By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Then: The poor man's Morton's (2009)
Again: Morton's, move over
One of the hardest details for a restaurant to nail is consistency. Ray's The Steaks offers reliable sizzle. Even though we haven't had a date in a while, the Arlington steakhouse I remember for its wide variety of cuts, family-style side dishes, carefully chosen wines and easygoing service sticks admirably close to the original recipe written by owner Michael Landrum.
Ray's short list of appetizers includes tasty blackened scampi, sherry-laced crab bisque and "devilishly good" deviled eggs stuffed with steak tartare that aren't nearly as generous as on my last visit. This time, the eggs tasted mostly of capers and yolk.
Next visit, I'm cutting right to the meat of the matter. I'm partial to the restaurant's "butcher" (proprietary) selections, cuts overlooked in a lot of meat markets. They include the ropy-but-succulent onglet and the crown of rib-eye known as calette, the latter enriched with a coin of shallot butter. As ever, you can upgrade to dry-aged, bone-in steaks.
New since my last gorge: Grass-fed beef from a Virginia farm, which I experienced as a fist-size, lean-tasting, 10-ounce sirloin of satisfaction at the suggestion of my server. "I'd rather eat meat from happy cows," she said, explaining why she steered me away from the Midwestern competition.
Friends and I washed back the entrees with the aptly named Racy, a peppery, cherry-bright blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and zinfandel from Naughty Cellars in Napa Valley.
The creamed spinach doesn't stint on garlic, and the mashed potatoes aren't shy on butter. Included in the cost of an entree, they make perfect sidekicks.
Cheesecake from Carnegie Deli in New York is a suitably Sybaritic way to end a beefy, buttery dinner, but I actually prefer the Key lime pie baked in-house. There's (dense) chocolate mousse, too, in three shades of chocolate: white, milk and dark.
Dishes are occasionally auctioned off ("Who gets the rib-eye?"), and the decor is consciously neutral. But if you've come for a soup-to-nuts steak experience that won't force you to choose between meat and the rent, the always-busy Ray's The Steaks is what you want to squeeze into for dinner.