No Beef with Mastro’s

Restaurant: Mastro’s

Location: 246 North Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, Ca 90210. 310-888-8782

Date: September 17, 2011

Cuisine: Steak House

Rating: My favorite LA Steak joint

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America is full of steak houses at every level from Sizzler to Cut. But I haven’t found one that I like as much as Mastro’s. Granted I’m not a plain steak fan (I prefer my beef more like this, or tartar, or even Fogo). But Mastro’s gets the steak house think right.

The Cannon drive entrance, just a block north of Spago. Inside the place is a ZOO. Sure this was Saturday, 8:30pm on Emmy weekend in Beverly Hills. But this huge restaurant was packed to the gills, including both bars. These are a sure scene. It’s hard to tell the merely underdressed and over siliconed ladies from the pros.

Our table was right in front of the rat pack. It was much more crowded than in this photo.

The PDF of the menu can be found here.


We were celebrating the engagement of one of my oldest friends so I brought some big guns from my cellar. This wine was the first truly GREAT wine I ever bought (circa 1996). This is the second to last of two cases I once had. It has constantly and without fail scored 100 points from Robert Parker. You will find no better expression of Syrah.

“The 1991 Hermitage La Pavillon follows the pattern of the 1989 and 1990 – it is another perfect wine. The saturated black/purple color is followed by a compelling bouquet of spices, roasted meats, and black and red fruits. Enormously concentrated yet with brilliant focus and delineation to its awesomely-endowed personality, this extraordinary wine should age effortlessly for three plus decades. In a short period of time (Michel’s first vintage was 1989) Chapoutier‘s Hermitage Le Pavillon has become a wine of mythical proportions. Produced from extremely old vines, some dating from the mid nineteenth century, with yields averaging under 15 hectoliters per hectare, this is the richest, most concentrated and profound wine made in Hermitage. There are rarely more than 500 cases.”


Everything at Mastro’s is well done, and that includes the bread. I’m partial to the pretzel rolls myself.


Five of us ordered the seafood tower. The quality of the seafood here is impeccable and the only thing we had to complain about was that there wasn’t enough! Really for five we would have expected the two or three story version 🙂 Still there were amazing shrimp, lobsters, claws, king crab (didn’t taste frozen), and oysters.


One of the things that really makes the Mastro’s seafood tower are the sauces. We have cocktail, a spicy mustard, and the Atomic Horseradish. They use this particular magic brand (you can buy it here). The stuff is — pardon my French — fucking awesomely potent. I’ve taken to buying it myself for home. No other horseradish is this punishing. It has a nice flavor too. I particularly like it mixed in with the cocktail sauce. It can have you literally pounding the table in pain — ahem pleasure.


Beefsteak tomato and mozzarella. With pesto.


Since both I and my newly engaged friend were born in 1970, I grabbed from the cellar this puppy. Parker gives it a mere 95 points. Sure it isn’t quite the 1991 Le Pavillion, but it gets extra credit for age. “The 1970 Palmer is one of the great wines of the vintage. It exhibits a dark, opaque garnet color, and an emerging, fabulously complex, exotic nose of licorice, over-ripe plums and blackcurrants, soy, cedar, and minerals. Rich and concentrated, with medium to full body, a sweet inner-core of fruit, firm but silky tannin, and a long, rich finish, this remains a youthful, potentially superb Palmer. While approachable, it will keep through the first 10-15 years of the next century.


Here comes the beef!

Like most steak houses Mastro’s serves up the entrees bare (all the better to extract more cash from you). This is the New York Strip.


The bone in filet (12 ounce). This is my favorite cut of steak. It has both the filet tenderness and some extra flavor from the bone.


The straight petite (8 ounce) filet.


And the bone in filet, oscar style. Yes this was mine. Like King Robert, I’m trying to eat and drink my way to an early grave. “Oscar Style” means that it’s topped with asparagus, crab cakes and bearnaise sauce. Bearnaise sauce (French: Sauce béarnaise) is a sauce of clarified butter and egg yolks flavored with tarragon and shallots, with chervil and tarragon simmered in vinegar to make a reduction. Lean and mean baby!


Salmon steak. Looking lonely.


But it need not fear, the sides are here!

This is “Gorgonzola mac & cheese!” Oh so light, oh so yummy.


And even better, the evil “king crab truffle gnocchi.” Yes that’s right. Cream, cheese, truffles, crab, potato. What could be better?

In case you don’t get the idea, you have to see it up close. Oh so good.


Then the light “lobster mashers.” That orange stuff, that’s butter.


And for those not seeking an instant heart attack, the “sauteed spinach” (cooked in butter).


We continue to suffer on the wine front as well with this third gem from my cellar. Parker 96 points. “The 2008 Flor de Pingus offers up an enticing nose of smoke, Asian spices, incense, espresso, black cherry, and blackberry. On the palate it displays outstanding volume, intensity, and balance. Rich, dense, and succulent, it has enough structure to evolve for 4-5 years and will offer prime drinking from 2015 to 2028.”


So now we get to the desserts. This is “Mastro’s signature warm butter cake ala mode.” Basically a pound cake with an extra four sticks of butter or something. It’s really sweet and really good. Goes well with the magic whipped cream (see below).


Because of the incredible whipped cream here, we ordered up some fresh strawberries. Combine with below.

The photo is a little blown out, but Mastro’s has the most incredible whipped cream. You can just chow down on it my itself. Made fresh with really good cream and LOTS of sugar.


I couldn’t resist their key lime pie either. I LOVE key lime pie and they make a real good one. Plus it goes really well with the whipped cream.

Overall Mastro’s, while a zoo, and very expensive, is a spectacular steak house experience. You can really feel your heart palpitating as you roll out of here!

For more LA dining reviews click here.


The wines lined up in my cellar. I even brought a bottle of 1996 Dom P that I didn’t even open (not enough Champagne fans at the table). Another night.

Passover Seder 2011 – day 2

This year we hosted the first seder (SEE HERE), but my Mom cooked the second. That means a very high bar of quality.


Parker 91 for the 2001 Opus One. “Tasted twice Deep garnet-black colour. Still a lot of primary fruit with dark cherry and blackberry aromas complimented by cloves, cardamom and a hint of mint. The medium to full bodied palate provides a medium+ level of very finely grained tannins and medium+ acidity. Long finish with lingering earthy / mineral flavours. Drink now to 2019. Tasted April 2009.”

The 1998 Haut Maillet was a typical mature pomerol. Tasty, but a bit sour.


The seder plate.


The ubiquitous matzah.


Horoset, a mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon and other spices.


Mom’s homemade horseradish, sweetened and colored with beet juice.


The fully set table.


The components of the Hillel sandwich, a combination of matzah, horoset, and horseradish.


A sample Hillel sandwich. For more details, see here.


The salad.


Plated, endives, other greens, and smoked kosher trout. Very refreshing, and tasty.


Homemade matzah ball soup. The classic chicken broth and light fluffy balls.


Broccoli Rabe.


Sauteed with pine-nuts and currents


Brisket braised in sweet and sour sauce. Cooked to extreme tenderness.


Extra gravy.


On the plate.

To see the first night of passover, click here.

For the Hillel Sandwich, here.

Passover Seder 2011 – day 1

April rolls around and it’s seder time again, the ritual dinner celebrating the exodus from Egypt. As usual, things have to be done in full Gavin style.

Various ingredients. There are all sorts of traditional requirements to this meal, the most significant of which is an avoidance of any leavening agents, yeast, etc.

Parker 92. “Bachelet’s 2005 Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes – from 60- to 70-year-old vines both below the route nationale and north of Gevrey in Brochon – offers lovely black fruit aromas with hints of anise and mint. A truly palate-staining intensity of vividly-fresh, tart but ripe black cherry and blackberry is underlain by firm, fine tannins (not precluding an emerging silkiness of texture) and augmented by bitter-herbal and stony notes. Although palpably dense and abundantly tannic, this outstanding village wine still comes off as juicy, sleek, invigorating and refined. Put it away for at least 5-7 years.”

Parker 94. “The profound 1997 Barolo Bussia boasts intense aromas of molasses, cherry liqueur, melted tar, licorice, and toast. Dense and full-bodied, with enormous quantities of glycerin and fat, this hedonistic, thick, viscous Barolo can be drunk now and over the next 15-16 years.”

And for those who crave the old school sweet and alcohol finish of the classic kosher wine, the Kesser. No vintage listed or needed.

This is a traditional seder plate. It contains each of the ritual elements of the dinner. Starting at the egg on the right and heading clockwise. Egg, horseradish, lamb shank, lettuce, horoset, parsley.

Hard boiled eggs. Dipped in salt water before eating.

A glass of wine is left for Elijah, the prophet. He gets the cool cup.

Parsley, dipped in salt water.

Matzah, or unleavened bread. When the Israelites escaped from the Pharoah Ramses (check out Exodus if you aren’t clued in on that) there was no time to leaven the bread. So matzah, an unleavened cracker, is eaten in symbol remembrance.

More traditional accompaniments. At the top, Horoset (mixture of apples, nuts, and spices — homemade of course), the green is parsley, the pink stuff horseradish with beets, the white atomic horseradish! Mind bendingly potent. The water in front is salt water.

Another seder plate.

Matzah is traditionally eaten with the horseradish and horoset. This is called the Hillel sandwich, for more on that click here.

Gefilte fish. This is housemade from Pico Kosher Deli. It’s various chopped fish, boiled. A sort of unfried chicken McNugget of the fish world. Yummy with horseradish.

A big dinner requires a big pot.

Matzah balls prior to cooking.

The matzah ball soup. A very tasty vegetable/chicken stock with… matzah balls.

Start of the stuffing for the chicken.

The stuffing. Onions, matzah, peppers, etc.

The stuffed chickens.

On the BBQ. The grill is really the best way to cook whole chickens. You do need something like this foil to protect the bird from the direct heat.

The spread.

The plated chicken and stuffing.

Potato kugel.

Carrot fritters and pesto.

The salad and dressing.

My plate. You can compare to the litany of Thanksgiving plates.

The dessert spread.

The sponge cake in its early stages. Because no leavening agents are allowed, sponge cake is traditional. It’s fluffed up with egg.

It’s served with strawberry sauce (basically strawberries and sugar).

Fruit slices, also traditional.

Cookies.

Matzah, coated in chocolate and carmel.

Home toasted almonds.

The flour-less chocolate torte.

Iced.

Iced, decorated with almonds and chocolate dust.

With finished decoration.

Very full!

To see day 2 of passover, click here.

The Hillel Sandwich

The Hillel Sandwich is a a traditional passover specialty. Simple in concept, it is a potent and delectable seasonal item.

The base is matzah, unleavened bread (cracker-like). Seder participants recall the slavery that reigned during the first half of the night by eating matzo (the “poor person’s bread”), maror (bitter herbs which symbolize the bitterness of slavery), and charoset (a sweet paste representing the mortar which the Jewish slaves used to cement bricks). In the process of fleeing from the wrath of Pharaoh, there was no time to leaven the bread, and hence what was probably a flat risen bread like pita, became matzah (even flatter and denser).

My mom’s homemade horseradish (the pink color comes from beets mixed in). This is known as the bitter herb and symbolizes the bitterness and harshness of the slavery which the Jews endured in Ancient Egypt. This concept is extended to represent the bitterness of any kind of enslavement or bondage, throughout the whole world and all peoples.

Horoset, a mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon and other spices. This is representative of the mortar used by the Jewish slaves to build the storehouses of Egypt.

We lay everything out.

Start with the horseradish.

Throw some of the horoset on top, and enjoy.

On the symbolic level: During the Passover Seder (the annual commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt), one re-enacts ancient customs in the Haggadah. In the section of Korech, or ‘sandwich’, participants are instructed to place bitter herbs between two pieces of matzo and eat them after saying in Hebrew: This is a remembrance of Hillel in Temple times — This is what Hillel did when the Temple existed: He enwrapped the Paschal lamb, the matzo and the bitter herbs to eat them as one, in fulfillment of the verse, “with matzot and maror they shall eat it.”(Numbers 9:11) In modern times, when there is no paschal lambAshkenazi practice is to emulate this by making a matzo, maror, (horseradish or lettuce) sandwich. Philo has called this sandwich a “moral migration from wickedness to virtue. Repentant sinners at first brood bitterly (maror) over their past misdeeds. Then matzah, the healing food, brings them to humility and contentment.”

The culinary  interest is in the combination of flavors and textures. The crunch of the matzah, the often savage punch of very good horseradish, and the sweetness of the apples. For me, both the matzah and the apples allow one to withstand a higher does of horseradish. At home I like to mix the sweeter red (because of the beets) radish with Atomic Horseradish. The later is often lethally potent, and good for some good table pounding during the 10-15 seconds required to “endure” the experience.