Neil Jordan's Steakhouse
1121 Oakland Market Road
Entrée Prices: Very Expensive ($16-$55)
Serving: Lunch & Dinner (Mon.-Sun.)
There's something comforting about Neil Jordan's Steakhouse. For starters, it's the first fine dining restaurant to open north of Highway 41 in Mt. Pleasant. And, what's more, it's a throwback to an older, more decorous era: an old-school American steakhouse, with dark wood and white tablecloths and waiters in white shirts and ties — echoes of an age long before adjustable rate mortgages and default credit swaps knocked us all into a funk.
What could be more traditional than an iceberg wedge or a Caesar salad? Neil Jordan's has them both ($8 and $9, respectively). And the classic steakhouse appetizers are there, too, including a shrimp cocktail ($10), beef carpaccio ($10), and crab cakes ($9).
The charcuterie plate ($15) is a cross between classic charcuterie and an antipasto platter. Served on a wooden cutting board, it includes a selection of cured meats (cappicola, salami, and an excellent thin-sliced dry aged beef) and cheeses (including drunken goat and stilton), but the winner on the plate is the housemade rabbit pâté, which is rich and flavorful enough to hold its own against anything offered down on East Bay Street.
The fried oysters ($9) are crispy and light and served with a brown butter sauce. Perhaps the least conventional appetizer (and it's not all that unconventional) is also the best: roasted beets ($8). Five slices of delicate golden beet are fanned across a thin rectangular plate, sprinkled with Split Creek Farms goat cheese, and drizzled with a mild salsa verde. It's a refreshing, finely-balanced appetizer and the perfect prelude to a big steak dinner.
And the steaks are as top-notch as everything else. The tenderloin filet (8 oz. for $30, 10 oz. for $37) has a crispy, salty crust and is silky tender inside. The ribeye (14 oz. for $31) has that great seared flavor you get from thickly-marbled beef. The steaks come with your choice of one of four sauces (bordelaise, au poivre, truffle butter, and chimi churi), and the sides run a very traditional gamut that includes whipped potatoes, haricots verts, and grilled asparagus. The creamed spinach is particularly rich and delightful.
If you want to roll back the clock and throw financial caution to the wind, try a 20-ounce bone-in New York Strip or a 24-ounce "cowboy cut" ribeye (both $55). For those not inclined to big hunks of red meat, there's a range of seafood and pasta entrées, too, ranging from pan-roasted grouper ($24) and seared tuna ($31) to tagliatelle ($17) and ravioli ($16) that's made fresh in-house.
Neil Jordan's may not have had the most opportune timing for a high-end restaurant, opening two months ago just as the big financial bubble burst, but let's hope they make it through. Mt. Pleasant needs more places like this.
If you're just looking to have a quiet, classy drink, there's the big bar up front and a smaller one in the back of the house with a selection of bourbons and Scotches. The service is friendly and professional, and the light jazz in the background (which comes from a live duo on Tuesday nights) sets the ideal tone for an elegant meal.
Stuffed and happy and topping things off with a delicious crème brûlée, you may be surprised to peek out the big plate-glass window and realize that you're not in Manhattan and it's not 1962. Instead, there's the blue star from the Wal-Mart sign across the parking lot and the bustle of gloomy shoppers heading in and out, hoping to save a few bucks on Christmas.
But, man, what a meal.