Monday, August 14, 2006

Alexander's Steakhouse, Cupertino

I must admit, I was a little skeptical about this place. Even though I had read numerous positive reviews, I just couldn't bring myself to believe that -- in the middle of Vallco Shopping Center -- was some kind of culinary gem. Driving by the place didn't offer any reassurances, as the exterior of the restaurant is dull and uninteresting.

But once you enter the building, you're instantly transported into another world -- one where you can drop $100 for an ounce of caviar or 2-3 times that much for a cut of Kobe beef. In case you had any doubts that they're serious about their meat at Alexander's, the first thing you notice here are the shelves of beef dry-aging on the other side of a window.

While waiting for other members of our dinner party to arrive, I must've said at least half a dozen times, "THIS used to be an EL TORITO!?!" Sure, the outside wasn't pretty. The inside, however, was sleek and contemporary. The waiting area included a couple of comfy couches and a stone fireplace, as well as a decent-sized bar.

Once our party of six was complete, we were seated at a corner table in the first dining room. Alexander's is indeed a steakhouse, but there are lots of Asian influences. (The menu actually reminded me of a place we ate at in Tokyo.) We snacked on edamame, seasoned with togarashi, while deciding what to order. So many things sounded so good, that we ended up over-ordering. I can't possibly go into detail about everything that made its way to the table. Instead, here is a quick rundown of what we liked and what we didn't like:

The Good

  • Mushroom Soup (the soup changes regularly)
  • Maine Lobster Tempura
  • Sea of Cortez Scallops (the scallops are gigantic)
  • Crab, Crab and Crab Again
  • Hamachi Shots (before shooting these into your mouth, you may want to loosen the hamachi et. al. from the glass a bit; otherwise, the sweet ponzu sauce is all you get at first and it's overwhelming)
  • Filet Mignon
  • Cow & Crustacean (the steak part was good, the lobster presentation was so-so)
  • 28-Day Dry Aged New York
  • All 4 Love (I liked 3 out of 4 of the beef presentations -- the kobe sashimi was eh; the marinated jicama that the kobe was wrapped around was overly sweet)
  • Mac 'N Cheese (with truffle oil!)
  • Sauteed Chanterelle Mushrooms
  • Crimini Mushrooms
  • Haricots Verts (with bacon!)
  • Mashed Potatoes (mmmm... so buttery, and with chives!)
  • Steak Fries (these are HUGE -- you only get three to an order -- but deliciously crispy and well-seasoned with cumin)

The Bad

  • Sashimi Quartet (I like my raw fish to be relatively uncluttered -- so the fish itself really shines -- and this dish just had too many other flavors going on for my taste)
  • Crab Hand Roll
  • Portobello (described as "Gruyere Fondue" but was basically a portobello mushroom with some melted cheese on it -- disappointing because I was expecting some fondue presentation!)
  • Sweet Corn Medley

The good definitely outweighed the bad. My absolute favorite savory dish of the evening was the Maine Lobster Tempura. It was ridiculously good. The tempura coating was nice and light, so that it didn't overwhelm the sweet lobster meat. Next time, I would seriously consider just ordering two orders of this small plate for my entree. The only downside to this awesome dish was that it was really hard for anything else I consumed to follow in its footsteps...

That is, until the Eden dessert came along! The platter consisted of an apple souffle (with caramel sauce), peach souffle glace, and strawberry/chocolate fondue. I loved everything about this dish. The consensus among the table was that this was hands-down the best dessert. The Chocolate (Valhrona chocolate crunch cake) also received a big thumbs-up. But the trio of Creme Brulee (blueberry, Meyer lemon and mint) didn't fare so well. The Devilish (milk chocolate cheesecake, truffles, chocolate ice cream) fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

Given how much food we indulged in, we were pretty full by the time the bill arrived. Yet the restaurant had one more treat in store for us: cotton candy! You know we couldn't pass that up. The flavor of the night was Leapin' Lime, so three bright green spun sugar creations were brought to our table. Delicious!

P.S. I wish I had brought my camera because the presentation for a lot of the dishes was really something. Beautiful plating.

Alexander's Steakhouse
10330 N. Wolfe Road
Cupertino, CA
(408) 446-2222