Saturday, October 23, 2010

(Sub) Prime Steakhouse: Boring, overpriced sub-quality fare

Prime Steakhouse & Lounge, Magnolia Hotel, Victoria, BC

Once upon a time, there used to be a very good Asian fusion restaurant at this location. It was called Sanuk, and was one of the city's better, more interesting restaurants. The executive chef at Sanuk (Patrick Lynch) has since moved on to run the wildly successful kitchen at Foo Asian Street Food (see my review of Foo here).

The restaurant business can be complex and messy, with various contractual and leasing arrangements always at play. I'm not sure exactly why Sanuk was closed down and replaced by a boring, overpriced steakhouse. Don't we have enough steak places downtown? Incidentally, prior to Sanuk, the place was... yes, you guessed it... an overpriced, boring steakhouse. Obviously, that one failed. Didn't they learn their lesson the first time around? Did they have to snuff out a perfectly delicious, unique Asian fusion restaurant, run by one of the city's most talented young chefs, and take a crack at the steakhouse genre yet again? If my lunch hour visit to Prime this past week is any indication, the place is destined for the overpopulated steakhouse graveyard sometime soon.

I'm always suspicious of a steakhouse to begin with, but when I see that the place's logo is an angry bull, and read boasts about the kitchen's "dry aging process" and "Alberta aged for 21-28 days minimum" -- my suspicion rises. Especially when they claim their "Montague overfired broiler seals in the flavor and juice with a crisp crust." If I had a nickle for every bad steakhouse that made these types of claims, I'd have almost enough to buy out the place and re-launch Sanuk.

I ordered a prime beef burger with fries for lunch. This daily special had all the trendy 100 Mile Diet adjectives appended; local this, local that, grain-fed this, grain-fed that, farm-grazed this.... with organically nurtured Comox Valley arugula no less! Or some such nonsense. Just cut the greenwashing crap and give me a decent burger already, and I'll be happy!

Prime's "gourmet" burger turned out to be anything but. Any quality ingredients that may have existed on my plate were obliterated by way too much salt. The beef, the locally grain-fed, organically grazed cheese... not sure which was the culprit, but the burger was over-seasoned with salty substances to the point I almost didn't finish. The only reason I did finish was because it was a $14 burger and I didn't want to leave 5 or 6 bucks on the plate. The fries tasted like they were marinated in a salt brine before going into the deep fryer. As Rosa wrote in A Temple of Salt, this is not a problem unique to Prime Steakhouse. The sodium-rich North American diet is a cultural problem. However, Prime manages to take it a step further than the norm.

For a gourmet burger in this price range, you are advised by YRS to head up to the Pink Bicycle, which I continue to insist is the best gourmet burger in town. As for the steak or other menu items at Prime Steakhouse, I can't say, except that the prices are very high, and there are plenty of places in town noted for their beef cuts, yet at a more affordable price.

Prime Steakhouse on Urbanspoon