By Christina Waters
A BIG BURLY brasserie equipped with style as well as substance, Forbes Mill Steakhouse (named after Los Gatos' original name) is the work of Dean and Darin Devincenzi--the double D's who gave us Double D's Sports Grille. Betting that an Atkins-fueled desire for distinguished cuts of fine beef could fill this substantial space, the brothers cooked up a high protein script for long evenings and high spirits.
Jack and I went early enough to find a table at the outside patio and saved our ears the lavish noise level of Forbes Mill's handsome interior. Our dinner was enhanced throughout the evening by beautiful tableware, two excellent zinfandel choices and service as helpful and sharp as a steak knife. The flow of our meal was part of the enjoyment, and from the first bite of warm sourdough to the final spoonful of gelato, it was a bravura chapter in steakhouse dining.
Generous pours of opulent zins, from Rosenblum Richard Sauret Vineyard 2001 and Storrs Central Coast 2000 (both $9) started us off. Getting into the swing of the polished retro surroundings, Jack dove into a jumbo prawn cocktail of Hawaiian Kahuku prawns ($12), while I grazed on a pleasant house salad of tender greens, cucumbers and tiny tomatoes tossed in a vibrant balsamic vinaigrette ($6). "Jumbo is the word," Jack grinned, requiring three bites to dispatch each succulent prawn. The plump shellfish were draped over the edge of a martini glass in a cocktail sauce pumped up with freshly grated horseradish.
The menu offers plenty of pasta, poultry and seafood opportunities, but we were aware of the Prime Directive: Steak is the whole point of Forbes Mill, and who were we to question it? Price be damned--we opted for an 8-ounce filet mignon ($26), to which Jack added a cognac peppercorn sauce ($2) and an a la carte side of sautéed mushrooms, which arrived loaded with earthy pancetta ($6). In a moment of complete madness, I chose the opulent dry-aged 14-ounce. New York steak ($34) just because, like Mt. Everest, it was there.
Thanks to the handy cooking guide, which describes in detail what the kitchen means by rare, medium rare, etc., we were presented with steaks done to a veritable T. Abundantly bright pink all the way through, the steaks gleamed with their own sense of importance. That's part of the fun of this place--they really are serious about showcasing fine meats.
The mushrooms, partly wild, partly domestic, were truly a gilding of the lily, so rich were the steaks all on their own. Each plump cut arrived with a tiny garnish of haricots verts--underdone, and baby carrots--overcooked. Good-looking, though.
Chased by the full-blown zinfandels, the steaks were each good, especially the buttery filet mignon. My New York steak betrayed a bit of impatience on the part of the kitchen. It would have been much more tender had it been allowed to rest longer before serving. Someone has to say it--the prices of these steaks tend to raise expectations. We were hoping to be blown away by the sort of steak experience you take away and chew on, metaphorically, for years. What we got was good, not great. The absence of flavor, in both cuts, was the main beef we had with the beef.
There was, however, tons of heady flavor in a gorgeous dessert of warm apple crisp, topped with sinful Dolce Spazio gelato, a transparent slice of apple and a spun sugar globe ($7). Laced with cinnamon, the crumbly apple confection was perfect with a double espresso after the rich steaks.
Forbes Mill is big on concept and big on delivery. We loved sitting out on the patio, where despite the enormity of the establishment, we received personal attention. Looks like just the upscale steakhouse Los Gatos wanted.
Forbes Mill Steakhouse
Address: 206 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos
Hours: Dinner 5-10pm Sun-Thu, 5-11pm Fri-Sat
Full bar; patio dining
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