Delmonico’s Steak House
4200 City Line Ave. in the Hilton Hotel
Credit cards accepted
Several years ago, my friends Joan and Lee Schwartz of South Philadelphia celebrated their wedding anniversary at Delmonico’s Steak House. They told me the prime rib was delicious. I made a mental note to dine at Delmonico’s because I want to review all the steak houses in the city.
Philadelphia has enjoyed a boom in steak houses and although they all feature the same fare, quality of ingredients and preparation of the dishes may vary.
Delmonico’s is inside the Hilton Hotel on City Line Avenue.
The interior of the dining room is a throwback to the 1960s, complete with heavy dark drapes, soft lighting and a gentleman tickling the ivories, even on a weeknight. We were greeted by a tuxedo-clad maitre d’ who showed us to a roomy table. Edward and I settled in and perused the bill of fare. We noticed the prices were a bit lower than those in Center City steak houses. The wine list was pricey, but we found a 1999 Fleet Street burgundy for $30.
"This wine should be slightly chilled," said Navin Sonawa, Delmonico’s manager and sommelier. The wine cooled for about 10 minutes and Sonawa was correct: Certain burgundies taste better slightly cool. The wine was rich and fruity, perfect for hearty fare.
Our waiter brought us a warm, round loaf of onion bread, which reminded me of challah. It was delicious with sweet butter.
We began dinner with French onion soup and mushroom barley soup ($5.95 each). I broke into the melted cheese and noticed the broth was the color and consistency of sludge. One taste and I knew I could not eat it. It was extremely salty, made with a poor-quality canned beef broth. The mushroom barley soup appeared to be homemade, but it, too, was so salty, Edward could not eat it. The soup was lukewarm as well.
Hearts of lettuce with chopped tomatoes come with dinner. This is a steak-house standard (most steak houses charge extra for it), and I adore it when topped with homemade blue-cheese dressing. The lettuce wedge was good-sized and the tomatoes were ripe and juicy. The dressing was indeed homemade — the taste and texture were perfect. Homemade blue-cheese dressing is slightly thinner than the bottled stuff, and my salad contained small chunks of blue cheese. All it required was a grinding of pepper.
I usually order a petite filet because it is my favorite cut of beef, it is tender and I enjoy it rare. The filet ($26) arrived rare, as ordered, and although the outside was properly seared, I found it a bit salty. Still, the beef was flavorful and I asked for b�arnaise on the side. B�arnaise sauce is traditional with filet, but this version was salty and made from a mix.
Edward wanted to try the lamb chops ($28). He received two large chops, obviously domestic lamb but good quality nonetheless. Many steak houses and other restaurants feature New Zealand lamb, which has a stronger flavor. The chops arrived rare and were tender. We both got a chuckle out of the garnish on the plate. It was right out of the ’60s. A red delicious apple was hollowed out and filled with runny kelly-green mint jelly. This British custom of serving mint jelly with lamb went out with the ark, so to speak. It does nothing to enhance the flavor of lamb.
From the side dishes, we selected creamed spinach ($3.95) and Lyonnaise potatoes ($3.95), two of our favorites. I like them prepared in the classic manner. The spinach was not creamed, although it was fresh. The chef chopped the spinach and prepared a white sauce. He then blended the ingredients. It looked like chopped spinach swimming in a cream sauce. The sauce was bland. The potatoes fared a bit better. Lyonnaise potatoes are sliced and saut�ed with onions. These were chunks of potatoes and onion strips, which were nicely cooked, but a bit on the dry side.
Service throughout the meal was excellent. Sonawa watched the tables and refilled our wine glasses. He made his way around the dining room, greeting each patron. He and our waiter served and cleared with ease.
Unfortunately, few in the kitchen are tasting the food. Dishes were either salty or bland. The chef and staff are going through the motions of cooking without giving much thought to each finished dish.
One tip of the toque to Delmonico’s Steak House.