I made a reservation for Friday night. I had taken my son out for steak to the Hunt Club, my wife out for steak to the Grandview, and so it was time to take my daughter out for steak. This time, to the Grand Geneva’s Chop House. The only problem with this reservation was that I made it without first consulting my 13 year old daughter and her social calendar. How foolish of me. It turned out that she had a prior engagement scheduled for Friday night, so dinner would not be possible. She suggested a reschedule, something that might better fit her extracurricular activities and the calendar they have overwhelmed. It’s an odd thing, but also a priveleged thing to raise a daughter, but more on that another time. I acquiesced and made a reservation for Saturday night instead. This is what happened.
I made the reservation for 5:30 pm. Yes, because I eat early, but also because on this Saturday night the reservation options were for 5 and 5:30, or 8:45 and later. This was a good sign, I figured, as a busy restaurant is nearly always a good restaurant. At the stroke of 5:30 we were led to our table, a nice booth with a view of the Lake Geneva countryside. In summer, I imagined, this view would be better. But after I imagined that I found myself wondering who could think such a foolish thing. Was I so obtuse that I’ve been brainwashed into thinking summer is automatically better? Was my will so weak? I quickly regretted my thought and agreed that the winter view was delightful. The waitress’s helper (technical term) filled our waters with a tremendous amount of ice and also some water (whatever could filter through the cracks in the jumble of ice), and the waitress came to discuss the menu.
There were several specials for that evening. I wasn’t interested in any of them. I had come for steak. A friend of mine who told the Chop House’s chef that I’d be coming in for a review told me that I should order the Wagyu filet. I contemplated following this advice. On one hand, I haven’t had a filet yet and this advice was likely well thought through and accurate. But on the other hand, how fair is it to order a specialty filet when I’ve judged every other restaurant on their ribeye or strip? After some contemplation, I decided to stick to my guns and order the ribeye. This would be a bone-in ribeye, 18 ounces. The waitress said it was dry-aged 45 days, which struck me as being a long time of sitting in a fridge with a fan on it, encouraging that meaty rot. $50 was the ransom. As this is a finer restaurant, sides were extra. I chose the loaded marble potatoes, with pork belly, scallions, and some sort of cheddar sauce, the latter of which I declined. The waitress offered me some extra pork belly in lieu of my cheddar, and I agreed. It was 5:38 pm.
Moments later, we were served a platter of three different spreads and two warmed dinner rolls. This was really nice. The spreads included one whipped butter, an olive tapenade, and a blue-cheese butter. The olive tapenade should have been sent straight to hell, and with it the blue cheese abomination (I dislike both, and didn’t sample here). The softened butter, my daughter told me, was quite delicious. As was the bread. Our waters were frequently refilled, and once my daughter had eaten both of those rolls (proud father), we were asked if we wanted more. That’s my kind of service, and it left me wondering where this endless bread basket was a few months ago when I could have embraced the gluten? The silverware was hefty, the dining room lively, the evening taking on a sophisticated air. This was a nice place.
Our dinner arrived at 6 pm sharp. That’s a very reasonable period to wait, and reflected the fact that the restaurant was just then starting to fill up. The steak was beautiful. There was, as another friend had warned me, a pad of compound butter atop the steak, which I removed, even though it was rather painful to do so. The steak had a well developed char, almost heavy. There was the telltale taste of gas in the charred fatty bits, which I disliked, but if I have to eat some gas-flavored fat to also get a nice char on the meat, I will. The salt level was good, maybe still a bit light. The steak looked the part. But the first bite revealed a weakness, either in my own palate or in the steak trend du jour. The dry-aged aspect of this beef was just too much.
Maybe I’m not as sophisticated as my big-city friends, this is entirely possible. But why must every steak be served aged? Why can’t I just get a steak that is fresh? Remember when we wanted fresh food? Remember when we didn’t like old stinky hunks of meat? Remember when we’d throw out the meat that smelled bad? I miss those days. This steak might have been fine for someone who loves the adjusted flavor of a long-aged steak, but that is not me. I like my steak to taste good. I don’t need my beef to be extra beefy, whatever that even means. I ate the steak and appreciated the char, but aside from the heavy aged characteristics, the steak was also a bit heavy on connective tissue, which I find off-putting. If you love dry-aged steak, this might be a dinner you’d swoon over.
The marble potatoes weren’t good. They were little, whole potatoes (marble sized, sort of), served with this “pork belly”. I suppose the description is apt, since bacon is pork belly, but pork belly generally is not bacon. This was bacon. Why call it pork belly? I though it would be unctuous hunks of slow-braised pork belly, with soft meat and melty fat, and I thought that might go nicely with the little potatoes. Instead, this was heavily smoked bacon, cut into lardons or otherwise large chunks. These were fried, which rendered any soft fat out of them and turned the chunk into a tooth-shattering choke hazard. It was objectively a miss. I felt a fool for spending $14 on a side that suffered from such poor execution, or at least description.
The dinner here wasn’t awful. But it wasn’t what I expected. The menu at the Chop House is diverse and impressive. There are many cuts of beef, seafood, poultry and pork. The items sound delicious. Other plates looked delicious. The scene is rather nice, with a well appointed dining space, open kitchen, and an obviously upscale, or at least dressed up, clientele. I enjoyed my time with my daughter very much. We talked about how strange it is that she likes parmesan cheese on pizza but not on a caesar salad. We talked about how much we love the sandwiches in provence. I had a great time, and after we stopped at Culver’s to bring my wife an ice-cream, which she didn’t want but managed to nearly finish anyway. On this night, the only thing that let me down was the actual dinner. I expected better of the Grand Geneva and its Chop House.
Chop House at the Grand Geneva
Highway 50, just East of Lake Geneva
$50 for Bone-In 18 ounce Ribeye. $14 for the Loaded Marble Potatoes, sans cheese.