Got fed up with beef restaurants in Downtown/ Pasadena: Agree with Taylor's downhill reviews of late, Nick and Steph's is nothing distinguished, Arnie Morton seems way overpriced, Windows has totally uninspired food, though the best view by far in the city, Arroyo Chophouse recently finally fell short - I now understand S.Irene's criticisms and JJ's in Old Town though not bad is never quite great. The seemingly totally unknown LA Prime in the Bonaventure seemed the next logical choice despite its unknown reputation.
This may be the quintessential tourist restaurant in LA - among the four tables we had conversations with, only one was from this continent - a small group from Chicago on a business trip (funny time of year for this, but whatever). It has views of the Downtown buildings, but too close to be panoramic. We asked for and got a table facing west - nothing like the surreal Windows view but it captured the whole attention of many of our party for a while.
Service was professional and competent throughout.
Pseudo California cuisine appetizers - escargots in buttery puff pastry; carpaccio with a garlic - truffle aioli; pretty good riff on a deep fried crispy crab cake.
Steaks are at least as good as Arroyo and Nick and Steph's - bone in Rib Eye ("Delmonico"), hearty Porterhouse, and an adequate though not great Beef Wellington - fair quality filet, mild pate, serviceable puff pastry. They have a very descriptive explanation of doneness ("medium rare - red in the midddle; medium - pink in the middle", even a Pittsburg - charred with a red center, etc) and they manage to accurately execute their promise.
Sides are $$ - In'N Out quality french fries, a little too creamy creamed corn; exemplary garlic mashed, unusual peas with pods and all with herbs including rosemary.
The wines are surprisingly well chosen and unexpectedly extensive. Though generally overpriced (3x retail) it includes several discounted "Cellarmaster Selections" (Burgess 1997 Cab $50 and a very reasonable price on a Silver Oak Napa Cab [1994 for $160? - can't remember for sure]) and a few surprisingly priced Burgundies including a 1997 Clos de Vougeot for $50. The last had such a wonderfully volatile barnyard aroma that the next table stopped talking and asked us what it was - from ~10 feet away.
I wouldn't make a special trip, but if you're in the downtown or Pasadena area and in the mood for steak, this is not the worst possible choice - and much better than some of the more highly touted. Ran ~$60 apiece with wine. Parking, which is $22 for Hotel guests, is free with LA Prime validation.
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