Ruth’s Starters: Parlay to Filet
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The difference between a steakhouse steak and one from a restaurant that serves steak is often most evidenced by portion size. Steakhouses don’t do tiny and neither does Ruth’s Chris when it comes to appetizers. Yes, Honolulu, pupus can be both hearty and tasty.
Starters at the famed Restaurant Row eatery are not just ample in the key ingredients, but also in the side items that in some places serve as mere decoration. Not here. The salads, starches, breads and leafy green sides are enough to push the starters nearly into the realm of main course mainstays. These are appetizers to share.
A perfect example is Barbecued Shrimp ($19). Beyond being one of the best shrimp dishes I’ve ever eaten, the large shrimp, sauce and side of garlic mashed potatoes are as flavorful as they are hearty. Perfectly moist and full of flavor, the shrimp is sauteed New Orleans style in a reduced white wine sauce with barbecue Cajun butter, garlic and spices. Slightly crispy, the shrimp snaps when you bite into it, mixing the carefully combined flavors from the saute with the natural sweet juices from the shrimp’s interior. Outstanding.
Another appetizer is Veal Osso Bucco Ravioli ($17). Saffron-fused pasta filled with veal and fresh mozzarella, and served with sauteed baby spinach with a white wine demiglace. Slow braised veal makes for a rich ravioli, and the pronounced cheese flavor is perfectly offset by the Cajun spices that coat and surround the tender pockets. Serving a much greater role than simple colorful adornment, the spinach is a crispy palate cleanser that makes the next bite as special as the first.
Oysters Rockefeller ($17.95) is pure delicious decadence. Spinach, bacon and caramelized onions are deglazed with a Pernod and placed upon the five large oysters on the half shell. Topped with a Hollandaise, the dish is baked at 450 degrees for eight minutes and served on a flaming plate. Yes, they flambe the Oysters Rockefeller which not only ensures jealous looks from neighboring diners, but keeps the oysters at a suitable temperature. More surprising than the presentation is the range of flavors executive chef Eli Low infuses into each bite. The oysters are creamy, buttery, tangy, crunchy, peppery, salty and smoky. Anything more would be too much.
The hardest appetizer to describe may be the best one. Beef Carpaccio ($19) is a thinly-sliced rare filet served with caesar dressing, Parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper. Garnished with a mixed green salad and garlic crostini, the well-marbled beef is so buttery soft it nearly melts in your mouth. Placed upon the crostini, maybe even add some of the greens, and the carpaccio is, well, delicious. What else is there to say? Try it. Seriously. It’s that good!
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu
Daily 5-10 p.m.
Private luncheon dining available