Thursday, February 9, 2012

Restaurant Review: Grand Hyatt Steakhouse

Location: Grand Hyatt Hotel, Wanchai
Type of food: steakhouse
Rating: *** (3 out of 5)

This generically named hotel restaurant opened in April 2011 and generated considerable buzz among meat lovers. It took me several months to get a reservation and when I finally did, the phone operator warned, "Bar table only." The night before the scheduled dinner, the same person phoned and offered me a booth by the oyster bar. Lesson of the day: you can always count on the many reservation squatters in the city to cancel at the last minute. Something always opens up.

The Dracula-inpsired interior at the Grand Hyatt Steakhouse

GHS boasts prime beef flown in daily from the U.S. (Nebraska), Canada and Japan. It has a salad bar, an oyster bar, a cigar room and a second floor party room that hosts corporate functions of up to 200 guests. Perhaps because the restaurant is out of the way (adjacent to the Exhibition Centre on the Wanchai harbor-front), there are far many more tai-tais than suits brandishing those sharp knives at the restaurant -- tai-tais who order salads and seafood at a steakhouse, as if to tell the world how gastronomically disciplined they are. The overall decor is designed to whet the carnivore's appetite for red meat and blood. The blue upholstery and carpeting, together with red high-back chairs, take you back to Dracula's Bran Castle in Transylvania. The private room at the corner features a decorative cast iron spiral staircase and dramatic drapery, straight from the Phantom of the Opera sets.

A private room that looks more like a vampire movie set

I ordered the crab cakes to start and it was a wise choice. The cakes were packed with big chunks of crab meat and they went well with my mojito. After that came my steak, an 18oz USDA rib-eye cooked medium rare and served with a red wine jus. Good thing that my dinner company and I ordered only one steak to share. 18oz was a lot of meat. Generous though the serving was, the steak was nothing to write home about. It had too much fat and the fat weighed me down like a wet blanket. By the time I finished my half of the steak, I had barely touched the side orders: white asparagus, duck fat potato fries and white cheddar Macaroni. I had already reached this month's limit for calories and my aorta was sufficiently blocked. But a meal isn't a meal without dessert. And so we wrapped things up with the restaurant's signature chocolate mud-pie and apple crumble. Fine desserts if I weren't stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey.

18oz is a lot of meat

The service at GHS was excellent and personal. When I first got there I asked to be moved from the sad little booth by the oyster bar to the main dining room. For no respectable Transylvanian count would ever take his meal outside the dining room. "No problem, Mr. Ng. Let me check." Done. When my steak came, I wanted to try a different sauce other than the red wine jus. "No problem, Mr. Ng, we have six different kinds of sauces. They are..." Done. Over the course of our meal, our server, the assistant manager and even the manager all came by to check up on us. Nice touch. I even forgot and forgave that my steak was too fatty. Hong Kong needs more places like GHS, where good service is not measured by how quickly the waiter clears your table.

I looked at my watch and it was 8:15pm. I had just finished a 2,500-calorie three-course dinner and the Victoria Harbour light show had barely just begun. It felt strange. And that's my biggest gripe about GHS. The food came and went too quickly, as did my whole dinner experience. Great restaurants like Petrus and Gaddi's know how to pace the courses, and so should GHS. My other gripe was their music. I don't know who DJ'ed this place but the music was deadly. Throughout the night, the overhead speakers blasted Duran Duran, Tom Jones and even Harry Nilsson. 60s classic Everybody's Talkin' was followed by karaoke favorite Ain't No Mountain High Enough. Did I just spend my Thursday night at TGI Friday ? All that suggests GHS still has much room for improvement.

Make no mistake -- GHS is not cheap. If you want a proper meal with drinks, don't expect to walk out for less than $2,000. GHS is a date place, a special occasion place. If you decide to go, be sure to tell your waiter not to bring out the entree right after your appetizer. Tell him you would like some time to talk to your date and enjoy your bordeaux.

2 comments:

  1. Jason,

    I have been there a few times and I guess I may be one of those ppl who ordered seafood in a steakhouse occasionally, coz' I was not hungry but my pals harrassed me to go there. On a side note: if you go there again, try the boring smoked salmon for appetizer or from the salad bar if you don't insist on having meat for your appetizer. They did a really good job the last time I went, much better than the same I have tried at any other places. The Porterhouse we ordered for the main course was good, it had none of the fatty embellishment you mentioned. Though 18 oz is mammoth, I can never finish more than 6 oz by myself. I nibbled on the 18 or 20 oz Porterhouse but the other guys managed to finish the rest. I half expect them to devour the bones too had they not wanted to save room for the desserts there. The ice cream (that came with the mud pie) and sundaes were immaculate.

    Yup, the service was certainly good. But to be honest I had no idea, objectively speaking, whether I get special service coz' I know a few captains / waiters there from another restaurant before or whether they do that to every patron. Certainly for a steakhouse inside the GH Hotel one should expect greater courtesy, right ? Though that is not the prevalent custom with restaurants in HK irrespective of whether they are in a respectable hotel, I very well know. Speaking of that being a date place: I once met a business associate there dining with his girlfriend, and knowing that he is into desserts I sprang another one on his table again. So you are not my only victim.

    Christine

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  2. Christine, I am curious: what other restaurant did those "captains/waiters" use to work for?

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