Monday, July 28, 2008

A Perfect Steak

Yesterday was Jan's birthday so Howard and Jan came down here and the four of us went to the Beverly Depot. Jan and Howard have been going there since 1971. There are very few restaurants that were good 37 years ago (so I'm told...) and are still good today. Beverly Depot has a great team in the kitchen, and it is obvious why Jan and Howard return here.

The restaurant is at the actual Beverly Depot, where the commuter rail still comes through. The old station was renovated into the restaurant. The decor is that of a classic steak and seafood place, even if it is a bit dated. Heavy, dark wood tables and wooden chairs with spindle backs that wrap around to become arms sit atop various oriental rugs on what appear to be original hardwood floors. We were quite comfortable, even with the gas fireplace next to our table.

The only hiccup at this place was the service. When our server came to the table, we had just arrived, and Howard was attending to something and not yet at the table. The server asked if we wanted to order beverages, Jan kindly informed her that we were waiting for a fourth. Interestingly, the server responded with attitude stating that she knew we had a fourth coming, and went on to imply she knew better than Jan as to how we wished our dining experience to go. Very strange.

If the salad bar here is not the best salad bar I've been to, then I cannot remember what is. It is minimal, one type of greens (romaine radicchio mix), and your basic ingredient expectations. However, all of the ingredients are of high quality and freshness. At the end of the salad bar is half a wheel of sharp cheddar and two types of baguette. The baguette crust was nicely browned, with a nuttiness you want in a traditional baguette. The multi-grain baguette had a nice malty taste and subtle touch of rye.

Jan, Matt, and I all ordered Sirloin Strip. Jan's came with Scallops, Matt's Lobster Tail, and mine Shrimp Scampi. Howard ordered his Haddock Cajun Blackened. This is slightly an off-menu construction, but not really, for it states that any of their seafood can be prepared Cajun-style. The server said she did not know if the Haddock could be done that way with the bread crumbs (the basic haddock dish was a breaded and baked preparation). Howard said with or without the bread crumbs would be fine with him, whatever worked for the chef to do it Cajun-Style. Howard has ordered this dish before at the Beverly Depot.

When our meals came, sadly Howard's haddock was not as ordered. It was the breaded and baked haddock with no Cajun seasoning. However, our new server (our original server magically never reappeared at our table) remedied the situation as quickly as possible. Howard did receive his haddock as he wanted it, and enjoyed it as well. Our steaks were the sort of steak you imagine when you want a good steak. According to their website, they have an on-site Butcher shop of their own and 21-day age their steaks as well. This attention to detail comes through amazingly flavored steaks that are lean and tender. We had each ordered a sauce on the side for our steak, and as much as the roasted shallot demi-glace is a fine sauce, I found that I barely needed it.

What impressed me a great deal was the perfect cooking of our steaks. Jan ordered hers medium, Matt and I ordered ours medium-rare. The impressive part is that since Matt and my steaks were a little shorter and fatter and Jan's longer and thinner, the person at the grill could cook our three steaks for the same amount of time and achieve our desired doneness with out elaborate timing and extra trips to the grill to have our steaks ready at the same time. My medium-rare steak had just enough of grilling induced char on the outside, and was medium-rare straight through.

The seafood accompaniments to the sirloin meals were prepared well and provided an enjoyable flavor profile to our meal. However, they paled in comparison to the steaks and next time I will simply bypass the shrimp scampi and get a 9 oz sirloin instead of a 7 oz.

Overall, I give the Beverly Depot a solid A on food, a B+ on atmosphere, and a B on service. Great food is prepared here...and you'll get it, if your server tells the kitchen what you want.

Happy Birthday Jan!

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