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Marcello’s Chophouse: I’m Sold (& Bought, & Paid For)

I go to Albuquerque for the sour-cream enchiladas, the sopaipillas dripping with honey, the Christmas (i.e., any dish with both red & green chile). I do not go for steak. Hell, I rarely go anywhere for steak. But I also hit the ‘Burque to visit my dad, and when a dad is turning 86, a dad gets what a dad wants—especially if he’s footing the bill.

And dear Dad wanted to celebrate with me, the Director, & his lovely platonic ladyfriend, on his dime, at Marcello’s Chophouse. So what kind of chow-whore would I be to say no?

Frankly, I expected a cut-rate high-desert version of your average, glittering, cosmopolitan cow palace. Instead I found an admirably indie, expectation-surpassing take on same. Sure, except for home-grown sparkling Gruet (& Montes from Chile’s Colchagua Valley, mainly because I fell in love with it on a visit last year upon discovering that they play Gregorian chants to lull the barrels in the cellar 18 hrs. a day), the wine list was mostly a California-centric snooze. But the food absolutely held its own.

Take the pan-seared foie gras over broiled polenta, pear compote & a port reduction—not that the accompaniments registered much below the perfect lobes, crisp on top, the interior so meltingly delicate that one could be forgiven for interpreting the fattiness of duck liver as purity. It’s just got, in some way, to be good for you, for your soul, even if the duck might beg to differ.

Although the pan-fried lump crabcake wasn’t as bursting with chunks of sweetness as the best versions are—particularly if eaten dockside somewhere along the eastern seaboard—a surprising amount of cayenne lent it a pleasant kick, balanced by lime-cilantro remoulade.

The chophouse salad was a lowlight, blander than it sounded. My guess is that the finer the chop, the more each bit gets lost in the water released by the fresh vegetables, especially if they’re present in far larger amounts than—let’s face it—the good stuff: salami, artichoke hearts, Kalamatas, garbanzos, toasted piñons & aged provolone.

But the grilled meats impressed in every way: rare, tender, simple, from the double-cut pork chop

to the Colorado lamb

to the petite filet mignon.

True to the standard steakhouse model of conspicuous consumption, the chops are all served à la carte, so ordering sides that cost as much as their weight in the burrito platters you could get down the street with all the fixings is a must. But that’s all part of the profligate fun, right?

And they were solid—traditional, comfortingly rich. From left: bright, crisp-tender buttered asparagus; creamed corn with bacon, green chile, & cornbread crumbs; truffled mac & cheese; 3-cheese potatoes au gratin (below)—although the lone freebie, a warm, soft loaf of butter-sweet, sundried-tomato-studded white bread, took the cake.

We did not take the cake for dessert; instead, the birthday boy opted for a deconstructed split with caramelized bananas; scoops of chocolate, vanilla & dulce de leche ice cream,; raspberry compote; cajeta (Mexican caramel sauce); chocolate syrup & cinammon-sugar-spiced pecans. Oh, & whipped cream. Again, not groundbreaking, but perfectly respectable from all angles.

Unlike our potguts afterward.

Marcello's Chophouse on Urbanspoon

KO KO: Bissonnette knocks us out (Boston)

Hitting KO Prime for the first time in a year, I came, I suspect, as close as I’ll ever come to celebrating the Saturnalia without actually traveling back in time to inhabit the body of a Roman slave, packing a week of howling, chest-pounding debauchery into an evening (that, granted, began around noon with lunch & cocktails at dante, continued with more cocktails at UpStairs on the Square & still more cocktails plus apps at Hungry Mother, & ended with a nightcap or two at No. 9 Park). As promised here—where the pics below of chef Jamie Bissonnette’s signature bone marrow & surely-soon-to-be-signature calves’ brains piperade (essentially a Basquaise sofrito, heavy on the peppers) 1st appeared—what follows is a montage that, I imagine, speaks for itself, albeit in a slur devolving into a series of grunts.

KOamuse

ceviche amuse

KOham

house-cured Bayonne ham, jamón ibérico & Cape Fear country ham with pickled lily stems & truffled aioli

KOmarrow

marrow strewn with pickled shallots over oxtail marmalade

KOseabass

pan-roasted sea bass over heirloom corn relish

KOtomatosalad

heirloom tomato salad with crottin (an aged goat cheese from Vermont) & a brushstroke of avocado

KObrains

delicious, creamy-as-pudding BRAINS sprinkled with fried capers

KOsteak

Kobe flatiron with grilled onions & romesco, professedly, though I remain confused by the profession; although almonds and stale bread are key in traditional recipes for the Spanish sauce, so are red peppers—sweet & dried chile—& tomato, & the color of the final product generally reflects as much.

KOsoup

lobster bisque with a touch of sauternes

KOdessert2

absolutely no recollection. cocoa-dusted cheesecake? semifreddo? with mint coulis?

KOdessert1

essentially a blueberry muffin top with chocolate gelato shaped like a daisy-sprouting egg. How adorably like the whole thing was transported in a time machine made out of a vinyl beanbag from the patchwork-filled kitchen of a free-love commune circa 1972 & not at all like something you could order in a postmillennial steakhouse & lounge is that? The sauce should spell out “war is not healthy for children & other living things.”