Grill 23 & Bar – Boston Magazine Hall of Famer

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and this is when you should visit Grill 23 & Bar. No restaurant in Boston does Christmas quite like they do, with trees, wreaths, roping, and lights covering nearly every inch of the restaurant. It is beautiful, but it is also packed. Hard to get a reservation, they open parts of the restaurant you otherwise never see. On our recent visit we were in a function room on the second floor, past the kitchen. The room was decorated and Christmasy, but it was hard not to be a little disappointed not to be seated in the main dining room.

Grill 23 is very different from the other nine restaurants on the Boston Magazine Hall of Famer list. As a classic steakhouse, you don’t want new and creative dishes. You want a big hunk of beef, perfectly cooked, and that is what you are going to get. The steak is the star and they do it as well as anyone, and probably better than everyone.

We began with cocktails, I had the Terragona made with gin, yellow chartreuse, Luxardo, and lime. It was very good, reminiscent of a Casino Cocktail, one of my favorite drinks. While sipping on it, we enjoyed a shrimp cocktail. Four shrimp, served on ice with lemon and cocktail sauce. The shrimp was large and had good flavor, but the texture was too soft.

After that it was time for some meat. But first, some wine. Grill 23 has one of the most extensive and expensive wine lists in Boston. If you have $10,000 to spend on a bottle of wine, you can wash down your steak with a bottle of 1961 Latour. But that’s not even the most expensive bottle, others cost more than $20,000. We settled for a more reasonable splurge and selected a 1995 Long Meadow Ranch Rutherford Cabernet.

With our wine we went for another splurge and ordered the 2 oz Grade A5, Wagyu striploin from Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan, along with the more reasonably priced French Onion Soup. Here is my confession: wagyu reminds me of cheeseburgers from Steak ‘n Shake. Ok I admitted it. It was delicious, but probably not worth the $54 dollars for a tiny bite of meat, a pile of caramelized onions and a few greens. The French Onion Soup was good, but a better version can be found a few blocks away at Deuxave.

Now for the steak. We decided to share a 32 oz prime porterhouse, medium rare. If requested, which we did, they will slice it for you in the kitchen, making it easy to share. This is one of the best steaks I have had in a long time. Beefy and tender, it was perfectly seasoned and beautifully cooked. The reason you come to Grill 23 is for great steak and this one didn’t disappoint. For sides we ordered mac n’ cheese and creamed spinach.

We couldn’t finish the steak. We came close, but with everything else, I was worried I wasn’t going to have room for dessert. You do not want to skip dessert at Grill 23. For years, I have actually be stopping by the bar after dinner elsewhere in the city to enjoy a pice of cake and a glass of Calvados. Tonight, however, we got into the spirit of the season and ordered the gingerbread bread pudding with eggnog ice cream. I still got the glass of Calvados. The bread pudding was served with a rich toffee sauce and garnished with confit orange. I don’t imagine this will be on the menu for long, so grab it while you can, because it is fantastic.

Service was friendly, despite the classic formalwear the staff is dressed in. We enjoyed chatting with the server who was a former NYC bartender. The steak and dessert were excellent, really excellent, but the rest of the food was less special. For some reason, they are obsessed with bread crumbs. The french onion soup, man n’ cheese, and creamed spinach were all topped with bread crumbs. It might have been nice on the mac n’ cheese, but lessened the other two dishes. The price is going to hurt. The steak came in a $140, and the total bill was about $500 before you add in the wine.

Steak, dessert, and a fine bottle of wine, this is why you come to Grill 23. Beautiful surroundings, particularly during the Christmas season adds to the pleasure. While it might not stack up to Asta, Pammy’s, or Brassica Kitchen, it is the best steak in Boston and that is special. There is a reason why I, and many other New Englanders, come back over and over and over again.

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