Expensive mis-steak

Some of the guys and I decided to have a men-only dinner and figured; what better place than an American-style steak house?  We chose Ruth’s Chris at the Monarch Hotel Dubai.  Imagine the setting: dark wood and leather everywhere, dim lighting, high-backed chairs, and jazz music in the background.  It was a scene straight out of a mobster movie.

Maitre d’s and liveried waiters started appearing out of the ether to offer us assistance with the menu.  The wine waiter came over and recommended an expensive bottle of red to get the evening started.  This was an offer we couldn’t refuse, and while the prices of the food seemed high, we were in for the full experience – ambiance, service, music, the works.

So far so good.  We were having a great time, the jokes and Godfather references had already begun.  In fact all we were missing was an appearance by Al Pacino himself to make this the ultimate guys’ night out.

The wine arrived, was opened and served with an elaborate ceremony that we believed presaged a great drink.  Unfortunately the wine waiter’s opinion (it turns out that he was not actually a sommelier) and description were substantially different than the run of the mill wine we were served.  We chalked it up to experience.  A Michael Buble song started playing over the sound system and we had a good laugh about the method we might use to select the NEXT bottle.

Appetizers came next.  Standard orders were placed; 2 soups and 2 salads.  These were can’t-go-wrong-appetizers right? WRONG.  Salads were salty and over dressed, and the soups were plain.  Nonetheless we reassured one another that the mains (all steaks) were coming soon and would be fantastic.  In fact all the rest of this stuff was just a warm up for the main event of meat.

It was around this time that we started to realize that the chairs, while impressive looking, were actually not very comfortable for extended periods of sitting.  We all figured that’s the price you pay for the meal you choose.

For our mains I ordered the small filet mignon with 6 added prawns as did another one of the group, there was an order of the large filet mignon and the last of us order the rib eye.  We are all medium guys.  We heard the plates before we saw them – sizzling.  The steaks come out very simply presented with just the meat on blistering hot white plates covered in butter.  When they put the plates in front of you, the first thing you think of is popcorn as that butter smells works through you.

This is where the plot thickens.

My friend who ordered the rib eye asked for mustard before his plate was down, even apologizing to the waiter for having forgotten to request it in advance.

I looked at my plate and was immediately concerned so I cut into my steak while the waiter was there and confirmed my fears that the meat was overcooked.  The already small filet had been cut in half before cooking in order to present 3 of the “prawns” on each half.  As a lean cut of meat, filet has to be cooked to a maximum temperature of medium to remain moist – a challenge at the best of times and made more difficult the smaller the cut.  Also, the “prawns” that I had expected to be the typical UAE monsters looked like the little ones you can buy precooked and frozen at the grocery store.

At this point the wine waiter came over to ask if we wanted another bottle of the same.  I asked for the wine list and sent him on his way while we dealt with the food.

Before the waiter finished serving the side dishes I showed him the grey colored middle of my steak and told him that the meat was overcooked.  His response, “No sir, that is what medium looks like.”  Rather than debating with this guy I asked to speak with the manager and had the other small filet checked for preparedness (same story).  I also reminded the waiter that Rib Eye was waiting for mustard.

The wine waiter returned with the list and tried to engage me in a discussion about options for a new bottle.  I asked him to come back shortly.

A few minutes later the manager appeared and asked me what the problem was, I showed him the steak and told him that this was not medium but well done.  He agreed, removed my plate and that of my friend, Small Filet.  He assured us that he would replace the meals quickly.  I told him that Rib Eye had now been waiting several minutes for mustard and had therefore not started eating, that in fact his steak was getting cold while he waited for what should have been a simple thing.

Just as the manager left, the wine waiter came back to see if maybe we would like to order some wine by the glass while we decided on another bottle.  He got a dirty look and a request to return after a few moments.

Large Filet was half way through his meat at this point and the sides were getting cold.  Small Filet and I had no plates yet and Rib Eye still had no mustard so I called over another server and requested mustard again, only with more force.  This is the moment the wine waiter chose to return and ask if we had made any decisions.  I told him (quick loudly) that we were not interested in wine at this time, rather that some mustard would be nice since we had requested it 10 minutes ago and several times since.  He left without hesitation.

After another 5 minutes the manager returned with our 2 small filet and prawns dishes, again with the steak cut in half.  I check the preparation and found that it was medium.  The smiling manager then asked if there was anything else he could do!  I let him know that mustard seemed to be a valuable commodity in his restaurant and that we were not impressed with the food or the service.  That in fact this was not what we had come to expect from a chain like Ruth’s Chris.  He apologized and ran off to deal with our concerns.

1 minute later a waiter appeared with mustard and a smile.  We thanked him.

1 minute after that a different waiter appeared with mustard and an apology.  We laughed.

Then 2 more waiters – one from each side of the room – appeared with more mustard.

Finally, the wine waiter appeared with mustard.

At this point we figured it couldn’t get any sillier that it already had and decided to laugh it off while we tucked into our food.  We were just getting started when another guy dressed like the manager appeared.  He introduced himself as the restaurant manager and asked if everything was NOW alright.  He had a tone in his voice that suggested that he was quite pleased with himself and a little annoyed by our table, so I let him have it with both barrels.

“Is everything alright now? No its not.  One of us finished his meal before the rest of us could eat because 2 steaks were over cooked.  We had to ask for mustard 5 times, suffer side dishes that had become cold by the time we started eating, debated what medium looks like in a steak, pay a premium for frozen shrimp, and ask for the manager in order to get everything we ordered.  On the other hand, while trying to get properly cooked steaks and mustard the wine waiter seemed to have lots of time on his hands because he came over trying to upsell wine at least 5 times.  So NO, everything is not now alright, but we will suffer through it.”

That made him loose is arrogant smile in a hurry.  5 minutes later, just as we were finishing our steaks, new sides started to appear, both the ones that we ordered as well as every other side on the menu.  This was the manager’s attempt to placate us with potatoes, but what he should have done is given us some of the food for free which he did not.

All in all it was a bad experience and certainly not worth the money.  Ruth’s Chris is an offer we CAN refuse.


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