Sunday 20 April 2008

Don Roth's Blackhawk Prime Rib in Deerfield, Illinois

I've just come back from my first business trip to Chicago and have a wealth of foodie experiences to share! Having arrived in Chicago on Monday night I was feeling a bit disorientated and thought I would ground myself with some steak!

I asked the friendly staff at the Embassy Suites where I should go and they recommended the Black Hawk. Great atmosphere. Awesome meat. A free shuttle ride later and I was sat at my table in an empty restaurant! It was a Monday night so it wasn't really a surprise. With Jay Rayner's aptly keeping me company I had plenty of time to take in my surroundings and take stock of all the Blackhawk's back story.

Luckily most of this is on their website so here's an extract:

"Don Roth's Blackhawk in Wheeling has over 37 years experience serving great steaks, prime rib and absolutely fresh seafood in the historic home of the famous "Spinning Salad Bowl". Enjoy the history of Don Roth's original Blackhawk restaurant, which played a significant role in the big band era, and continues to exceed expectations daily.

At Don Roth's Blackhawk Restaurant, the atmosphere is paramount to good eating. In our restaurant, you will be surrounded by memorabilia from our original Blackhawk Restaurant in Chicago. The items that are seen in our establishment played a significant role in the dining and dancing era of the 20's, 30's and 40's.

Moreover, your ears will be filled with music that will delight your senses and appeal to your sense of nostalgia. Our staff is poised to serve you an excellent meal at your own pace. After all, the overall dining experience is our specialty."

There was plenty of memorabilia, in the way that TGI Friday's has mock memorabilia. And as for atmosphere. You could have cut it with a thing that doesn't cut very well. Apart from me there was a group of 5 fat middle aged salesmen and an elderly couple trying to pay with out of date vouchers!

My "server" Mary Beth was a gem. We bizarrely got into a chat about her forthcoming pilgrimage to Europe to do a tour of The Virgin Mary's holy sites. This is not an area that I feel very comfortable with so in some ways it was lucky she took the lead and just talked! She obviously thought that being on my own I need to have my ears filled with something!

When it came to ordering I asked for a black and blue Prime Rib and was greeted with a short, contrained laugh. Prime Rib is not steak. Whoops! It is a hunk of beef slow roasted for 10 hours and then served quiveringly soft with some chips and a light "au jus", or meat juice. My girls' size steak came with some horseradish cream and tasted delicious. They have a speciality and they do it superbly well. I have never had beef as tender as this. Why don't we have Prime Rib joints in London? Maybe because our meat would make it too expensive...

The Prime Rib was preceded by "Don Roth's Famous Spinning Salad" which simply invoves a blue cheese dressing salad being made at your table by the server who spins the aluminum (sic) bowl on a bed of ice for some showmanship.

To be fair to Don Roth, their specialities were fantastic. It's just a shame that the atmosphere they boast about on the website is so lacking in reality. Maybe it was my fault for arriving jet lagged, late on a Monday night!


Anonymous said...

That Prime Rib sounds good. I like to cook and was speaking with a sous chef from a 5 starred hotel and few days back. He was very quick to point out that 'real' meat is only cooked for 3 - 5 minutes and that my slow roasts were quite overdone.

I'll have to show him your post on the 10 hour cooking time mentioned and see what he has to say about it.


Browners said...

Cheers Sid! Was o so juicy. But could have done with a nice bit of browning on the outside of the meat and some crispy fat... whish it was possible to have the best of both worlds.


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