Gaslamp Strip Club, San Diego
This was interesting. Billed as "A Steak Place," these guys (340 Fifth Avenue, 619-231-3140) have created an place whereby your backyard BBQ (or tailgate party) meets Scores, but in a Planet Hollywood theme restaurant kind of way. The idea is that you grill your own steak at designated grilling stations, all the while under the themed decor of a strip club, complete with dim mood lighting, racy names on the menu like "XXX-tras" (sides) and "Naughty Treats" (dessert), and even a "Champagne Room" in the back for large groups. (The staff is all fully clothed, albeit in short skirts.) I suppose that it is designed to appeal to the testosterone-fueled "I cook meat on fire" caveman instinct...but it's all done elegantly and tastefully enough that even those without a Y chromosome will find this place enjoyable.
They've got a number of cuts of beef here (plus the alternatives of skewered kebabs, one chicken dish, and one "sushi grade ahi tuna" complete with wasabi and soy sauce...I presume that it is "sushi grade" so as to encourage one to only to sear it on the grill rather than cooking it all the way though). I went for their signature and "full of flavor" Gaslamp New York Strip (hence, the "strip club," get it?), which was "midwestern corn fed beef marinated in olive oil balsamic vinegar and herbs" and aged 21 days. Kinda like at Morton's, these carcasses arrive in Saran Wrap, but unlike Morton's, you go to the huge professional grills yourself and throw it on the fire, where an entire station awaits with tongs, a wide selection of dry seasonings, and helpful tips like suggested cooking times, "grill your garlic bread last," and "start your steaks in the center of the grill to get nice grill marks, and then move toward the outside to finish cooking."
I'd still prefer a professional chef's experience and time here over the novelty of cooking it myself (and don't sit too close to the grills...it gets darned hot). I was quite surprised though at how nicely my steak turned out, with deep grill marks and meat that was "full of flavor" indeed, as it was of high enough quality that I didn't even leave any scraps on my plate. They also provided a "saucy sauce" that was surprisingly spicy (better than A.1.). But I didn't really use it too much, seeing that the meat was tasty enough on its own (and no, I didn't use any of the dry seasonings at the grill either).
Unfortunately, I think that was the only thing that I liked here. The shrimp cocktail we got as a starter did not have enough horseradish in the sauce, thus being yawningly mild. We opted for the optional blue cheese crumbles to go with the salad, but it just didn't pair right with the mildly sweet dressing already tossed into the salad. And the grilled mushrooms were not even in the same league as the orgasmically buttery and garlicky mushrooms at Morton's. Well, at least I didn't mind their homebrewed pale ale.
Upon leaving, I realized that these guys were also part of the Cohn Restaurant Group. Geez - that makes four times this week, and not by choice! I guess that these Cohn guys are all over the city...either that, or our corporate planner was getting some special deal with them or something. Well, at least it's good to see that they do have some variety in their offerings, even if they do come across as a bit commercialized.