Cost: $85 per person
Disclaimer to the DISCLAIMER (the only thing written by Jeff Pearl on this post)
My roommate, Jeff Schneider, eats a lot of (and is very knowledgeable about) steak. He also has a job. These two things give him a unique advantage over myself in the steakhouse critiquing department. He's well versed on the topic and has eaten a plethora of meals at my side. So far, he's been a pivotal behind the scenes contributor to JEC, and he's now taken the opportunity to write a post. This first bit about me having any standards may be a bit much, but it's a solid post. I look forward to more of the like in the future.
First and foremost, I’d like to thank future Dr. Pearl for allowing me the opportunity to guest star on his renowned blog. I have stated many times that I would like to write a post for the site but was always intimidated due the standard of excellence my roommate never fails to meet. For all that aren’t aware, Jeff takes this page incredibly seriously and it without a doubt shows. We have grown accustomed to his extremely well written, articulate, fair, entertaining, and informative posts. So for those reasons and more, I was always reluctant to add my two cents because the last thing I want to do is sully the reputation he has deservedly achieved. With that being said, this post is written by Jeff Schneider and all opinions, descriptions, rankings, and insight should be credited to me (plus I know more about fine steakhouses than Pearl). Here goes nothing...
(Writing style inspired by Jeff Eats Chicago successfully established template)
Randi “Silverfox” Schneider and David Schneider recently celebrated 33 blissful(ish) years of matrimony. This happy, aged couple always marks their anniversary by taking their children Jamie (University of Wisconsin, 2006) and Jeff (University of Wisconsin, 2009) out for a special meal. Joining us was recent New Jersey transplant, boyfriend to Jamie, and Pledge Master to Jeff, David Fintz. Now, the Schneiders love them some great steak and fish places. We have been to all the great ones that our fine city has to offer (Joes, Chicago Chop House, Wildfire, Mortons, Gibsons, etc), so naturally we had to see what all the rage was over the trendy, Jay Cutler approved Mastro's.
Mastros is located conveniently in the heart of River North. The service and hospitality are second to none. When we checked in, they wished my parents a happy anniversary (how did they know considering I made the reservation and didn’t say a word, stay tuned...). They were extremely accommodating when we asked to be moved from our somewhat sandwiched in table to a much more spacious booth. Our glasses were always full (a critical factor in any JEC critique), and the waitress gave us excellent suggestions when prompted. Furthermore, they brought out two glasses of champagne for my parents (resolution to aforementioned mystery: My Grandmother called ahead and informed them of the special occasion). Price wise, expect to spend around $80-$90 per person (2-3 drinks per person factored into this price).
We started with two appetizers for the table, shrimp cocktail and tuna tartare. The presentation of the shrimp was truly something none of us had ever seen before. The three prawns came out on dry ice so needless to say the mist made for quite the visual spectacle. Even the patrons at the surrounding tables stopped their meals and conversations to take in the sight. The shrimp were not only incredibly large but fresh, colder than usual (thanks to the dry ice), and quite tasty. The tuna tartare, however, was a tad bit disappointing due to the fact that tuna was lost in the dish. The avocado and the crunchy bottom crust dominated and overwhelmed the fish. Don’t get me wrong, we all thought it was quite tasty, but again, all would have liked to get more of a tuna flavor.
The Shrimp Cocktail
The Ahi Tuna Tartare
Main Course and Sides
The three manly men all got steaks while the ladies opted for fish. My father went with the bone-in ribeye, Fintz got the bone-in filet (described to us as Mastros signature cut), and I decided on the porterhouse. My mother got the salmon, and my sister ordered the blackened swordfish. For sides, we split the lobster mashed potatoes, sweet potato mash, broccoli, and sauteed spinach. The biggest overall problem that I found with the proteins was the way they were served. The plates come out at 400º F which in concept is cool, but we all found our dishes to be over/unevenly cooked. For instance, I ordered my steak medium rare, but got something closer to medium-medium well (especially on the bottom of the steak and at the edges that were in direct contact with the plate). The same was true for the fish, with the top being flaky and the bottom being somewhat dried out. Furthermore, I found the meat to be somewhat tough and the strip side of my porterhouse to be fattier than usual. As far as the sides, the two potato dishes had a strange, unpleasant aftertaste that none of us could really pinpoint to a specific seasoning. The veggies were nothing special. For dessert (and final touch of class) Mastros provided the table with a special triple layer chocolate cake to honor my parents anniversary. The cake was very rich and quite possibly my favorite component of the entire meal.
The Blackened Salmon
The Porterhouse with Sides
(Sweet Potato Mash, Lobster Mashed Potatoes, and Sauteed Spinach)
The Triple Layer Chocolate Cake
When I rate any steakhouse (and for that matter any specific genre of food) I find myself comparing to my favorites. My Mount Rushmore includes Joes, Wildfire, Mortons, and Chicago Chop House. Mastros did not come close. I found myself walking out disappointed after all the rave reviews I’ve heard from others who have been. Perhaps I had built it up too much, perhaps I was being overly critical in order to do this fine blog (and more importantly Pearl) justice, but for me Mastros doesn’t rank up there with Chicago’s elite steakhouses. The overall consensus was 3 pearls out of 5. Why you may ask considering the food didn’t live up to the hype? Well, the service and atmosphere were spot on. The staff go above and beyond to ensure a first class dining experience. Once again, I’d like to thank Pearl for letting me do my thing. Have your dogs spayed or neutered.