When it opened in 1998, The Prime Rib became an instant classic American steakhouse. The décor, ambiance and menu harkened back to the ’40s when elegantly dressed Americans sipped cocktails and enjoyed hearty prime beef and bottles of red wine cared for by tuxedo-clad waiters.
When I reviewed the restaurant, I gave it high marks. It reminded me of The Stork Club. I decided to review all the steakhouses in the city because I was so impressed with Palladino’s on Passyunk.
The Prime Rib offers a $45 three-course dinner until 6 p.m. on weeknights, but it is available all evening on Sunday — a fine day to dine at the Prime Rib, as customers can bring wine, and there is no corkage fee.
That said, here is what we savored at our recent dinner. Fresh, hot-from-the-oven bread was served with softened butter. An order of clams casino ($18) consisted of six cherrystone clams topped with crisp bacon and grilled sweet Vidalia onions. All they required was a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Sometimes we enjoy a vegetable as a starter. Grilled asparagus ($10) was a generous portion of local spears that were dipped into rich homemade hollandaise. The smoky flavor married well with the sauce.
Salads are another American steakhouse staple. Hearts of palm ($13) are rarely seen on restaurant menus these days, but the Prime Rib’s version was luscious. Crisp lettuce, some strips of roasted red peppers and delicious old-fashioned deviled eggs completed the dish. Hearts of lettuce ($13) is so classic and popular, many restaurants have added it to their menus. A wedge of cold, crisp iceberg was topped with homemade blue cheese dressing, loaded with chunks of slightly salty blue cheese and served with half-moons of red ripe tomatoes. Less is more, indeed.
One of my favorite childhood dishes is the baked crab imperial served at the original Vesper Club. The Prime Rib has a version ($39) that was fine, but needed more sauce. Jumbo lump crabmeat was seasoned and packed into a ceramic dish in the shape of a seashell. I thought the crab should have been creamier. So we placed some of the béarnaise sauce which came with my prime rib of beef on top, and really liked it.
The Prime Rib signature cut ($43) is 16 ounces of fine, tender beef that one can order to his or her favored degree of doneness. Mine came rare, and was luscious, especially with the added taste of its natural jus. The béarnaise sauce was obviously homemade like the hollandaise. It was rich in flavor and texture. Much of it was toted home for lunch.
There is an array of side dishes ($10) to suit everyone. When I think of a classic steakhouse, I always think of creamed spinach. This one hit the mark. I detected a hint of nutmeg, which brings out the flavor of spinach. Potatoes au gratin are tops with me. They are usually sliced paper thin, topped with butter and cream and baked in the oven. The chefs here cube the potatoes, which produces a different texture, but no mind. We finished them off.
We brought a bottle of Xavier 2011 Cotes du Rhone, which was dry but filled with fruit. If you are going to enjoy beef or a rich seafood dish, bring a pinot noir or Cotes du Rhone to the Prime Rib on Sunday.
Homemade apple pie with vanilla ice cream ($11.50) was a splendid way to end a classic dinner.
Service was attentive and cordial. An assistant waiter crumbed the table between courses, filled our water glasses and saw to our needs.
A gentleman tinkled the ivories during dinner. The Gershwins, Cole Porter and pop tunes provided a lovely environment harkening back to the supper clubs of the past.
Three-and-a-half tips of the toque to The Prime Rib.
The Prime Rib
17th and Locust streets
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