Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On Meat and Marlboro Men; or A Steak Dinner at Texas Roadhouse Grill

There isn’t a single dish more masculine than a steak (besides, of course, a steak wrapped in bacon dipped in batter and fried in beer, but such awesomeness shall sadly only exist in fantasyland). Perhaps it’s because of the fact that a steak is a thick slab of muscle. Maybe it’s because said thick slab of muscle is cooked over a roaring fire, a symbol of man’s dominance over the natural world. It could be the delightful marinades and seasonings that IT’S PERFECT WITH BEER.

In the Most Sacred Church of Masculinity that every male is born baptized into, sinking your teeth into a juicy steak is a spiritual experience that takes you back to the raw, primal days when our cave-dwelling ancestors hunted down beasts of old and feasted upon their fire-grilled flesh. Much to my chagrin, I found myself severely lacking in this holiest of man-foods. In normal, non-pretentious English, I haven’t had a steak in a while.

But life has a funny way of fixing things. Last night, the Gods of Manliness took mercy upon me and led me to perhaps the manliest place I could imagine – Texas Roadhouse Grill. It was a Western-themed restaurant. With Marlboro Men on the walls. That served big, beefy steaks. Hallelujah.

A place of worship, really.

It turns out that this Palace of Masculinity has been around for a while, opening its two branches way back in 2007. How it could have escaped my sight for so long eludes me, but that doesn’t matter. I know about it now, and so too, should every red-blooded male.

As Lauren and I walked through the doors, I knew immediately that the establishment took its theme very seriously. Everything, from the wooden doors and frames, to the lights that hung overhead, reminded me of a saloon from the Old West, the types where cowpokes and outlaws and gringos alike sat down for a steak and some beer. The pictures of cowboys saddling up that adorned the walls added to the ambience.

We sat down, eager to learn if the same attention to detail put into the interiors would translate into the food. After a quick tour of the kitchen (wherein Texas Roadhouse Grill earned major bonus points for its strict adherence to rules on cleanliness and proper waste disposal, and also for owning an icemaker big enough to hide a body in), we were served our first appetizers: Chunky Corn Soup with Bacon and Nacho Strips.

The soup tasted as good as it looked. Each one of the flavours was distinct, from the sweetness of the corn to the saltiness of the bacon, but pulled together into a harmonious, hearty soup. With the nacho strips adding some delightful texture to the dish, Lauren and I had no trouble enjoying every bit of it.

Underneath the surface: hidden treasure. Bacon is treasure.

The soup was followed up with the Jesse James Sampler plate, which allowed us to taste a trio of Texas Roadhouse Grill’s most popular appetizers. The dish featured Buffalo wings, cheese fritters, and chicken fingers, each with their own sauces. The Buffalo wings had a nice combination of tanginess and heat, and was cooled down by its blue cheese dip. While I enjoyed the wings, and maybe had more than I should have, I couldn’t help but hope that they put a little more of the Buffalo sauce on them. The cheese fritters, on the other hand, were your usual deep-fried sticks of mozzarella with marinara sauce – which, needless to say, is a very good thing. Again, while the fritters were very, very good, I think jalapeno bits would have knocked them out of the park. Lastly, the chicken fingers were delightfully tender and matched with the honey mustard sauce really well. Lauren made a most wonderful discovery, though – the chicken fingers were even better with the blue cheese dip.

I want jalapeno cheesesticks.

By this time, the appetizers had my mouth watering for something a bit more... meaty. Along comes the main course, The Great Rib-Eye. This gargantuan 10-oz. hunk of meat was about the size to both of my hands fanned out, and about an inch thick. Perfect for the manly man I am. With beer Pepsi in hand, I took my fork and knife to the steak and took a big, juicy bite. The steak was good – well-grilled, seasoned just right, and tender enough to cut with ease. I would’ve preferred that they gave us a choice over the doneness of the steak (it was served medium, and I like my steaks medium-rare), but the steak was very good nonetheless. I have this belief that a good steak is one that you don’t have to add any sauce to, and this fit the bill. Also, the rustic mashed potatoes served with the steak were a perfect complement.

My inner savage approves.

The next dish served was their Shrimp and Salmon Skewer plate – juicy pieces of shrimp skewered alternately with hefty chunks of salmon and grilled to any diner’s delight. I love my seafood, and this entree didn’t change a single thing. The flavours went exceptionally well with the lemon butter sauce served on the side.

Even something as dainty as seafood can be made manly with skewers and a grill.

Unfortunately, this is where my adventure ended. The event lasted longer than I expected, and I had a birthday party to catch. I despise eating and running, but I hate going back on my word even more, and I had already promised my friend I'd be there to celebrate the evening with her. It’s a shame that Lauren and I didn’t get to try Texas Roadhouse Grill’s Baby Back Ribs, or their Mighty Oreo Mud Pie, but I have a strong feeling that I'll be heading back there soon to do so.

Overall, I find Texas Roadhouse Grill to be a great place to get your RDA of man-food. Wash their great menu items down with some beer (P260 a bucket), and you’ve got yourself a recipe for an awesome night of manliness. Unless, of course, you don’t like beer. In that case, a Pepsi or one of the many fruit shakes available is a manly enough substitute.

You can find Texas Roadhouse Grill at Bldg. 1, Bonifacio High Street, or at El Pueblo, Ortigas Center. For a less masculine (but better-written) recap of the meal, check out Lauren's take on it. It appears we have the same tastes in food. :P

Aside – the event was also pretty edumacational, too. I learned that my dad orders his steaks all wrong. He always gets them well-done, which the chef told us kills the flavour of the meat and dries out all the juiciness. The menu even goes so far as to state that ordering your steaks well-done isn’t recommended. Sorry pop – you’ve been wasting your steaks.

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