A funny thing happened last week. I went to give blood (that's not the funny thing, I've been doing it for lots of years) and I almost got pipped at the post. Normally I am the perfect blood-giver; high iron levels, healthy (if not too healthy) weight, universal donor blood type, no unusual travels or (ahem) life experiences that would disqualify me, and positively bubbling with precious bodily fluids begging to be siphoned off.
But my finger-stick test showed my iron levels to be just on marginal for donation. Has the advice of my dietitian to eat more fruit, fish and veg caused me to be unable to do my civic duty? Happily, a venous sample showed me to be safely above the iron line, and the leeching proceeded. But I left vowing not to let the Blood Bank ever again be left in a position where they may not be able to access my juices for the public good.
I needed a steak. And how does a manly man eat his steak?
Or possibly medium rare, depending on the cut.
42-44 King St, Melbourne
As I've said previously, there are a few different types of steakhouse in Melbourne. There are your Vlados, where huge primal* slabs of meat are hurled at you and not much else. There are your Rockpools, high temples of beef where it's all about grass feeding, marbling, and how long they can keep it dry ageing before they serve it to you.
*Yes, I know, these are not primal cuts in the technical culinary sense. I'm going for atmosphere here.
These are both good in their own way and we appreciate them for what they are (one day I will gird my loins and go for a $110 Rockpool steak ... probably) but they do represent the extremes of the spectrum. In the middle are pretty much every restaurant & pub that has a steak and jus on the menu for when dad can't make up his mind. And then there are the steakhouses.
There's a certain expectation about the food, too. There's not much but steak on the menu (some sausages, a chicken dish, a prawn dish, a couple of vegetarian dishes, and pork ribs. I haven't had the ribs here but the ones at the old Squire's Loft were tender and tasty and always left my fingers sticky).
The steak is not about the subtle brilliance of the texture from the 9+ marbling or the incredible intensity of the 180 days of dry ageing. It's about a pretty good piece of steak, brushed with a wet mop of spices, sugar, stock and a tiny bit of vinegar (is my guess) that intensifies the flavour of the hot char. It's brought to you the way you ordered it and you enjoy it for what it is.
I had the 350g rib eye on the bone ($38). This can be a beast of a cut to cook if it's cut to full width - I've struggled with 500g rib eyes myself and generally consign them to the oven - but mine was cut to a sensible width that allowed it to be cooked to medium rare all through (nicely rendering all the marbling) while being just charred on the outside. Lovely - good texture, good flavour all through. Crispy beer-battered (I think) chips (or you can have baked or mash if you prefer) and a little jug of a thickish gravy infused with some blue cheese ($4.50). The cheese was adequately assertive to my tastes; I wouldn't have minded more oomph though.
We probably didn't need the onion rings ($7.50), the mains are pretty big, but what are you going to do? Crisp batter around soft sweet onions. Yum. By the time we got to the bottom of the bowl they were getting soggy which suggests they were a little undercooked. But we didn't need them all anyway.
The Perigueuxse chose the 200g Porterhouse ($24.50), also ordered medium rare and delivered correctly, with a jug of very mild mushroom sauce (also $4.50). Maybe too mild on the sauce, but the steak was also well tasty
There are salads and desserts on the menu too but ... you know, steakhouse. You're probably not there for the affogato or the ice cream with Mars Bar sauce .... actually those are probably exactly the kind of desserts I would want after a steak. But not tonight; we're off home to watch a documentary about Project Azorian.
The wine list is pretty good with expected strengths in medium - full bodied reds and a good range by the glass with a few years on the label. Service was pretty sound until the very end when we asked for the bill, waited ten minutes or so finishing our drinks, and then were asked if we would like the bill. No big deal.
So we had, I think, some pretty sound expectations of Rare Steakhouse and they delivered on cue. We were there early on a Friday night and it was pretty quiet, so we can't say if they get very loud or if service suffers with a full house, but our experience was just fine.
Keep your iron levels up!