The question begs to be asked: Does Chicago need another high-end steakhouse?
As it pertains to Lettuce Entertain You’s newest restaurant, RPM Steak, an unequivocal answer: you betcha. In this meat-mad town, RPM Steak has quickly made an impression for deliciousness and excellent service, borne out by a recent visit.
It’s hard to believe that this place was carved out of a parking lot, because it’s so very, very luxe. Not opulent, not over the top, just a feeling of space and comfort, with lots of comfortable booth seating around the restaurant, high ceilings wide-set tables. Adding to the clubby feel are the dinner-jacketed waiters and impeccable, unobtrusive service.
Adult Beverage Time
Start your evening with an excellent cocktail, overseen by Beverage Director Richard Hanauer. My all-time favorite classic, the Corpse Reviver #2 ($14), is making a comeback, and the RPM version is a beaut. Aviation Gin, Cocchi Americano, Cointreau and lemon add up to pure icy deliciousness, especially for this gin drinker. The Bobby Burns ($14), served over one crystal-clear, giant ice cube, is smoky and complex, combining Highland Park Scotch, Carpano Antica, Benedictine and Angostura bitters.
In the mood for a little vino? Hanauer’s wine list is filled with quirky gems. If you want to spend $1,000 for a bottle of big, steaky cab, you’re in luck…but if you’re open to a little exploration, you’ll find many wines (and varietals) off the beaten path. The wines by the glass range from reasonable-ish to stratospheric (looking at you, Veuve Cliquot at $48).
Once you work up an appetite, launch yourself toward the appetizers. Like most steak palaces, they have an obscenely huge seafood platter, but here, you’ll also find Colossal Tiger Prawns ($15 each) the size of a small lobster. Chilled West Coast Oysters ($18), icy cold and oh-so-fresh, are topped with a jalapeño-cucumber mignonette. The Big Eye Tuna Sashimi ($16) manages to avoid cliché with added elements of umami-laden black garlic, mushrooms and ponzu sauce.
In the hot appetizer competition, the smallish portion size of the Coal-Roasted King Crab ($18) was deceiving; given the richness of the dish—the smoky crabmeat combined with the miso-and-lime-butter brulée treatment—the serving was just right. Thick-Cut Bacon ($13) glazed with vanilla bean and bourbon was every bit as unctuous as you might expect.
Bread of the Gods
You might gripe about paying for bread service at a pricey restaurant, but let me tell you something. I would happily have paid $20 for the full pan of hot Parker House Rolls served with soft Rosemary Nordic Butter (a BARGAIN at $6). These are the rolls you see when you close your eyes at night and dream of a better world.
Both the Caesar ($11) and the Bibb and Avocado ($10) salads were very lemon-forward, but served honorably as a palate cleanser before the protein parade to follow.
Red Meat and More
If you must, spring for the “I’m the King of the World!” 42-oz. Wagyu Tomahawk Chop ($155). But if wiser minds (and wallets) prevail, you’ll find as much beefy goodness in some of the “lesser” cuts, like the beautiful Prime RPM Cap ($45) or tender Hanger Steak ($29). Melt-in-your-mouth Truffle-Braised Shortribs ($32), served on a bed of celery-root purée, fell apart with the prodding of a fork. And add this Dry-Aged Steakburger ($18), laden with Cheddar cheese and horseradish sauce on an onion roll—ably abetted by a cone of skin-on fries—to your burger to-do list.
If red meat isn’t your gig, opt for the buttery Broiled Black Cod ($36) with miso and toasted sesame seeds, or perhaps the Roasted Ora King Salmon with Tarragon Aioli ($27). And as macaroni and cheeses go, this one’s a keeper: Chef Doug Psaltis combines artisanal pasta with al dente broccoli and chunks of peppered bacon in a happy pool of aged Cheddar sauce ($23).
The Chocolate is Rising
If dessert is still a possibility, or if you suspect it might be when you’re feeling feisty early in the meal, order the warm Chocolate Soufflé ($12) with a scoop of candy cane ice cream. If you’re looking for a show, opt for the Baked Alaska ($13), a classic dish seldom found on modern menus. Prepared tableside, a mound of salted caramel and vanilla ice creams is covered with soft Italian meringue, then set aflame to toast the outside. Warm chocolate sauce is drizzled over, and world peace is seemingly achievable.
The RPM team of Bill and Giuliana Rancic, Doug Psaltis and the Melmans (Richard, RJ, Jerrod and Molly) has proved a highly profitable pairing for Lettuce Entertain You. RPM Steak will do nothing to slow that trajectory; River North is their oyster.
4.5 out of 5 stars (A)
66 W. Kinzie St.