Bullish time for a steakhouse

Big meat, big wine list and big prices come with the territory at charming, cozy Jordan's.

Restaurant Review

April 14, 2002|By Elizabeth Large | By Elizabeth Large,Sun Restaurant Critic

High-end steakhouses being the cash cows they are these days, it's not surprising that another one has opened in the area. Jordan's is in the right place -- Ellicott City, which as far as I know doesn't have any other high-end steakhouses -- at the right time, which is any time you're selling enormous hunks of prime beef.

Restaurateurs Jordan and Ivette Naftal have converted one of Main Street's narrow buildings into a period restaurant with a certain Victorian charm. As you enter, there's a funky little bar and an open (but certainly not a show) kitchen to the right. The dining rooms are up a steep set of stairs.

Upstairs, the ceilings and walls above dark wainscoting are painted a deep red-orange, with monkey sconces holding little fringed lamps. Tufted banquettes and easy chairs are scattered here and there. The lights are low. Right now, the rooms are romantic and cozy; on a summer day, the hot, dark colors may not be as appealing.

Jordan's has all the ingredients of a successful steakhouse: prime beef, a wide-ranging wine list heavy on reds, fabulous bread, a la carte prices and -- ah, yes -- creamed spinach. Naturally, it also has a gimmick to set it apart from other steakhouses. At Jordan's you can get most of the steaks in either USDA Choice or Prime ($28 vs. $39 for a 24-ounce porterhouse, for instance).

One of my guests gallantly said "Choice" when asked how he wanted his porterhouse, so as not to run up the Sun's tab, I presume. I leapt in and ordered the same cut of meat "Prime" -- only for the purposes of comparison, of course. My steak was thicker and more attractively charred; the flavor of his was equally good, but the texture was a bit mushier. Mine was cooked perfectly medium rare, as we both had ordered; his was closer to medium. Both came with steak frites -- pencil-thin, crisp-edged french fries.

The steaks were more spectacular than the 14 ounces of rosy prime rib, but it had its own quiet appeal. Only the broiled tuna steak our nonmeat eater ordered was less than satisfying. Ordered medium rare, the tuna came so rare it was barely seared. The waiter agreed there was none of the promised teriyaki glaze on it, so he brought some in a bowl -- not quite the same as broiling it with the glaze.

Naturally, we had to order a couple of a la carte vegetables. The fine creamed spinach wasn't just mush; it had real flavors of cream and spinach. The brocco-lini, a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale, was perfectly cooked. The only problem was that we had ordered broccoli, and at $6 a pop, the waiter ought to have warned us in advance, or at least not have said airily, "Oh, yes, the kitchen's been serving broccolini instead of broccoli for a couple of weeks now. They ought to change it on the menu."

Jordan's appetizers are as straightforward as its entrees. Look no further than the signature grilled Caesar salad. The warm hearts of romaine have a smoky edge, intensified by a creamy dressing, Asiago, pine nuts and bits of roasted tomato. Mussels steamed in white wine and Pernod are plump and satisfying, and it's hard to quit eating the good bread soaked in the sauce. Small but succulent oysters are so good they don't need the mignonette sauce -- but I'm a purist. Others will probably love the combination of briny-sweet mollusk and jazzed-up vinaigrette.

Only one of us struck out with her appetizer. (Unfortunately, it was the same one who ordered the tuna.) Her roasted marinara and cheese first course turned out to be a ramekin of enough tomato sauce swirled with Bel Paese, goat and blue cheeses to feed the table -- a pub first course that wasn't in the same league as the other starters.

Jordan's keeps dessert simple. There are four choices: tiramisu, chocolate pate, creme brulee and gelato. The creme brulee is creamy and suave, but it doesn't hold a candle to the thin slices of dense chocolate pate surrounded with creme anglaise flavored with Licor 43, the citrus-vanilla-flavored liqueur. Jordan's version of tiramisu comes in a martini glass and feels as if it's been assembled last minute. It has layers of ingredients without the melding of flavors the best tiramisus have.

Your best bet for dessert if the chocolate pate doesn't appeal is a fine coconut gelato with Grand Marnier and strawberries, but expect to pay a staggering $11 for it.

Jordan's Steakhouse

Food: ** 1/2

Service: ** 1/2

Atmosphere: ** 1/2

Where: 8085 Main St., Ellicott City

Hours: Open for dinner nightly

Prices: Appetizers, $4-$12; main courses, $19-$61

Call: 410-461-9776

Outstanding: ****; Good: ***; Fair or uneven: **; Poor: *

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