Eatery - Ruth's Chris Steak House (CA)

Ruth's Chris Steak House on Urbanspoon

2961 Michelson Dr, Irvine, CA 92612
Pricing - $$/$$$ | Dining - Dressy Casual | Cuisine - Steakhouse

Before you get up in arms about my reviewing a "chain restaurant" (since I said I don't ever do that on my blog), you have to consider what makes each Ruth's Chris Steak House uniquely its own. When Duc and I went, we learned that the wine lists are determined by the managers themselves as well as by some of employees who opine their favorites in line with the growing wine list. If you asked Duc, they have great taste at the Irvine location since their list was impressively chosen and well-fitting to the steakhouse fare. Let's not detract though and get down to the business of their business.

We were invited to try out their lunch menu (only available on Fridays from 11:30-2:00pm during their normal season, W-F during special seasons such as Christmas) after having met dear manager Jennifer at the Golden Foodie Awards (from whom we had our favorite tasting) and communicating with their office administrator Mia. The restaurant itself is in an unassuming plaza area in Irvine right alongside other small eateries for office buildings nearby. Its exterior is unassuming as well but once you enter, you see the dark wooden walls and decor quite compatible with a steakhouse feel. After taking a quick walk-through of the place, I saw that it was much more expansive than I had previously imagined with a "window room" that featured a rounded wall of ceiling-to-floor windows for a panoramic outside view, a "wine room" of tables and booths that are commonly used for private events and house several of their wine bottles, a "bar room" that showcased an impressively stocked bar and taller barstool-height chairs, and a "dining room" for regular dining. When you walk in at first though, you see a long hallway with a library of wines (complete with sliding ladder!) straight ahead and a lobster tank on your right. A large place indeed!


We dined in what I'll call the bar room. With the service of the very knowledgeable Shelley, we were treated quite well and even told that the dining experience would be our own; I appreciated being able to choose my own fate for the menu rather than be directed to just what the restaurant wanted to feature. To start off, we had to whet our palate with some drinks. Ruth's Chris offers a large selection of drink options aside from the wine list (very tempting as Duc said more than once that he liked their offerings), and in that selection there were hand-crafted cocktails both inspired by vintage cocktails and complete spins on classics. I opted for the French Quarter 75 (Domaine Chandon Bubbly, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, a splash of Beefeater Gin, and freshly squeezed lemon sour garnished with a raspberry and lemon twist) - how do I say no to gin? It was refreshing, bubbly, and delicate; a well-made cocktail that treated me out to a sweet experience without an overbearing alcohol taste. Duc's was their fresh grapefruit daiquiri (10 Cane rum, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, freshly squeezed lime, and ruby red grapefruit juices) which was poured in front of us for some beautiful action shots. His was very much a grapefruit drink but without the fuss of bitterness. It was mixed well and balanced perfectly.


The bread that came out was pretty much the only thing they served that wasn't housemade but even this was delivered to their restaurant daily and second-baked by them. The whipped butter it came with was heavenly being both creamy and airy at the same time. Did you know that they are just about full-on butter connoisseurs there? You want a different housemade butter? You've got it - they have hard, soft, unsalted, salted, whipped, garlic, and even lemon. To be honest, the butter actually outshone the bread! Anyhow, we started with an appetizer of their mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat (broiled mushroom caps with jumbo lump crab stuffing, sprinkled with Romano cheese) - a serving of four large mushrooms broiled in the very same serving dish they came out on. They were crusty on top, juicy in the middle, and thickly savory at the bottom; an abundant crab-filled mushroom with plenty of flavor and fun.


Our ordered meals themselves were appropriately priced for a steakhouse lunch but modestly priced for their quality. We had starters with our entrees as well as sides so let's gander at those first. Duc began his experience with Ruth's Chop Salad (an original salad recipe with julienned iceberg lettuce, baby spinach and raddicchio tossed with red onions, mushrooms, green olives, bacon, eggs, hearts of palm, croutons, and Bleu cheese dressed with their housemade lemon basil dressing and topped with crispy onion strings). Is that a lot of ingredients? It made a difference though as compared to a regular ol' salad. First of all, it was gorgeously presented as a tower of freshness but secondly, it tasted better than it looked. The many ingredients were married together so cohesively with the sweet dressing and the crispy onions gave a nice crunch to it all. I had a cup of their lobster bisque which came with plenty of lobster meat and smoothness! As for sides, since he had ordered the steak & frites, shoestring fries came out extra thin and crispy with black pepper and herbs. Skinniest fries I've seen but packed a delicious punch! We also had their sweet potato casserole with a pecan crust (again, baked in the same serving dish it came out in) that we had originally fallen in love with when sampling at the Golden Foodie Awards. It was even better freshly baked! Why call this a side when dolloping a big scoop of ice cream on top would make it the perfect dessert? The crust was brown sugary and nutty goodness, and the sweet potato was the sweetest and smoothest sweet potato I've had. I have to say that this is the best way I've ever had sweet potatoes - no lie. Fun fact: this used to be on their secret menu until it became so popular that it had to be added to the regular menu.


How was there even room for entrees after all of this?! We made space somehow though because, well, it was that good. As I had said, Duc got the steak and frites so his plate came topped with a juicy USDA prime, 11 ounce New York Strip steak cooked medium rare. Their beef is corn-fed and proudly chosen from the top 2% picks of meat. Duc had something to say about that, and that was "oh my god." Claimed to be Ruth's favorite herself, this New York Strip steak was prepared the original way Ruth had all steaks prepared - flash fried and then broiled at 1800°F to lock in all the juices before being served in a 500° plate that was first topped in butter. The steak stays hot and the butter that melts from the meat's heat itself combines with the juices for an "impromptu" au jus. Who can say no to that? As for me, it was lunchtime so their seared ahi tuna salad (fresh field greens, red onions, crunchy vegetables, and slices of blackened ahi-tuna in a honey-Thai sauce) appealed to me; it came out looking too beautiful to eat though! The tuna was so soft, almost melt-in-your-mouth, and the greens were varied and well dressed in the sweet but tangy sauce. The pickled pink ginger added a nice fresh spiciness every once in a while as well.


I know what you're thinking - "This is a long blog post...when did you stop eating?!" Well luckily for you, I can end here by saying that we didn't order dessert despite the fantastic selection. Luckily for us though, Jennifer was oh so kind enough to force us to take a cheesecake to go. She said not to take a picture of it but we wanted to anyway to pay at least some homage to how delicious it was. The picture does not do the cheesecake justice for it was glorious with its thick all-around crust and creamy, rich filling topped with the freshest berries. Lovely, lovely.

Everyone at Ruth's Chris Steak House - Irvine was very courteous and friendly, and I can definitely see why you would put your enthusiasm behind such a place. There is so much history there. For those of you who don't know, Ruth's Chris Steak House has locations in 34 states and 6 countries outside of the U.S. (which is so impressive!) but didn't start that way. Nope, it began in 1965 in New Orleans instead with one little steakhouse that Ruth Fertel purchased after mortgaging her home; she had to keep the name "Chris Steak House" but wanted to make it hers so added on her name (explanation as to the quirky name!). She only recently passed away a few years ago but up until then, had frequently visited all of the different establishments and lent her expertise to the large conglomerate it had become. That sounds like a success story if I ever heard one! What a neat and fun place to dine at - I'm sure we'll be back. Thank you to Shelley, Jennifer, and Mia for everything!

Photography by Duc Duong.