demiglace-based sauce -- dark, luscious, and almost over-the-top rich. There's just enough for you to dip every bite of meat into it, and enough to soak into the bottom layer of the massive nest of shoestring fries. Those fries are crunchy and so light that eating all of them doesn't leave you feeling full; plus, they're barely dusted with the intoxicating aroma of truffle salt. A simple arugula salad, peppery with a nice lemon lift, keeps the dish from feeling too heavy.
Verdict: Brouwer's serves up a massive, mighty fine, and reasonably priced steak. This is steak you want to get to know. But when matched up against the Tin Table's steak frites, with all its well-executed elements and small details, Brouwer's version ends up looking like a steak thrown over a pile of decent fries -- amateur at best.
Tin Table all the way!