Bar Review: Manhattan Steak and Seafood: Updated

I am very sad to let you know that the Manhattan Steak & Seafood is no longer in business.

 

 

Manhattan closed some time ago and I had been hoping that a new owner would appear and re-open this fine local steakhouse.  Unfortunately that has not happened.  I believe his hidden gem suffered form severe lack of exposure coupled with a rather odd location.

In the first case the owners, in my opinion, never adequately advertised this wonderful comfortable restaurant.  Given it’s proximity to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), I would have thought there would be a continuous stream of medical professionals stopping by for lunch and after work refreshments.  But apparently the management there did not pursue this obvious opportunity.

The second failing was not really the owners fault.  While easy to get to and with ample parking, Manhattan Steak & Seafood is located on a rather pedestrian and uninspired main street surrounded by a seemingly never ending collection of small strip malls.

I will miss the Manhattan Steak & Seafood.

 

 

Below is my original comments for reference:

 

One of my favorite local places to have a drink is Manhattan Steak and Seafood.  Located in a rather obscure part of the city of Orange, in Orange Co., CA, it is a great hidden gem well off the beaten path.  The food is excellent, the staff is awesome, and the ambiance is comfortable and classy.

But this is a Martini Blog.  In short the Martinis are really quite good.  But just not quite great.  On the plus side the drinks are generous and nicely mixed.  And always served with a smile.  On the down side the drinks are not as chilled as I would like, probably because the stems are not pre-frozen.  Or even chilled in the refrigerator.

So Manhattan gets a single Martini.  Martini Glass Upright

However, the restaurant is definitely worth going a bit our of your way to find.  http://www.manhattanoc.com/

Bar Review: Orange Hill Restaurant, Orange, CA

Opening in 1958, Orange Hill Restaurant is a bit off the beaten track in the residential city of Orange, in the county of Orange, California.  There is nothing exceptionally noteworthy about the restaurant, certainly not a Michelin starred restaurant; it is not world renown, or even nationally renown, for it’s food.

But, OMG, the view!!!!

Located up a hill in the middle of Orange County with an outside patio that stretches 180 degrees around the facility, the view stretches from the north west to the south east and on a clear day you can see the Los Angeles skyline, south through Long Beach, and down to Newport Beach and Irvine.

But back to the restaurant: my Michelin comments above notwithstanding, the food is really good.  Their tag line is “Prime Steaks and Primo Views” which is absolutely apt.  But their selection is more than just steak; their specialties on this day include Miso-marinated Chilean Sea Bass, Truffle Lobster Baked Mac & Cheese, Seared Ora King Salmon Cioppino, and others.  Their Entrees today include Chateaubriand for Two, House-Cut Kurobuta Pork Chop , USDA Prime Rib-eye Steak, and several other steak selections.  And of course the appropriate selection of accompanying sauces, sides, and enhancements.  While I haven’t yet sampled all of their selections, what I have sampled was excellent.

The staff was great, very helpful and attentive without being overbearing.  The decor was comfortable and clean, very basic modern American, and definitely not over crowded with close tables and tight walk spaced.  The restaurant and lounge both have an abundance of windows to enjoy the view but the outside patio I mentioned is a much better place to sit, relax, and eat.  There are plenty of heat lamps around for those chilly southern California evenings.

It is marvelous in it’s view and casual relaxed atmosphere with excellent food.  I will definitely go back.

As far as the Martini’s go, they do a fine job, nothing spectacular or otherwise noteworthy, but just fine.  My Martini was nicely shaken, adequately abundant, and served in a pre-chilled refrigerated stem.  And their selection of Gins is also fine, actually just a bit less than fine (see list below) considering their upscale efforts elsewhere.  They appear more interested in their wine selection; they are a 2011 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner.   And their selection of whiskeys is more than adequate with a very good Japanese selection.

Overall a very good restaurant that sadly seems to get lost in the abundance of very good restaurants in the Los Angeles / Orange County area.  Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.

 

A couple words of advice.
First, get there early as there’s only one narrow winding road up the mountain and it gets backed up waiting for the valet.  There is no self parking.
Second, as with many restaurants with spectacular view, the food and drinks are a bit pricey; $16.oo for my Martini.

 

Overall Orange Hill gets one stem. 
As I mentioned above, their Martinis are fine.   Certainly not exceptional in anyway to earn my two stem award.  However, the food and view are truly worth a visit.

 

For Gin selection Orange Hill gets a C.
Their list of Gins includes Bombay, Bombay Sapphire, Hendricks, Nolets, Botanist, Broker’s, and St. George Terrior.
These may change in time, of course.

 

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For those inclined to visit The Orange Hill website for additional information:
http://www.theorangehillrestaurant.com/

 

If you’re curious about what one vs. two stems means,
I refer you to the following:
*****   Rating Definitions   ****

Bar Review: Vast, Oklahoma City, OK

Not long ago I was in Oklahoma City.  I only rarely get to this part of the country and I was eager to check out some of the local Martini options.  As one might expect from this part of the US there were several recommended Steakhouses but one stood out head and shoulder above the rest.  Literally above:

Vast Restaurant is on the 49th floor of the Devon Energy Center in Oklahoma City.  You can’t miss the building as it is the tallest one in the city, by far.  It’s almost twice as tall as the next tallest building.

Overall this is a beautiful restaurant with beautiful views of Oklahoma.  Absolutely magnificent views, in all directions.  While I didn’t get a chance to visit at sunset, I would imagine that would be incredible.

                        

The decor is modern, clean, and bright.   Lots of stainless steel but with warm wood trim.  Almost, but not quite, what I could call industrial.  The only decoration was the view.

The food I sampled was excellent.  I would have liked to try more of the dishes but time did not allow that.  The bar staff were very cheerful, helpful, and knowledgeable.  As I arrived upon opening and it was still a bit slow, the bartender was kind enough to show me around and point out some of the Oklahoma landscape landmarks.

Finally, and most importantly, the Martini was top notch.  Served shaken, ample, and very cold.  I don’t usually comment on the twist, but this one was artistically done!  It was easy to sit back and slowly savor the Martini while enjoying the beautiful scenery of Oklahoma.

My one, and only, complaint was that the bar was set up opposite the windows.  So sitting facing the bar my back was to the view.  I spent much of my time at the bar turned around to enjoy the view which left my Martini on the bar behind me.  Just a bit awkward.

                                

Vast is a special restaurant worthy of any sort of celebration.  Even if you’re just celebrating dinner or a drink.

I’ve now reviewed several restaurants at the ‘top’ of buildings, all with stellar views:  71Above in Los Angeles and R2L in Philadelphia come quickly to mind.  One common thread I’ve noticed is that these tend to be on the pricey side.  I keep writing something about the ‘prices being worth it for the view’ or something similar.  Vast is no different.  It’s just a bit too expensive for the food and drink alone, but absolutely worth it for a special evening out.

Overall VAST gets one stem.  Martini Glass Upright
The Martinis really are quite excellent, they’re just not perfect enough to warrant my two stem award.  However, the overall atmosphere and experience are truly worth a visit.

For selection Vast gets a B.
Their current list of Gins include Bombay, Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray, Tanqueray 10, Hendricks, Beefeater, No. 209, Plymouth, Bols Genever, and Brokers.  These may change in time, of course.

If you’re interested in a bit more information, menus, or directions:  www.vastokc.com

 

If you like what you’ve read, please subscribe.  If not, please post a comment telling us how and why you disagree.

If you’re curious about what one vs. two stems means,
I refer you to the following:
*****   Rating Definitions   ****

 

Gin Review: Monkey 47

My first Gin Review!

And I think I’ve picked a excellent candidate for that honor:  Monkey 47.  I had been told to keep my eye out for this Gin and when I saw it I jumped at the opportunity to try it.  Now that I’ve tried it I think it just might be my new favorite Gin!

But before I jump into this Gin Review, I should let you all know that I experience this Gin in a very dry and very cold Martini.  So, fair warning, my Gin reviews will be in the context of Martini usage.  After all this blog is about the perfect Martini more than the perfect Gin.

However, if I can persuade the barkeep to let me sample a bit before I order the Martini, I’ll let you know how it tastes at room temperature.  Certainly so if I add a bottle to my own collection.

And now back to the Monkey 47!!

The bottom line is that Monkey 47 makes an excellent Martini.  There are a lot of flavors running around and it’s very hard to pin down exactly what is going on.

The first impression, the aroma that hits you before even taking a sip, is herbal.   Juniper is foremost, then bits of citrus and smooth subtle herbals.  Upon tasting you get some floral notes combined with citrus, some light spices, and more subtle juniper.

The finish is sweet and more fruity.  The juniper almost disappears at this point.

Furthermore, I’ve had a Monkey 47 Martini now several times and the flavor profile seems to change just a bit each time.

There are a couple of interesting items about this Gin.  First it’s German, from the Black Forest region, which of course is”Schwarzwald” in German.   Hence the tag line on the bottle “Schwarzwald Dry Gin”.   Second, it’s 94 Proof or 47% ABV.   Yet that is not the reason it’s called Monkey 47.  Or is it?  Finally this Gin is made from 47 different botanicals!  (See below for the list.)  Including some odd ones like cranberries and some local ones like lingonberries.

Finally, as I’ve purchased a bottle, I can also tell you that I’ve tried it neat.  That was also excellent.   The same flavors that you taste in the Martini are here, though more powerful as they aren’t diluted during the making of the Martini.  While I will continue to drink this Gin as a Martini, I would have no hesitation in ordering it neat if the desire or mood so moved me.

Typical Price:  $45 – $50 for 375 ml.

 

For those interested in this sort of information, I’ve copied down the major ingredients for your fun and amusement … 47 items in all.    Another interesting coincidence??
Acacia flowers, Acorus Calamus, almond, angelica root, bitter orange, blackberry, bramble leaves, cardamom, cassia, chamomile, cinnamon, lemon verbena, cloves, coriander, cranberries, cubeb, dog rose, elderflower, ginger, Grains of Paradise, hawthorn berries, hibiscus abelmoshus, hibiscus syriacus, honeysuckle, jasmine, Kaffir lime, lavender, lemon, lemon balm, lemongrass, licorice, lingonberries, Mondara Didyma, nutmeg, orris, pepper (six types!), pimento, pomelo, rosehip, sage, sloe, spruce shoots, and of course Juniper berries!!!

You can compare this to a few other selected Gins in the “Botanical Elements of Gin” page of this blog if you’re so inclined.

Bar Review: 71Above, Los Angeles, CA

At the top of the Los Angeles’ US Bank Tower (generally known as the “Library Tower” to locals) is 71Above.  A relatively new restaurant in a building with an interesting history.  Prior to 71Above’s opening in June, 2016, along with the “OUE Skyspace” observation deck on the 69th and 70th floor, this building had the somewhat dubious reputation (alleged) of being the tallest building in the US without an observation deck.

Thankfully when OUE purchased the building in 2014 they set about rectifying this omission.  Along with the observation deck came 71Above.  It’s interesting that the restaurant is actually above the observation deck.  At 950 feet above ground level, 71Above is now the highest restaurant west of the Mississippi.

So, let’s get the first questions out of the way.  Yes, the panoramic view is absolutely stunning; from Malibu to Santa Monica to LAX to Redondo Beach.  And the whole LA basing including Hollywood and Beverly Hills.  Without a doubt the most impressive view from a bar stool I’ve ever enjoyed.

           

In case you’re wondering if the brand new tallest building in LA will interfere with the view, it won’t!   You can see the Wilshire Grand Tower in the photo below, in the lower left corner.  It is below 71Above.   While the Wilshire Grand Tower is taller than the Library Tower the latter is situated further up Bunker Hill.  Thus the view is better from 71Above.

Second, the food is excellent, though a bit pricey.   But that is what I would expect.  The cuisine is ‘modern American’.   71Above offers a set menu with several first, second, and third choices.  Or you can choose from the “Bar Bites” in the Lounge.   Of course you can get the set menu in the Lounge if you choose.  There are Chef’s tables which offer views of the open kitchen and one large and two small dining rooms looking down upon Dodger Stadium, which require reservations!!  I haven’t seen these, but its a very tempting option.

The motif of the restaurant has been described at geometric-chic.  I think of it more as subdued art-deco.  In any case it is geometric, simple, and subtle without detracting from the view in any way.  71Above clearly understands that the view is the ultimate decoration and everything inside is simply secondary.

Finally, the Martini was excellent.   Very professionally prepared, quite cold, happily abundant, and delicious.  The bartenders are very professional and will ensure you’re satisfied with your drink.  My only beef with the drink, and I acknowledge that its a minor ‘nit’, was the stem.  My regular readers will know that I’m a bit of a stem snob and this Martini was not quite what what I consider a proper Martini Stem.  Despite that little oversight, the Martini was refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable.  As with the food, the drinks are a bit pricey, but not excessive.  Considering the view I think the prices are absolutely economical.

Overall 71Above gets one stem.  Martini Glass Upright
The Martinis really are quite excellent, they’re just not perfect enough to warrant my two stem award.  However, the overall atmosphere and experience are truly worth a visit.  A note of caution …. reservations are highly recommended!!!

For selection 71Above gets a A+.
Their listed Gins include Aviation, Bols Genever, Bols, Genevery Aged, Botanist, Bummer & Lazarus, Fords’s, Hendrick’s, Monkey 47, Old Raj Blue, Oxely, Plymouth, Spirit Works Barrel Aged, St. George Botanivore, St. George Dry Rye, St. George Dry Rye Reposado, Tanqueray 10, and Wilder.  Note I said ‘listed’ Gins.  They have others on the  self and the bartender noted that their selection varies from week to week.

For more information:   www.71above.com

If you like what you’ve read, please subscribe.  If not, please post a comment telling us how and why you disagree.

If you’re curious about what one vs. two stems means,
I refer you to the following:
*****   Rating Definitions   ****

Restaurant Review; Drago Ristorante, Los Angeles, CA

Lets see …. I’ve done reviews of Airport restaurants (P.F. Chang’s), restaurants on barques (Moshulu), and restaurants in casinos (Red Oak) and train stations (Traxx).  Steakhouses, Italian, Chinese, Seafood, and lounges that don’t even serve food.  So clearly I have no fear of venturing off the beaten path, so to speak.  What’s next?  How about a museum cafe?  That’s sound different, right?

The other weekend I found myself at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles where they had a Ferrari special going on.   No, not to buy, but to see.  Actually, it was the free “Enzo Ferrari Birthday Cruise-In” and it was indeed impressive.  Finishing an exhaustive review of these fine cars I went looking for some refreshment and a place to sit.

Having been through many museums in my life across several continents, I had in mind a crowded cafe with a long line of people waiting, tray in hand, to proceed through a serve yourself counter displaying the usual assortment of packaged sandwiches, sodas, fruit plates, quick (& queasy) deserts, and expensive beers or wines.  If I was lucky there might be a short order cook taking orders for burgers, dogs, and fries.   But I was parched and resigned to my fate.

But no!  Not here.   Here there is Drago Ristorante, a full on sit-down take-my-order restaurant.   The only semblance to my preconceived notions was a bit of a line at the hostess station.  I quickly bypassed that and headed directly to the bar.   Yes a real bar.   With real liquor, a nice selection of wine, and beer on tap.

The food that I tried was very good.  And there were items on the menu that I didn’t try that really caught my eye.  Such as “Gnocchi di Patate al Nero di Seppie” and “Spaghetti a I Frutti di Mare”, to give you a quick sampling.   I certainly look forward to trying additional items in the future.  And this really makes Drago a bit different, and special.

If I was in the neighborhood for any reason and was hungry and looking for a place to eat.   I would have no issue with heading over to the Petersen Museum just to eat at Drago.   Whether or not I was going to enter the Museum, which, by the way is truly impressive.

Finally, yes, the Martini was really very good!   Very much in keeping with the concept that this is a full on restaurant and not a inexpensive museum soda bar.  It was nicely mixed with the right amount of Vermouth for my ‘dry’ preference.  The stem was well chilled and the Martini well shaken.  The bartender was professional and courteous and the serving ample.

Overall Drago gets one stem.  Martini Glass Upright

I would make a trek to Drago for the food, ambiance, and Martini.  But not for the Martini alone.

Now for Gin Selection:  Sadly, Drago only gets a C-
Their selection includes Tanqueray, Tanqueray 10, Bombay Sapphire, and Beefeater.  That’s it.  At the moment.   In my conversations with the GM there I believe that this selection will expand in the future, I do hope so.   I’ll provide an updated review when, and if, I witness this improvement.

For more information:     www.dragoristorante.com

If you like what you’ve read, please subscribe.  If not, please post a comment telling us how and why you disagree.

If you’re curious about what one vs. two stems means,
I refer you to the following:
*****   Rating Definitions   ****

The Gambling Cowboy, Temecula, CA

gambling-cowboy

So you’ve trekked down to Temecula in Riverside County and had a wonderful day in the sun sampling a myriad of local wines at the multitude of wineries that line the valley and now you want to kick back someplace and cap the day with a Martini and a steak.   I have a suggestion for you, The Gambling Cowboy Chophouse and Saloon!

It is located on 5th street in “Old Town” Temecula, just off Interstate 15.   It is just off the street on the third floor of a rustic building that looks a lot like an old barn.   The inside of the restaurant is spacious, warm, and inviting.  The decor is, exactly as you would expect…. a cowboy saloon.

I will note one feature that I really like …. their etched glass panel cutting through the dining hall.  It is beautiful.  Sadly its also a bit of a challenge to photograph.  You’ll have to enhance the photo with your imagination … or go take a look!

gambling-cowboy-etched-glass

The food is indeed very good with a definite emphasis on, as you might guess, steaks.  But there are also seafood and chicken choices as well an assortment of salads.  Their Martinis are also very good: well chilled, ample, and served quickly.  After a day in the sun their Martini was very much needed and hit the spot perfectly.

The Martini stem the Gambling Cowboy uses is a bit unusual, as you can see in the photo above.  Those of you who know me would expect me to blast this based on my prior posts such as Thoughts on Stemware, Part Three and To Stem or Not to Stem.  But this one I sort of like.  Certainly not traditional but, more importantly, it is not trendy.

Martini Glass Upright  Overall the Gambling Cowboy gets one stem for its very good Martini that is most welcome after a hot day in Temecula!

For Gin selection The Gambling Cowboy only gets a C.  Their selection includes the “Big 5” as I like to call it: Tanqueray, Tanqueray Ten, Bombay, Bombay Sapphire, Hendricks and also Beefeater.

For more information:  http://www.ilovethecowboy.com/