David Burke's Prime House
 Chicago, Illinois        Date of Visit  04/07/11     

Coming to Chicago we planned to do one swanky meal along with what now seems like hundreds of classics. Having wanted to try something  by this chef in Vegas we were thwarted when the Vegas property was closed (with a number of other joints) in response to our fabulous economy. Now we had a second shot and this place has been getting a lot of very positive press as of late. Chef David Burke not only opened a restaurant but bought a big ol’ bull named Prime who sires all of the beef for the restaurant. What was once more commonplace is now rare and only done in places like Primehouse. Dry aging.



Airy, Cheesy, Delicious Popovers With Killer Butter and Himalayan Sea Salt

Most subprimal cuts of beef are cryovaced in plastic bags and the enzymes are allowed to work on the meat for a couple of weeks until you get a particular product. Here the meat sits in a temperature and humidity controlled room, just hanging out on a shelf until it’s ready. It is a much more expensive way to do steaks and the meat itself shrinks a great deal the longer it dries. There is one dish that distinguished Primehouse from others…they have a steak that is aged for 75 days. Average is 10 – 28 days. What in the world are they doing here?

We arrived to a very trendy hotel (James). Seriously, they have a piece of “art” in the lobby. It is a stack of suitcases filled with a hotel room. The idea being it is the opposite of what is expected. You take your stuff out of the suitcase and put it in the room. This dude went to a hotel with a sledgehammer and apparently without their permission destroyed everything in the room and stuffed it into the suitcases. Welcome to planet why?.

A Very Odd Lobster Bisque with Apple Essence...Mulligan's was Better in Canton OH

Surf and Turf Dumplings...Interesting but Not Stupendous

The interior of the restaurant is nice but is much more simple and familiar than the rest of the place. Our server dashed my dreams when his first words were we are offering three steaks tonight…wanna guess which one was not on the list? In a few days we would probably have some. Excuses were made, fine…fine. If you ask me…if you are going to wrap all of your publicity in a particular dish…you will do yourself a favor in having it available when people come to shell out exorbitant money in your place. The simple decades old holes in the wall all came through on their promise…I remain bitter.

Now, from worst to best. We split three apps, three salads and all ordered the same steak, I almost stuck with the salad but that seemed even more moronic than not having a particular dish. The steak was a 55 day dry aged ribeye. It was different than nearly any steak I have eaten. Grassiness from the feed and complex layers of flavors; even the char from the grill had a unique taste. Juicy (yes dry aged steaks are juicy and one of the most concentrated beef flavors I can remember. It was even better with an extra dose of the orange-pink Himalayan Sea Salt (HSS).  It was good, just cause a dead horse could use a beating every now and again…it made me wonder what the 20 extra days would have done. Okay that’s enough.


Glorious Melty Kobe Sashimi on a Block of Himalayan Sea Salt

Outstanding Bleu on the Wedge

The desserts that followed the steak were a trip and a half. We tried a banana split, key lime pie, and the cheesecake lollipop tree. The banana split was prepared tableside where the caramel-chocolate ice cream was mashed into a brick of HSS and then plated with caramelized banana, brandied cherries, spiced pecans and roasted pineapple. The whole shebang then got a squirt of caramel sauce and a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream. Overall very good, particularly the ice cream. The cherries had so much brandy in them that any sliver of the fruit quickly slayed the rest of the dish. The key lime was just as insane with a foot-stompingly tart key lime filling, a quenelle of white chocolate mint ice cream, and raspberries all decorated with toasted meringue. Not all agreed but mixed together I really enjoyed the combination, the ice cream and meringue allowed you to temper the tartness to whatever degree you preferred. I could have done without the raspberries. The cheesecake lollipop tree comes right from the Mad Hatters Tea Party. Tiny rounds of cheesecake are sticked and dipped into different chocolates and toppings, arranged on a “tree” and served with a raspberry whipped cream…fun and delicious.

Loaded Chop Salad...Serious Bacon Working Here

Arugula with Truffle Smoked Tomato, Pine Nuts, and get this Goat Cheese Fondue!!!

Our appetizers consisted of the Surf and Turf Dumplings. A pair of braised short rib nuggets and another pair of what are called angry lobster. I don’t know that I understand what was angry about the lobster…I was worried it was going to be some super spicy preparation that kept you from tasting any lobster  but it was tasty with perfectly cooked seafood. We tried the Lobster Bisque which was just plain strange. There was a lobster spring roll which had a lobster spring roll fashioned around an antenna. The soup itself was poured at the table…over the pile of green apple and other chunkiness…and it didn’t taste anything like lobster bisque. Until you scooped up some of the apple lumpiness with it. I can’t imagine how but that’s the way it is. This was one dish that just went over my head. I will settle for Mulligan’s or Craftseak’s simple but excellent soup any day. Lastly we had the Wagyu Beef sashimi which was resting on a block of HSS and served with chives, mushroom chips slices of bread and a truffled mayonnaise. The beef itself was fabulous and just melted away into a beefy haze. The other ingredients were good but I preferred the thinly sliced sheets of raw beef with the chives and chips alone.

Beautiful, Complex, Unique

Still Only 55 Days Aging...Sorry Still Bitter

Now for the surprise. I think the best thing we had all night long were the last thing we sort of ordered on a whim. At a steak joint what really stood out were the salads. Steph was certain she had gotten the best one on the table with her first bite. The Loaded Chopped Salad had roasted peppers, cucumbers, feta cheese, chick peas, red onion, bacon and a beautiful red wine vinaigrette. The bacon in this thing was ridiculous. Almost over smoked it had an almost belly leather texture and would have been suspiciously smoky (like when the wind shifts at the camp fire and your eyes burn smoky) but when you eat it with the rest of the salad…Aaahhh Haaahhhh! We also had the Arugula (Rocket) a peppery leaf which was served with truffle smoked tomatoes, pine nuts and sat in a pool of a divine goat cheese fondue. Lastly the wedge was adorned with both blue cheese and a blue cheese dressing that smacked you right between the eyes with its blueness. There was some debate over the tomato vinaigrette under the whole mess but all I could think of was that BLEU cheese, intense but perfect for the salad.

No Kidding. A Cheesecake Lollipop Tree

KEY LIME Pie. Getting Out There

Far from perfect Primehouse did have some excellent high points throughout the evening. One last thing should be noted. In one way or another the magical salt (HSS)/orange and pink crystals/Himalayan Sea Salt kept appearing throughout the evening. The beef is dried in a room full of it, it’s on the butter, in the ice cream, the the grinder on the table, under the sashimi, and on and on and on. As a matter of fact, when we left there was a lingering salty tone on our palates for a couple of hours. All of this without every encountering “too salty”. We also noticed that we weren’t driven to drink a gallon of make up water in an attempt to restore our chemistry. The side effect we did notice (and at least blamed on the salt) was our odd state of mind (inebriation) leaving the building, Giggles grew to laughter, everything was genuinely funny, we couldn’t seem to work the machines to pay for parking, or even hold on to the ticket for that matter. When we talked to my cousin from the car she thought we might be hammered. We didn’t drink. Was it the whimsy of the chef, the caloric intake, of something they are pumping into the dining room? Dunno for sure. We still blame the ubiquitous salt. No officer, I have not been drinking but I might be DUS.

Dude Works Our Ice Cream Into...What Else Himalayan Sea Salt

The Banana Split with Salted Caramel Ice Cream, the Cherries Are Ridiculous. Too Bad.



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