Two very different houses find themselves at war in this month’s Dish-Off. El Gaucho’s newest location in Bellevue is where chef Steve Cain stands behind the hot grill serving up prime cuts of quality beef and more. Meanwhile, chef Felix Penn and his wife, Sarah, preside over an oyster house named for Sarah’s grandfather, Frank, a “working class hero” who loved his surf and turf.
Song on This Month’s Menu
“Steaks ‘n Shrimp” by Uncle Kracker
Before mellowing out and into the Top 40, Kid Rock’s offspring Uncle Kracker was a raunchy rap-rock artist. This is not Dish-Off’s preferred genre, but the Michigan native’s explicative-filled “Steaks ‘n Shrimp” from his debut Double Wide serves this challenge well. How will two chefs from traditional restaurants interpret lyrics that end, “I’m all about today and I’m a die that way…bitch”?
El Gaucho: Grilled certified Angus beef filet with lobster medallions and Béarnaise sauce
For Cain, ”Steaks ‘n Shrimp” is all about getting rich, making it to the top and then enjoying the good life. (His “Bitches and Prawns” course is spiced with attitude, while his salad is “all about the green.” ) With his booming laugh, Cain explains “I need to get across the fact that this is as good as it gets”—which means preparing a dish with simply the best ingredients for good eating. His “Top Dog Status” plate features El Gaucho’s best aged steak adorned with over-the-top lobster medallions. Add in a rich Béarnaise sauce and some of the fluffiest mashed potatoes that I’ve ever had, and I’m certainly feeling like the top dog.
Frank’s Oyster House: Lobster-poached Gulf prawns on cauliflower-potato puree with gingered veal demi-glace
Penn mentions the misogynistic tone of the song but also senses some old school in it, which suits his cooking style. “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” he explains, preferring to pay homage to the classics in a timeless fashion. Penn serves up steak tartare and aspic (bay shrimp-tomato) as part of the meal, but the most exciting offering is lobster-poached Gulf prawns complemented by classic French ingredients: cauliflower, potato and veal. This dish is decadent, with the lobster and butter infusing the shrimp, and the ginger in the veal demi-glace further boosting the flavor. I close my eyes and imagine myself like Uncle Kracker: “I do big plates eight times a day…The crew be livin’ large at the seafood bay.”
All photos in the post by Rina Jordan. (Click to enlarge them.)
Note: Dish-Off reviews are based on announced visits. Restaurants get guidelines and choose what to serve according to the month’s song.
Further note: As mentioned in the previous Dish-Off, City Arts now features only one dish per restaurant. Both restaurants this month prepared multi-course menus based on the song before this change was announced. Here are photos of the other dishes from this Dish-Off.
Bitches and Prawns: Courvoisier and tarragon with a whole lot of attitude
All About the Green: Field greens, manchego cheese, peaches, pecans, sherry vinaigrette
Top Dog Status: Grilled certified Angus beef filet with lobster medallions and Béarnaise sauce
Up Here in the Past: Oldskool bananas Foster
Frank’s Oyster House
Shrimp broth-poached quail egg on truffled steak tartare
Shanghai soup dumplings (beef, pork and prawn) with Chinese vinegar
Tomato-bay shrimp aspic with sweet corn and avocado salad
Lobster-poached Gulf prawns on cauliflower-potato puree with gingered veal demi-glace