Somehow I ended up at steakhouses twice this week and decided to take advantage of an opportunity to order the same meal at both and see how they'd compare. My menu: a rib-eye and a side of creamed spinach.
First, the Oak Bar: Very thinly cut steak, but absolutely gigantic. No/minimal charred taste, cooked to med-rare (as requested). Nice slightly spicy béarnaise sauce on the side. The spinach consisted of large, unchopped pieces in a thick, béchamel-type sauce - toothsome and hearty, but I could really taste the flour thickener. A variety of good warm breads, which they serve with a pot of tangy blue (?) cheese instead of butter.
Next, the Capital Grille (Chestnut Hill location): Very thick-cut bone-in Delmonico, served as a special with a fig and caramelized onion sauce. Quite strong charred taste, cooked to med-rare (as requested), rarer near the bone. Definitely felt even more like a hunk 'o meat than the Oak Bar's, though both portions were gigantic as one would expect (split with a DC and emerged stuffed from both experiences). The sauce could have used a bit more flavor - mostly it just tasted sweet - and more onions wouldn't have hurt to keep pace with all that steak. The spinach in our side dish had been chopped; its consistency leaned towards that of a sauce; nice spices to take the flavor beyond spinach and cream. The sesame roll I tried had the taste and texture of something from the supermarket (served warm) but the large cracker was fabulously crisp and light. Tried a really mellow by-the-glass pinot noir and will try to find out its name before my next trip to the wine store.
We had seasoned professionals serving us at both restaurants - more deferential at the OB, more informal at the CG, in keeping with the personality of each venue. They make a good effort with the atmosphere at the CG, especially considering it's a chain, but it was way, way too noisy. Seated at a corner table, my DC and I were shouting to be heard as the place filled up. By meal's end, we just wanted out of there. By contrast, the OB's already welcoming ambiance was only improved by the live jazz the night we visited. I don't remember prices but I'm pretty sure they were comparable for the two meals and about $100 for the two of us. Bottom line, though CG was okay, I'd take the Oak Bar any day.
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