Need and want are two very different concepts.
Having finally propelled itself away from its meat-and-potatoes foundation, the Twin Cities doesn’t really require the services of another steakhouse. But then along comes an effort as impressive as P.S. Steak, and want becomes as primal an urge as need.
That should come as no surprise, since the restaurant is the work of Jester Concepts owner Brent Frederick and culinary director Mike DeCamp. Through their productive collaborations at Borough, Parlour and Monello, the two have become a powerful force in the local dining scene. P.S. Steak, which opened earlier this year, is their crown jewel.
You might also recognize DeCamp from his long tenure at La Belle Vie, the starry restaurant that previously occupied 510 Groveland Av. (he’s viewing the latter as a postscript to the former, hence the P.S. name). At this most storied of restaurant properties, they’ve created a steakhouse that both embraces and subverts the genre’s conventions.
Yes, the beef is first-rate, and the half-dozen cuts are treated with obvious finesse and expertise.
Those cuts, all prime or better, merit exploration. Some are oddballs, in a good way. The Denver, for example, beautifully marbled, had a firmer texture than a tenderloin and a deep, mineral-rich flavor. The menu’s most affordably priced cut, the $35 shoulder steak, was heavy with juice and had an intense, thirst-triggering depth of flavor.
My advice: Go with a group and share the magnificent dry-aged bone-in ribeye, a 32-oz. bruiser that cuts like a dream.
For a sense of the kitchen’s detail-oriented ethos — again, this is far above the standard steakhouse’s pay grade — let’s concentrate on the kitchen’s miraculous hash browns.
They’re russets, baked in a low-temperature oven to dry them out. After being cooled overnight, they’re peeled, finely shredded, shaped into a low-rising disk, liberally salted and fried in a hedonistic 3:1 ratio of clarified butter and beef fat until the outsides take on a deep amber color and a pronounced crispiness. That gruff exterior quickly yields to something quite opposite: a steamy, mashed potato-like consistency. If there are hash browns in the afterlife, they surely resemble these.
Another spectacular example of the kitchen’s all-or-nothing mentality is its over-the-top approach to mashed potatoes. It’s essentially a carefully calibrated mix — roughly 50/50 — of potato purée and cave-aged Gruyère cheese, and there’s nothing basic about the results; who would have ever thought that the word voluptuous could apply to mashed tubers?
“We want to be more refined, to match the building,” said DeCamp. “If we’re not paying close attention to the food, we wouldn’t be doing justice to the space.”
That’s true of just about every side dish coming out of the kitchen, whether it’s a rainbow platter of roasted heirloom carrots, stunning in its fall-colors beauty, or Brussels sprouts punched up with pine nuts and a smoked Italian ham, a combination I’m totally stealing for Thanksgiving dinner.
Even the spaetzle reaches beyond the ordinary, thanks to its reliance upon sour cream and tangy robiola cheese; it’s the kitchen’s gleeful version of mac-and-cheese, seasoned with plenty of black pepper and available with teasingly sweet poached lobster.
“Some places might make lobster mac-and-cheese,” said DeCamp. “We have lobster spaetzle.”
Unlike the vast majority of steakhouses, where menus tend to remain fixed, forever, DeCamp and chef de cuisine Wyatt Evans switch items up, taking their cues from seasonal rhythms.
Last spring, I lucked into lamb chops, the rich, ruby-red meat clinging to long, curving bones that were sculpturally arranged on a platter. I loved the kitchen’s version of pork schnitzel, a sublime variation of the humble Iowa Skinny sandwich, minus the bun; it’s been replaced by a more traditional (but no less delicious) dry-aged pork chop.
Right now, DeCamp and Evans are aging ducks for two weeks in the dining room’s showy cases — they’re 5-pounders, a cross between Pekins and mallards — a process that makes the roasted, fat-capped breasts ultra-tender and prodigiously juicy. The meat, sliced thick, is paired with tart cranberries and smoky wild rice, a timeless combination.
Other steakhouse classics are treated with proper reverence: sweet scallops, seared into golden succulence; salmon that’s crisped up on the outside, slightly creamy on the inside; expertly garnished ocean-fresh oysters; and the kind of snappy shrimp cocktail that you hope to encounter but rarely do.
Still, they’re also upending (and improving upon) time-honored expectations: subbing in kale for creamed spinach, brightening a Caesar with celery root, introducing vivid Korean flavors into steak tartare, calling upon delicate rye gnocchi to enrich a textbook edition of caramelized onion soup, sneaking thyme into butter-glazed Parker House rolls.
And it’s not too many beef palaces that offer a five-course, prepaid tasting menu. At P.S. Steak, it’s served exclusively at the steakhouse bar, three nights a week, and it’s a smart vehicle for Evans’ reflexive responses to seasonal, local fare, a skill set that was in full bloom at his former Heirloom in St. Paul. Check it out: The current option celebrates the wonders of fermentation and oxidation. It’s a cerebral exercise that is eons away from Steakhouse 101, yet it still manages to incorporate beef.
Pastry chef Jo Garrison’s playful handiwork skillfully elevates All-American basics, from brownies to sundaes to fruit crisps. Her most entertaining effort is a must, a towering baked Alaska that exudes salted caramel and espresso flavors and is dramatically ignited with Green Chartreuse, a swankier alternative to the usual rum.
Grace notes abound. There are magnifying devices for the large-print dining demographic. The menu includes a guide to nearby restaurants, a rarely extended generosity. As perks go, the complimentary (don’t forget to tip), oh-so-handy valet parking is as lavish as the dining room’s crown molding.
Yes, the setting is as unabashedly sumptuous as ever, proving that P.S. Steak is a worthy steward of this priceless Ode to Old Money, which has graciously presided over this key corner of Minneapolis since 1927. Shea Design of Minneapolis has instituted several brilliant tweaks.
The dining room, painted a handsome tobacco brown and lined with roomy booths, is far more intimate and romantic (and, yes, still elegant) than any standard-issue steakhouse. A built-in sense of occasion remains, minus any traces of starchy stuffiness.
An adjacent overflow space, once a poor relation to its splendid neighbor, has been brilliantly transformed. It’s now a stunner of a bar. Snug and sexy, it doubles as a pitch-perfect entry into the dining room. As for the lounge, it has been restored to its aristocratic glory, a premium environment for reveling in the cocktail arts and a beaut of a platform for bar manager Keith Mrotek’s imaginative libations.
Which sparks the question, “What price beauty?” The answer will most likely be brace yourself, because P.S. Steak can be unabashedly expensive. At more than one visit, the gasp-inducing bill prompted my imagination into various unpleasant scenarios involving the Expense Report Boo-Boo Room.
Then again, most steakhouses reside in a different economic universe, one where wines by the glass average $16, non-beef entrees reach into the mid-$40s and “accessories and enhancements” include a $3 fried egg.
On the flip side, DeCamp and Evans don’t forget the little people. Prices in the lounge lean toward the everyday, and include some honest-to-goodness happy hour bargains, served 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays. The best deal? The dreamiest meatballs, served in a punchy red sauce, drop from $17 to $10, although saving $4 for a first-rate cheeseburger (always order a burger in a steakhouse, right?) isn’t too shabby.
Initially, DeCamp was planning to enter the brunch wars, but after assessing the crowded market he’s taken a different tack. Instead, the formidable-looking restaurant takes on a more egalitarian edge via a series of casual Sunday afternoon barbecues; the next two are scheduled for Nov. 17 and Dec. 15.
“We hope to do it every Sunday, after the first of the year,” said DeCamp.
Brisket from DeCamp and Evans? Yeah, I’ll be wanting some of that.