Tuesday, October 27, 2009

First Bite: BLT Steak at the Ritz


First Bite is a look at a restaurant that's opened recently, based on one visit -- not a full-fledged review. (Want to get notes like this as soon as they're posted? Follow me on Twitter: @helenschwab.)

The name: It stands for Bistro Laurent Tourondel, and chef Tourondel has a slew of concepts nationally: BLT Steak, BLT Fish, BLT Prime, BLT Market, BLT Burger. (One longs for BLT BLT, but what can one do?*)

The food: Steak, yes, but in usual and less-usual permutations. Tourondel's been quoted as preferring the Wagyu skirt, which weighs in at 10 ounces and $52, and it's indeed delicious -- tender, flavorful, rich and rendering sauce on the side (you pick from nine choices) completely unnecessary. Hanger, filet, ribeye, porterhouse, N.Y. strip, short ribs: they're all here ($29-45), plus chicken, veal, lamb and duck at one entree each. So's seafood, and the marinated Alaskan black cod is lovely, though branzino is always hard to turn down (and yeah, there's lobster, too). But it's the quality of sides that's freshest for Charlotte in this genre: amazing Brussels sprouts with bacon, hen of the woods mushrooms, roasted tomatoes Provencal, gnocchi with tomato sauce. The complimentary popovers are much discussed (they come with a tiny card divulging the recipe) and though ours were tasty, I wasn't blown away, since they arrived only warm -- which belied the server's description of them emitting steam when torn apart. Dessert fared better: fabulously simple orange sorbet, and the tiny sticky toffee pudding cake with pecan ice cream. Cheeses and dessert beverages are legion. Pricey? You bet: Only three dinner entrees are under $30 and sandwiches run $16-19 at lunch (entrees then are $26-52).

The service: Here's what did blow me away -- every person of the seven or so that dealt with us was engaged, enthusiastic, helpful and wry when it was called for, from the poor guy crumbing the table (imagine popovers and woven placemats) to the water refiller who noticed a votive was toasting the glazed artichoke table decoration. Servers knew their stuff and were gracious; the bread guy raved with real flair about the tiny "chocolate chip brownie bits" that arrive after dessert. Well done.

The look: Hey, it's in the Ritz-Carlton, so you expect luxe and you get it. But in simple terms: drum lights, leather seating, gold suede. Try not to face the street at night until construction's over over there, since you get a rather blinding work light in the eye, in addition to the neon valet parkers' vests.

Details: 110 N. College St.; 704-972-4380. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Menus aren't up yet on the main Web site (www.bltrestaurants.com) but here’s the dinner lineup.

* Especially since one is not the PR person for this account, though one LOVES whoever is, because of sentences such as this in the chef bio: "The relentless ennui with which he greeted his other studies left a single alternative for the burgeoning chef," which was cooking school in France. That led to French Navy and NYC experience, three-star-Michelin cooking and "Top Chef" judging.

15 comments:

food-lover said...

I just do not see how this place fits in the city at this time. $52 for a skirt steak? That does not play in a good economy, let alone in this day and age. I wish them luck, but I would bet within a year this place has "revised" their menu.

Anonymous said...

Wish them the best....Times are tough with the new admin....
$52 for s skirt steak! Forget it!

Anonymous said...

My Michelin rating is: Get back into my car with four (4) Michelin's and go to a restaurant which is aware of the economic straits we are trying to navigate. Evidently, his time in the French Navy consisted of peeling potatoes and cruising the waterfront.

Anonymous said...

food-lover said: "I just do not see how this place fits in the city at this time. $52 for a skirt steak? That does not play in a good economy, let alone in this day and age. I wish them luck, but I would bet within a year this place has "revised" their menu."
===
Not everything - and everyone - is down-and-out in Charlotte as we approach 2010. Remember the wheels of the Ritz-Carlton in the Queen City were already put in-motion before the slump hit. What else can they do - cut *just* Charlotte a break? Don't count on that: The Ritz is the Ritz where ever you go and if anyone can afford the rooms, the food won't be an issue. 52 bucks for a skirt steak - even Wagyu (a.k.a. "Kobe" beef) *IS* ridiculous but so are the room rates ...

Kristi said...

I understand that WE not all can afford to try the delicious fare at Charlotte's new, BLT Steak. But that in no means, is proof that this place will not survive.

In speaking with the manager today, (I was there to try sell him advertising) he mentioned in passing that the Presidential Suite at The Ritz (at a mere $3,500/night) is booked straight through the end of December. Yes, the majority of us may not be able to afford something like that...but, evidently, there IS a market fot it...here...in Charlotte.

I, myself, have been into BLT Steak a few times and it is always filled with trendy 30-somethings, sharply dressed groups of businessmen & women and a more mature crowd dressed to the nines.

While having dinner there with a friend on Saturday (he paid), a gentleman across the dining room ordered a 12-ounce Kobe Steak. If you have been to BLT before, you are as aware as I am, that the Kobe Steak comes with a pricetag of $26 per ounce. So, obviously, that pricetag did not even make this man bat an eye (considering he bought over $300 worth of steak-for ONE meal no less!)

So, yes, not all of Charlotte can afford to dine at BLT...but, there is a pretty substantial amount who can.

And why in the WORLD would anyone wish places like these to NOT survive?? Do you have any idea how many jobs The Ritz-Carlton and BLT Steak have created for our city? With pricetags like that, makes me wish I was awaitin' tables again! Those tips must be amazing!

Just my 2-cents.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of people that appreciate a nice meal and don't mind paying $200 a couple or more for it. I'm in that group but prefer Del Frisco's for my nicer steaks. I've been to BLT in Dallas and it was OK but nothing great. The restaurant shut down in Dallas but, then again, there are 20 or more really nice high end steak houses it competes against.

There is still sizable business traffic in Charlotte and also individuals with the money to spend. The Ritz needs a high end steak house and it will do fine. However, I hope BLT has raised their game from my previous experience.

BTW for those that talk about insensitive to open a high end restaurant in the current economy GET OVER IT!! They aren't catering to you!

Anonymous said...

Charlotte could use more places like this. Having just moved here, I didn't realize this was more small town versus big city. Now I know what they mean by it takes more than a few tall buildings and an NFL team to make a real city.

Kristi said...

Anonymous said...
There are plenty of people that appreciate a nice meal and don't mind paying $200 a couple or more for it. I'm in that group but prefer Del Frisco's for my nicer steaks. I've been to BLT in Dallas and it was OK but nothing great. The restaurant shut down in Dallas but, then again, there are 20 or more really nice high end steak houses it competes against.

There is still sizable business traffic in Charlotte and also individuals with the money to spend. The Ritz needs a high end steak house and it will do fine. However, I hope BLT has raised their game from my previous experience.

BTW for those that talk about insensitive to open a high end restaurant in the current economy GET OVER IT!! They aren't catering to you!
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Yes! Finally, someone who shares my sentiment! I am a broke ass biotch, but I still have been able to enjoy their food...may it be through other's pocket books or my own.
But, that just goes to show you...I am not a rich person...and my family & friends are not rich-but we enjoy quality restaurants with quality food.

We (my BF, his family & I) have been to most of the similarly-tiered places here in Charlotte and BLT's food ranks (in my book) much higher. The pate is better than I've had at multiple places...the foie gras at BLT is better than Blue's (Blue's was undercooked) & the Duck Confit is my favorite dish and will be good anywhere I have it! THE SERVICE is BY FAR better than any place I've been here in Charlotte. We felt like we had 5 different servers at all times!

Both entrees I've had at BLT were around $30-$40 and were divine. Not everyone HAS to order a steak, people. I've also been to Ruth's Chris, which is similar in price..and I don't hear anybody screamin about them!

Anonymous said...

Anon said, "In speaking with the manager today, (I was there to try sell him advertising) he mentioned in passing that the Presidential Suite at The Ritz (at a mere $3,500/night) is booked straight through the end of December."

$10 says BofA is the one booking the Prez suite for all those nights. Yay TARP!

Anonymous said...

instead of complaining about the prices "in this bad economic time" why not be proud that Charlotte has thiis place. It the same old have nots....it's not fair.....greedy rich haters that complain. How bout busting you butt and try and accomplish something with your life and then you can afford it....or we can all wait in a bread line! Hey at least it's fair, everyone gets a loaf

Anonymous said...

I lived downtown for years and this place will do fine. I'm always surprised that you can go to Mortons,Flemmings,Ruth Chris, Bentleys of 27th, Capital Grille, Mimosa, or Chima on a week night and their always busy! Weekends are reservation only!

Anonymous said...

My boss took clients to BLT a few weeks ago, just after it opened, and he was less than impressed. The bill was high $ and he said not worth it at all.

Shotty said...

Guess you just cant take the redneck out of city, when it comes to Charlotte. I've eaten at higher price points then BLT, and I thought BLT Charlotte was quite amazing, the Branzino was out of this world (along with the Brussel's). As far as Kobe beef I would pay in the hundreds for it, it melts in your mouth, and you pay for what you get. But I guess when your in a city such as this, when Shoney's and Golden Coral are considered "Good Eatin" the price may be to high. I would be willing to bet money if it was BDE "Bistro Dale Earnhardt" there would no consideration of price, oddly enough.

Shotty said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

It is amazing to me that Ritz Carlton signed this deal. You can tell the employees are not Ritz people.

I would not go to this restaurant drive 20 minutes downtown and pay 20% more when in my own backyard in the Ballantyne area, I can eat at Gallery Restaurant in the Ballantyne Hotel and get amazing food, service and beverage AND free parking. Why have the hassle?