By Donna Ellis
11:52 AM EDT, May 22, 2013
Many a name-brand casino in Vegas, Atlantic City and elsewhere feature high-end restaurants conceived by celebrity chefs. Locally, at Maryland Live! casino in Arundel Mills, the celebrity is the restaurant chain, The Prime Rib, which opened in January, joining its venerable Baltimore parent (since 1965) and siblings in Philadelphia and D.C.
This is a gorgeous setting. In the main dining room, which can seat about 75, all is sleek and contemporary with a leopard-print carpet and whimsical chandeliers. There’s a floor-to-ceiling glass wine “rack” separating you from the 14-seat private dining room. With a couple of Erte-esque prints on one wall and live piano music in the background, you wouldn’t be surprised to find Nick and Nora Charles at the next linen-clad table or to see Fred and Ginger sweeping in after a triumphant theatrical performance in town.
Entrepreneur David Cordish and his Prime Rib partner, Buzz Beler, have put together an eatery that seems aimed at those high rollers who frequent this casino, especially now that table games are up and running. In addition to the main dining room, there’s a well-appointed terrace with a retractable roof for warmer weather enjoyment. The traditional Prime Rib dress code (jackets for men) is not strictly enforced here. Business casual (no jeans or T-shirts) will probably get you in the door.
As is the case with most steak houses, the menu here is simple and familiar. Chef de cuisine Michael Meisel and Live! Executive Chef Rudy Volpe have put together an a la carte compendium of soups, salads, appetizers (easy to make a meal out of these), meats and seafood, carbs (four potato preparations) and veggies. Of course prime rib is featured, but there are steaks, chops and poultry. And seafood -- crab plus fin fare like Chilean sea bass, tuna, flounder and salmon.
If you’re going to dine here (and The Prime Rib is only open for dinner), you should plan to spend at least a couple of hours off the casino floor. But if you invest some cash in this good-tasting venue, you’ll leave feeling well satisfied. And since service, when we visited, was warm and knowledgeable, and everything beautifully and sometimes imaginatively served, you’ll feel properly pampered as well. As to the pacing, well, they certainly don’t rush you.
Five of us did a fairly thorough tryout of the menu, beginning with a chef-devised, charming little amuse-bouche, featuring a petite piece of lightly toasted pepper bread topped with creme fraiche and pineapple jam.
In the way of appetizers, Oysters Rockefeller ($18) were a half-dozen moist, plump, spindrift-fresh oysters topped with fresh, barely wilted spinach and tangy Parmesan set over a rock-salt bed. Sesame seared tuna ($18) featured eight small slices of meltingly tender, rare tuna garnished with swirls of lemon creme. And moist, chewy clams casino ($18), also set on a rock-salt bed, were enlivened by chorizo instead of the classic bacon. Interesting approach, but the spicy sausage seemed at war with the delicate flavors of the clams.
When it comes to the main course, you can get The Prime Rib’s signature 12-ounce cut for $38 or the full cut for $57. The former was big enough for even our most avid beef-eater -- thick, juicy and relatively tender. It was most satisfying for our guy, though, especially with the creamy, mellow au poivre sauce ($4) he ordered on the side.
An 18-ounce USDA prime ribeye steak ($56) was also quite large -- about three-fourths of an inch thick -- moist and tender, with some pleasant beefy chew to it and cooked perfectly to medium-rare.
The filet mignon (8-ounce/$46) was about two inches thick, moist and tender, and virtually devoid of fat, as our taster likes it.
A duet of double lamb chops ($42) was finished to a medium-rare tenderness but a mite salty at first bite.
Our only seafood entree was the imperial crab ($36). Baked up in a ramekin, there was plenty of sweet, creamy crab with a just-right topping of custardy imperial sauce enfolded with buttery bread crumbs.
And the rest: When discussing the menu with us, our server stressed the fact that the side dishes are all big enough to share. The Prime Rib is not alone is creating pricey potato and veggie items that can be divvied up. But $10 for a baked potato or a serving of “creamed corn off the cob” and $12 for roasted artichoke hearts seems a bit much, especially if nobody else in your party wants baked potato or creamed corn.
Furthermore, the servings of corn and roasted artichoke hearts afforded only about one-and-a-half servings here. Granted, they were tasty, but not spectacularly so. And the au gratin potatoes (also $10) were somewhat underdone.
Ah, well, this may be a true test of whether or not you’re a high roller.
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