The downtown landmark steakhouse still pleases after more than 30 years.
A tuxedoed maitre D’ is a rare sight in restaurants these days, but you’ll still find one at The Metropolitan Grill, carving chateaubriand and flambéing desserts tableside.
It’s been 15 years since I last reviewed Consolidated Restaurants’ venerable downtown steakhouse. But when I stepped into The Met recently, it could have been 2000 again, or 1983, the year The Met opened, or even 1903, when the building at the corner of Second and Marion was built.
Replete with mahogany and brass, The Met recalls posh men’s clubs of bygone days. Stately columns support a 20-foot ceiling rimmed with crown molding. Richly patterned carpeting runs along the aisles between secluded booths and tables. Subdued lighting mimics a gaslight glow.
Metropolitan Grill ★★★
820 Second Ave., Seattle
Hours: lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner 4-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4-10 p.m. Friday, 4-11 p.m. Saturday, 4-9 p.m. Sunday; happy hour 3-6 p.m. Monday-Friday
Prices: $$$$/$$$ (lunch appetizers $6-$16, entrees $12-$22, steaks $26-$69; dinner appetizers $8-$23, entrees $18-$68, steaks $43-$115)
Drinks: full bar; international wine list
Service: highly professional, warm and congenial
Parking: valet after 5 p.m. $9
Who should go: well-heeled steak fanciers fond of bone-dry martinis nostalgic for early 20th-century ambience
Credit cards: all major
Access: no obstacles
Tugging you back to the present is the “wall of fame” crowded with decades of celebrity photos: There’s Russell Wilson beaming behind the gracious hostess.
Back in 2000, you could still smoke in The Met’s bar. The closest I ever got was sipping the Smokey Met Martini — Absolut vodka with a trace of 18-year-old Glenlivet. It’s still a winner on the bar’s classic-cocktail roster, only now it’s $14, not $8.95.
Everything’s gone up since Y2K, of course. The prime porterhouse rose from $41.95 to $72 for a 25-ounce, dry-aged steak from Washington’s Double R Ranch. American Wagyu (from Idaho’s Snake River Farms) and Japanese Ohmi beef (A5, the highest grade) are even pricier; both were added to the menu within the last few years.
The prime porterhouse delivered everything I want from a steak: copious juices seeped from a warm, red (medium-rare) center, a hint of smoke clung to the charred exterior, and each bite delivered an assertive beefiness.
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The same was true of the prime filet. I ordered it side-by-side with the wagyu version (4 ounces each; $60).
The wagyu had the edge when it came to texture — a hefty knife needed almost no pressure to cut it — but the prime filet was nearly as tender, and to my taste, more flavorful. An array of traditional sauces are offered for the steaks, but I was happiest with the peppery, herby house jus spooned over the meat.
A fillet of Neah Bay halibut, lightly veiled in beurre blanc, was as splendid as any of the steaks.
I was less enamored of the prime rib. Though nicely crusted, the meat had a mushy texture; it was rosy but oddly bloodless. Hyper-salty au jus and grated horseradish that tasted a long way from fresh didn’t help the cause.
Entree prices include a starch. Neither the potato pancakes nor the scalloped potatoes layered with poblano peppers impressed me as much as the steakhouse standards: garlic mashers, thick fries or the mammoth baker whose condiments included warm cheddar-cheese sauce and an absurd amount of bacon bits. (Speaking of which, do consider ordering a skillet of Brussels sprouts laced with strips of Kurobuta bacon for the table.)
Lobster bisque $10
Prawn martini $20
Steak salad $28
10-ounce grilled halibut $48
16-ounce prime rib-eye $62
Kick off dinner with oysters paired with peppery, mignonette granita. Dip fabulous onion rings in sassy red-curry ketchup, or divvy up four giant prawns slung over a cocktail glass filled with crisp, finely chopped vegetables and cocktail sauce packing tons of horseradish punch.
A silver-skinned anchovy glints atop the Caesar salad; you’ll taste its brethren in the bold dressing. Extravagantly rich lobster bisque could have used a bigger hit of cognac.
The cost of a steak dinner for two with the works at The Met easily exceeds the average monthly car payment. But those of us who aren’t moguls, tech movers-and-shakers or Seahawks can be regulars at lunch, when soups, sandwiches and entrees are more in line with what the hoi polloi can afford.
Order “The Works” burger, built around a hand-formed patty of wagyu sirloin, and you still will be treated like a city swell by the smoothly professional, long-tenured staff.
Waiters seem to read your mind. They can be doting, loquacious and engaging, but also know when to disappear. The sommelier had a less winning tableside manner. Asked to recommend a California cabernet for under $100, he readily suggested a $95 Mount Veeder 2012, but told me nothing about the wine.
Finding a bottle in that price range wasn’t hard — the two-digit prices stand out amid columns of mostly three and four-digits. I was wanting a story or a description to justify what for me was an extravagant sum. (It was not on the company’s dime.).
Surely many need help navigating this 66-page wine list spanning the world, which is why The Met employs six somms; three work the floor on any given night. This particular somm may be an anomaly. I think he missed an opportunity to educate a customer, perhaps steer me to another part of the world and introduce me to something new. Worse, I was left with the impression that I wasn’t spending enough to interest him.
I went all out for dessert ordering “hot apple pie.” It’s prepared tableside by maître D’ Craig Summers, who clearly loves putting on this show: flambéing the fruit with butter, brown sugar and spices, placing it over bowls of vanilla ice cream studded with nutty cookie crumbles, adding a final flourish of caramel sauce. It’s more than a dessert, it’s an event, much like dinner at The Met.