By Kaitlin Steinberg
By Minh T Truong
By Molly Dunn
By Brooke Viggiano
By Kaitlin Steinberg
By Molly Dunn
By Molly Dunn
By Eating Our Words
The chef's counter at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse is the best seat in the house, unless you're trying to get romantic. When the hostess told my brother Gordon and me that we could either sit at the counter or wait an hour for a table, we jumped on a pair of stools.
From our perch at the polished granite counter, we looked directly into the orchestrated bedlam of the brightly lit kitchen, where white-clad cooks flew, leaped and slung the hash. As the steaks came out of the high-temperature broiler, we watched a guy finish them with a spritz of butter, a sprinkle of kosher salt and a torrent of coarse black pepper.
The medium-rare, 26-ounce porterhouse my brother ordered was probably the best steak I've sampled in a steak house this year. Only a handful of steak houses in the city offer dry-aged USDA Prime, and Pappas Bros. has more than anybody else.
Houston, TX 77057
Lamb chops: $38.95
16-ounce rib eye: $33.95
16-ounce New York strip: $39.95
Creamed spinach: $6.95
1811 Château d'Yquem: $30,000
I preferred the nutty flavor and slightly denser texture of the porterhouse's strip portion, but the filet on the other side of the bone was nearly as spectacular. Having also sampled the New York strip steak at Pappas Bros., I can definitely say that the bone makes a big difference. If the strip steak is excellent, the strip section of the porterhouse is out of this world. Steaks cooked on the bone not only pick up more flavor but they also stay juicier.
On a previous visit, I was disappointed by the 16-ounce rib eye. While this is normally one of my favorite steaks, the rib eyes at Pappas Bros. are cut by weight with no regard to the resulting thickness. A full pound sounds like plenty of meat, but in fact, the steak was barely half an inch thick. There are also an 18- and a 20-ounce rib eye on the menu -- these are probably a better bet if you like thick steaks.
This time, I got the double lamb chops grilled medium-rare. They came with mint jelly, but I ate the succulently moist and loose-textured lamb meat smeared with the creamed spinach we'd ordered as a side instead. I loved the slightly gamy tang of the lamb, but I must say I felt a little envious as I watched my brother power down the porterhouse.
Gordon and I were as hungry as a pair of bears. Every year, the two of us get together and play a three-round golf tournament for a dinged-up trophy we bought at a secondhand shop more than a decade ago. This year, the first game of the Walsh Brothers Cup challenge coincided with the arrival of a polar air mass. The temperature was 38 degrees when we teed off in our gloves and long underwear. He won the round by one stroke. After hitting the scalding showers, we headed for Pappas Bros. Steakhouse with growling stomachs.
I convinced Gordon to resist the temptation of salads and appetizers and to wait for the steak. This is my new steak-house philosophy. When you're splurging on a monster steak, why fill up on lettuce first?
And speaking of splurging, when the Pappas Bros. wine list arrived, I handed it to my little brother. The wine list here is one of the best in the city -- if you're loaded. Gordon is a financial executive for a major defense contractor, and he doesn't mind spending money on a good bottle of wine. But even he was shocked by the prices on this list. There are more wines in the four-figure category than in the two-figure category.
A couple of months ago, on my first visit to this restaurant, I annoyed the wine steward for quite some time as I attempted to find a bottle that I could afford.
"Which of these Gigondas do you recommend?" I asked him, pointing to a selection of the Rhône wines that were priced around $50.
"None of them," he replied.
"Well, what do you recommend?" I asked innocently. The sommelier's finger went to a California Cabernet that sold for $150, a $200 Bordeaux and a variety of other expensive bottles before I stopped him. "What about this super-Tuscan?" I asked, pointing to a wine that cost $65.
"You could get that," he said unenthusiastically. When the wine arrived, I was shocked by its bathwater temperature. I had asked the waiter if the wines were kept in temperature-controlled storage, and he had assured me that they were. So I called him over and asked him why my wine was warm.
"We don't keep thatwine in the wine cellar," he explained.
So when I returned with my brother, I was determined to find out just which wines Pappas Bros. Steakhouse does keep in the temperature-controlled cellar.
"We keep our faster-moving wines at room temperature in another area," the wine steward told me and Gordon.
"What's your definition of 'faster-moving'?" I asked him.
"Wines that we sell the most of," he said.
"And how can I figure out which ones those are?" I pushed harder.
"Generally, the wines that sell for under $100," he finally admitted.
While I find this kind of wine snobbery obnoxious, I played along this time. And to his credit, the steward gave us an excellent overview of Bordeaux subregions and recommended several wines under $200. And since the price of wines on this list averages $400 or $500, $200 seemed like a bargain.