By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
It's Sunday, the only day of the week other than Monday to test-drive this particular Ounce Prime Steakhouse signature. A full dinner: prime rib, 14 ounces; salad or soup; crème brûlée or cheese cake; Yukon mashed potatoes; a button of polenta stamped with the ancient symbol for the ounce—a "z" welded to the top of a "3"—filled with balsamic vinegar, giving it an inky luster.
As the signature appears—the meat red and dripping, glazed and mottled with fat, a silver ramekin of silty jus over a votive flame—the breathy pulsing music of Moby leaches from the walls. One Moby song after another. Moby is that New York City DJ who got rich riveting together songs and sonic textures from a junkyard heap of synthesized tempos and melodic scrap.
The irony is as rich as the bloody drool from the prime rib. Moby is a committed vegan. He preaches the virtues of veganism on his CD liner notes—its healthfulness, its minimal reliance on violence, its environmental benefits. A note on the latter point: Globally, husbanding livestock generates more greenhouse gases than does the entire transportation sector, according to the United Nations. So if you adopt the faith that humankind is driving the globe inexorably toward climatic calamity (CNN founder Ted Turner says it will turn us all into cannibals, a prospect which must drive the vegan community to the Wailing Wall), commuting in a Suburban is a more earth-friendly lifestyle choice than regular backyard steak and rib 'cues on the Weber.
14866 Montfort Drive
Dallas, TX 75254-7518
Region: North Dallas
But these are Prime's indulgences. The menu reels off New York strips, bone-in rib eyes, fillets and porterhouses broiled into sybaritic exuberance at 1,800 degrees. But Ounce goes beyond the simple fat-pocked rib eye. It elevates steakhouse hedonism to art form with an exquisite substance called Akaushi beef, a subset of Japanese cattle-breed exotica.
How exquisite? Ounce devotes a whole wall—painted the color of oxygen-deprived blood—to dinner plates signed in black Sharpie by the Akaushi-smitten. "Wonderful Akaushi," says one. "We love your meat," says another. "Moby, call your defibrillator," says yet another (just kidding).
Akaushi is to prime beef what Mother Teresa is to the contemporary saint industry. "An astounding three grades above prime," boasts Ounce. Akaushi is one of Japan's prized cattle breeds—a national treasure. Through some loophole in international trade legalities, a few of these prized beasts made their way to Texas in 1994, igniting a nationalistic hue and cry in Japan. The loophole was soon squelched. But the few that made it to Texas were meticulously husbanded to keep the breed pure. There are now 5,000 of them in South Texas, the only herd of its kind outside of Japan.
If you visit Ounce for no other reason, do it for the Akaushi and their Texas heritage. You can pay $100 for the privilege of knifing a 14-ounce Akaushi New York strip, or a mere $48 to sample a 10-ounce flatiron, a cut from the shoulder of the steer that is the second-most tender beef cut after the tenderloin. It's perfectly square, puffed up slightly like a bun—though it is substantially thinner than a rib eye. Yet it is infinitely richer, woven as it is with a wire harness of fat capillaries that melt and leach into the meat fibers, utterly transforming it into a new species of savor rattling. The meat is so lustrous and rich, so rippled with complex layers of flavor, so smooth and creamy, you don't as much wring pleasures from it with jaws and teeth as you do with suction. It's like eating foie gras—a big hulking hunk of it sweating out an extracted nuttiness not unlike a dry-aged rib eye. It's an arresting plate of meat.
Ounce is another in a long line of emasculated contemporary steakhouses eager to carve out its own distinctive manner of upscale indulgence. A gas-log fireplace smolders in the dining room, which is well-stocked with high-back chairs upholstered in textured black leather. There are two glass-enclosed private rooms, one with a long, polished marble tabletop, the other with wine racks where cigars can be fired and puffed, this being Addison. Yet the wine list eschews some of the typical steakhouse pricing atrocities, offering a handful of bottles priced between $45 and $75 in each category plus a list of 30 wines by the glass, perhaps ripping a paragraph from Fleming's Prime Steakhouse, which offers 100 of them.
No surprise then that Ounce was brought to Addison from San Antonio by restaurateurs Jorge Fernandez and Danny Schertzer, an alum of Fleming's Prime Steakhouse who has since departed from the operation. Their plot: to expand Ounce into a snaking steakhouse chain.
The staples are all here. There's a spread of prime carpaccio, as thin and pervious as a bloodied French lace doily. Servers deftly spread capers and slivers of red onion and Dijon aioli over the meat sheets and roll and clip them with spoons and forks and apportion the cigar-shaped clippings over grilled crostini. It's as rich as it is tenuous.
Ounce service is top-notch. Servers make unobtrusive suggestions and adjustments. They know the intricacies of the menu. They'll tell you that that harmonious surge of sweet-sour on the house salad, a large puff of greens with long tongues of shaved carrot coiled and spread over the top, is from the champagne vinaigrette. They'll explain that the pucker-inducing sauce bathing the coconut-crusted royal red shrimp is ginger lime ponzu, well-silted with herbs.
It is the attempts to make the concept approachable that stumble. The iceberg wedge, served on a chilled plate littered with yellow and red teardrop tomatoes, candied pecans and a few applewood-smoked bacon chips, was dressed in a thin Roquefort dressing with few cheese crumbles. You could easily sex up this steakhouse cliché by covering it with sizzling—instead of chilled—bacon crumbles, creating not only lusty savor but compelling textural tension.
Hot bacon works well in the mac & cheese (fast becoming the iceberg wedge of steakhouse sides, or as they are classified at Ounce, accessories), adding grit to the creamy rich yellow cheese clinging to the elbow macaroni. Caesar salad, with crisp roasted red pepper pesto crostini covered with a mesh of melted Parmesan, was excessively salted and void of any discernible anchovy and lemon. Australian barramundi—a fish similar to sea bass—in smoked tomato coulis and topped with fried leeks was dredged in a coating that turned pasty on the plate.
Better was the lime cheesecake, a hulking wedge with a thick craggy graham cracker crust—crisp as a dry twig—girding citrus-sharpened custard.
Ounce is a well-polished entrant into Dallas steakhouse lore with more than a few mediocrities sprinkled through its grand accomplishments that, once teased out, are worth their price. In fact, everyone should taste Akaushi beef at least once—if not for the taste, then for the vegan-related schadenfreude.
14866 Montfort Drive, Addison, 972-503-5800. Open 4-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-12 a.m. Friday and Saturday. $$$$