Monday, February 15, 2016

Bourbon Steak: Power Lunching at The Americana by Michael Mina (Yes, in Glendale!)

Suburbia: a 'safe haven' typically for those who find predictability and conformity comforting.  In the food & bar space, this usually means chain restaurants serving familiar, passable middle-of-the-road fare, consistently.

The Caruso group, whether or not you're a fan, has undisputedly done a lot to disrupt the concept of a shopping mall and its potential to be a shop/eat/play destination at a much higher quality than we'd  seen in most other complexes in California.  The Americana at Brand is one example where management has strategically brought together global brands, and better diversity in sit-down dining options.

Bourbon Steak is one that I would say I am most excited about, and the biggest reasons are right there in and behind the name.  Their craft cocktail / bar program is sophisticated, especially those featuring a well curated selection of lesser known bourbon and whiskey.  And their steaks are dry-aged and I would say among the best that I've had in the city, but they don't stop at the one thing - other dishes on the menu take popular staples and elevate them to a new level with unexpected combinations of flavors, and clear pride in quality of ingredients (befitting of renowned chef Michael Mina, owner).

The first thing we encountered when seated in the elegant dining room was the Bourbon / Whiskey cart, from which Bourbon Steak offers tastings, right there tableside.  But, since we were there to check out the new lunch menu, and hadn't eaten anything that morning - we forced ourselves to wait, and do the tasting for dessert.
That of course did not stop us from checking out their cocktail list.  When our hostess (who is also the sommelier there) heard that I'd been getting into Japanese whiskys, she recommended one of the seasonal specials: Golden Crane ($18) with Akashi white oak Japanese whisky, honey, lime, and True Roots smoked ginger syrup.  A light, refreshing and instantly addictive take on the classic Penicillin.  I  loved the gorgeous, perfectly balanced smokiness that draws the nose more than the palate with the carefully controlled sweet and tart.  All in a smooth delivery that is all about levity.  If there is any another place that serves cocktails of this caliber in Glendale, they've hidden it well.  I couldn't get enough of this one and already decided we'd be back soon for another round, before we'd even gotten to the food.

As an amuse, a trio of fries came to our table with three different toppings and dipping sauces: this is a signature tray from Michael Mina, and I loved the truffle parmesan fries the most (without the sauce). (They serve a lunch-sized portion for $5)

Then there was Michael's Tuna Tartare ($19) another signature dish of the chef's, which is not your regular old found-on-every-trendy-restaurant-menu tuna tartare.  His is served with asian pear, quail egg, scotch bonnet, pinenuts, and sesame oil: an unexpected combination of spice (from the scotch bonnet chiles) and subtle sweetness (from the pear) with savory, tender yet structured morsels of fish, and crisp crunch from the pine nuts  The plate is mixed again tableside, and served with toast points. Definitely one of our favorites from the meal, and a favorite take on the dish vs anywhere in the city.

The Duck Spring Rolls ($14) at first, we were skeptical as to whether it would just be a western take on the Chinese staple, with a simple substitution of protein, but this dish was SpEcTaCuLaR.  Using a french technique, feuilles de brick, with the wrapper - that repelled fry oil - they were able to achieve a cleaner crunch, which was perfectly balanced with the freshest lettuce wraps the rolls were wrapped in.  Ginger-chili dipping sauce brought just the right amount of heat to the whole umami / subtly sweet dish.

The Chilled Crab Soba Noodles ($22) similarly mixed cuisines, with Japanese soba served with thai chili and asparagus, carrots, tomato, peanuts.  This one was pretty, and a good option for those looking for a bit of a lighter healthier dish, but not as wake-up-the-next-day-craving-seconds-good as the other appetizers.

While Bourbon Steak also offers an affordable 3-course prix fixe business lunch for $28 that allows office workers to do quick ins-and-outs, it was the Wood-Fired Grill section that really drew our attention: the Ribeye 18oz ($54 - picture to the left is just half of the steak, as I split one with  @foodventure to allow us to taste more dishes) was dry-aged in house, beautifully marbled and seared perfectly to smokey char outside, and juicy, tender, gorgeous medium rare inside.  This was definitely the best steak I'd had in the SFV, and one of the best in LA.
For those not on corporate cards / client lunches, the burger section offers relatively more affordable quality a la carte: The Blue Burger ($19) with blue cheese, caramelized onion, truffle aioli, mushroom.  The patties in Bourbon Steak's burgers are mixed with A5 wagyu, so they are super packed with luscious fat and flavor! 

This wagyu and blue cheese fan was definitely satisfied.

Aside from steak and burgers, pastas are also on the menu. We loved the flavorful Duck Bolognese ($26) with black pomodoro, fresh house made tagliatelle.

We tried the Chocolate Pot de Creme to sample a dessert (tasty), but all the anticipation had been building towards the bourbon cart for the finish! 

And yes, the bourbon cart is available for both lunch and dinner!  They will regularly put three bourbon / whiskeys on rotation, and you can get a tasting flight of all three for $30. The cart is brought tableside, with silver platters of ingredients to pair with each drink.

As you can see in the video below, each one is torched to release aromas designed to accentuate corresponding flavor profiles in each spirit.

Here are the pairings from our tasting:

  • Larceny with orange peel

  • Templeton Rye with cinnamon

  • 1792 (aged 9 years) with sugar cubes - this one was my favorite with caramel notes and the smoked sugar evoked the tops of creme brulee

To help customers discover / learn more about top shelf whiskeys, Bourbon Steak runs a special promotion, Whiskey Wednesdays, where you can taste three featured labels for $5 each. Can't think of a better way to get through hump days.

All in all, a fantastic spot for a real Mad Men style power lunch, or just a highly indulgent one when mere mortals have the occasion to splurge.  And for those who want to learn more about whiskys / bourbons from very knowledgeable, world class service staff.  Happy Hour is daily from 4-7pm which is a great time to get access to the fantastic cocktail program as well.

With Hollywood heavyweights like Disney, Warner Bros, Universal and Technicolor all in the surrounding neighborhoods, I could definitely see Bourbon Steak being a go-to for power lunches, client dinners and elevated happy hour.

Deals alert: 

*Disclaimer: this meal was hosted.


Bourbon Steak
237 S Brand Blvd, Glendale, CA 91204
Ph: 818.839.4130


Parking:  Structure at The Americana at Brand

Look for reservations (and rewards points!) at OpenTable.


Bourbon Steak Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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